Oral History of U.S. Marines and Okinawan Civilians in the Battle of Okinawa

Laura Homan Lacey’s Stay off the Skyline: The Sixth Marine Division on Okinawa — An Oral History (Potomac Books, 2007) is unique in that she compiles stories told by the veterans. The section on the Okinawan people is especially chilling. Here are some excerpts:

Stay off the Skyline“A higher ranking Sergeant took no heed / Of my order to leave the little girl be. / His first round missed, going astray. / His second shot tore her intestines away.”

“Unfortunately … we had to shoot them. That’s when a lot of the poor Okinawans got killed…. We felt bad about having to do it, but we were protecting our own life. Survival of the fittest.”

“I went over and stuck my foot under her hat and lifted her hat up, and her eyes were just that big, ya know, and she’s still alive. Japs … and wherever we went we were killing people, but this woman was by herself right in the mud.”

“We went down and grabbed them because guys on the other hill would kill ’em. There’s always somebody who would shoot them. It turns out the guy, the man, the adult, was seventy-five years old and blind, and the girl was about eight years old…. I saw too many dead civilians. I didn’t want to add to it.”

“She was Japanese…. She told them she had her entire class of all girls from the Naha Primary School … were in that cave and had been there somewhere for over sixty some days…. a five hundred pound bomb buried in the floor of that cave. She hit the nose of it, evidently with a mallet, and the whole top of the hill… turned around and then fell back into place…. [we] figure that there was in the neighborhood [of] thirty-two little girls in that cave with the schoolteacher.”

“They were friendly people, nice people. We were unusually cruel to them, which they did not deserve ’cause the Japs were cruel and they did not need us on their backs either. But they had slant eyes. We were very anti-slant eyes. Guys would say, ‘There goes a slant-eyed chink, pow, pow … there goes a slant-eyed pig, pow, pow.’ We were not the most charming people in the world.”

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