I found Mr. German’s Okinawa article (“My Brush With History,” May/June) most interesting. I had the unpleasant experience of entering (under orders) a cave containing the bodies of Admiral Ota and some four thousand Japanese naval personnel, who had committed suicide. As for Mr. Maddox’s article concerning the necessity for the use of the atom bomb, my own experiences have convinced me affirmatively.
I served with the 2d Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division, which secured 75 percent of the island and also took the highest casualty rate: for the battalion, 82 percent. The Army’s four divisions were exceedingly well equipped, but their command apparently believed they could persuade the enemy to surrender through overwhelming artillery fire, and time. They erred. Consequently Mr. Gorman’s division, which had some excellent units, suffered substantial casualties with limited results.
The tenacity of the Japanese fighting man was fanatic in defense of Okinawa, which was not really part of the homeland and only came under Japanese control in, I believe, 1879. How much more tenacious they would have been in defense of the home islands, which had never been successfully invaded, should be obvious to those who would see.
Three years ago my son, an America West airline pilot, invited me to visit Okinawa. Among many other places, we visited “my” cave, which is now a popular shrine honoring Admiral Ota for his “heroic” deed. I have wondered if a demonstration could have avoided the use of a bomb on a city, but my visit to what remains an honored shrine brought back memories that have convinced me of the necessity. Perhaps those academics who rely on records and their own culture to arrive at a different view would benefit from a visit to the admiral’s shrine.