News: Thousands pay respects to those who perished during Battle of Okinawa
Story by Cpl. Matthew Manning
ITOMAN, OKINAWA, Japan - Nearly 6,000 people attended the 2013 Okinawa Memorial Service for All War Dead June 23 at the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park in Itoman.
Erected in 1995 and near the southeastern coast of the island, Peace Memorial Park is located at the site of the last recorded fighting that took place during the Battle of Okinawa 68 years ago. The battle is remembered for some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting during World War II.
Attendees included distinguished military and government officials from Japan and the U.S., including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos, U.S. Consul General Alfred R. Magleby and Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations Pacific and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler.
“We gather this day in order to pay our sincerest respects to the souls of all those who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa and express our heartfelt sadness to the families,” said Masaharu Kina, speaker of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly.
Throughout the park, pathways are lined with rows of stones bearing the names of those killed, both civilian and military, during the battle.
“This year, names of an additional 62 people were added on the Cornerstone of Peace where names of all those killed in the fighting are inscribed,” said Kina. “Now 241,227 names are on the Cornerstone of Peace located here.”
During the memorial, the Cornerstone of Peace was seen lined with flags, wreaths, flowers, incense, food and drinks placed by family, friends and all those who wished to pay their respects to the names inscribed on the walls.
“You can’t help but be moved by (more than) 12,000 American names inscribed in these walls, along with the thousands of others who lost their lives in bitter conflict during the Battle of Okinawa,” said Roos. “Those people gave their lives so that never again will (Okinawa) have to suffer such casualties, and the entire region and the entire world may have peace and prosperity. You also cannot help but be moved that out of the bitter conflict between our nations, we have become the closest of allies and friends.”
The war took away innumerable precious lives and irreplaceable pieces of cultural heritage and natural beauty, the effects of which are still being felt to this day, according to Kirokazu Nakaima, governor of Okinawa Prefecture.
“The lessons of the Battle of Okinawa have been passed down to us and we adamantly hope to maintain steadfastly the pacifism our country established,” said Nakaima.
To build a peaceful world with no wars, it is momentously important to respect each other’s culture and values, according to Kina.
“This is the day to inscribe indelibly into our hearts that such a miserable war should never happen again and to hope for a peaceful, bright future,” said Kina. “I wish for the peaceful rest of all those souls who lost their lives, and the health and happiness of the surviving families and everyone gathered here today.”