The following photos of civilians caught up in the turmoil of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 are from the late Lieutenant Reinhart T. Kowallis’s collection. Most were taken by the Lieutenant, but some may have been taken by other servicemen. He served for a year in the Pacific during World War II, including the Battle of Okinawa. These photos are being shared through the kind permission of his son, Bart J. Kowallis, Associate Dean and Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. According to Bart Kowallis, his father “was fascinated by the civilians in Okinawa,” and this, I believe, is the quality that emanates from these rare glimpses into the lives of ordinary Okinawans during an extraordinary period in their lives.
These 25 photos capture the spirit of the people, their will to go on despite unimaginable loss and suffering. The photos are a connection between the photographers and their subjects, between one human being and another, and that connection is reflected in these timeless images as warmth, respect, and caring. In a recent email to me, Bart Kowallis wrote, “I am also trying to compile a book of the letters my Dad and Mom wrote to each other during the year that he was in the Pacific. They wrote to each other almost every day, so it has been a sizable project. I am using some of the photos in the book.” The following photos and many others, including some of the Lieutenant’s letters, are posted in Dr. Kowallis’s Urthman’s Genealogy Blog. He is planning to add more photos when time permits.