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    SOFA personnel scale bedrock of history

    SOFA personnel scale bedrock of history

    Photo By Sgt. Jessica Collins | Climbers look for the best path down into a cave July 19, near Itoman City, Okinawa,...... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Jessica Collins 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    ITOMAN CITY, Japan - Marine Corps Community Services led a “Tunnel Rats” tour June 19 near Itoman City, Okinawa, Japan.

    The Tunnel Rats tour led service members and contractors through caves used by Okinawa natives and Japanese troops for shelter during the Battle of Okinawa.

    “We saw caves that were utilized by Okinawa residents to hide from Allied Forces during the Battle of Okinawa, as well as from the heavy bombardment that was hitting the island,” said Mark Waycaster, a tour guide for MCCS Tours+. “We also saw Japanese military caves that Japanese military used as defensive positions to slow down the Allied advances.”

    Waycaster gave the group of climbers a glimpse of the dangers the caves held. He warned them to be on the look-out for hazardous wild life such as venomous insects and habu snakes.

    According to Waycaster, caves were used as hideouts and storage for Japanese troops. As a result, grenades, smoke bombs, and other weapons are still found inside these caves. The ordnance in these caves can still pose a potential threat even 70 years after the Battle of Okinawa. The climbers were instructed to not remove materials from the caves.

    “What’s interesting about these caves isn’t just the formations of the rocks,” said Brian Matz, a MILSPRAY military technologies contractor, who renders different services to military vehicles. “It’s the historical significance of people hiding in the caves and troops using them as bunkers against Allied Forces.”

    As climbers explored a cave used by Japanese troops, Waycaster pointed out that one wall still bares the scar from a flamethrower attack.

    “The Battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest Pacific battle the U.S. was involved in during World War II,” said Waycaster. “For military personnel, especially Marines, this defined the way we conducted amphibious operations. This is where all the lessons we learned from previous battles came to the forefront.”

    It’s important for service members to learn about significant battles, according to Marvin Villaflores, a corrosion program contractor for III Marine Expeditionary Force. It allows for a better understanding of the how the military became what it is today.

    “Learning how many people lost their lives really impacted me as a former service member,” said Villaflores, an Anchorage, Alaska, native. “It’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

    The caves serve as memorials to the lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa according to Matz. There were approximately 254,000 deaths on the island by the time the battle was finished.

    “Sometimes it’s difficult to understand how we’ve gotten to where things are today,” said Matz, a Twentynine Palms, California, native. “Learning the history of the caves has given me a greater appreciation for the relationship between the U.S. and Okinawa residents and how it has grown and matured.”



    Date Taken: 07.19.2015
    Date Posted: 07.22.2015 22:24
    Story ID: 170814
    Hometown: ANCHORAGE, AK, US

    Web Views: 174
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