In this stirring war memoir, Robert Leckie provides a first hand view of the final battle of World War II that pitted the resilient Americans against their resolute Japanese foes. The battle of Okinawa represented a conflict of attrition as two unrelenting and unyielding sets of brave soldiers engaged in an unforgiving clash in a battlefield that was as much dangerous as the warring combatants themselves, if not more! Even after Adolf Hitler and his maniacal bunch of Nazis had either given up their ghosts or surrendered to the mighty onslaught of the Allied Forces, the battle at the Pacific was still ongoing, albeit in its death throes and the siege of Okinawa signaled the beginning of the end for the Axis force of Japan.
Leckie himself a decorated war hero, narrates in an impeccable fashion the American initiative to wrest supremacy of the strategic terrain of Okinawa from Japanese occupation. Ridge by Ridge, Cave by Cave, Escarpment by Escarpment and peak by peak, the US Army – , aided by a remorseless barrage of artillery and bombing from their imposing naval armada – overturned entrenched Japanese positions, and in the process absorbing substantial casualties themselves. While currency of war is primarily death, destruction and wanton loss of property, Leckie regales the reader with references to the most heart warming and indelible by product of any armed conflict – acts of bravery and valour. Privates and Corporals throwing themselves upon enemy grenades so that their comrades continue to live and fight, Lieutenants and Sergeants alike, pitchforking their bodies into the barracks and gun emplacements while simultaneously hurling satchel bags of explosives, a Seventh Day Adventist and a conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, who abhorring the tenets of war, choose never to touch a weapon, but still served in the front line as a medic and ended up saving a staggering 75 lives before getting his legs badly mangled, courtesy a fusillade of enemy fire. Stories like these warm the cockles of every heart not to mention the moistening of every eye!
Leckie’s writing is factual, impartial, unbiased and wholesome. Not refraining from praising the courage of the fanatical Japanese who charged the Yanks with terrifying cries of “Banzai” and not afraid to criticise the tactics of the Americans where such errors proved to be vital, for instance, the inexplicable delay in charging the relatively unprotected beach of Minatoga – an act which subsequently put a temporary spanner in the invasion works, Leckie lays out things as they are and for what they are. This is exactly what makes “Okinawa” such a compelling read! Unlike an arm chair critic who after attaining extraordinary perspective and vision on hindsight, proceeds to set out a tome on debacles, blunders and sacrileges, Leckie prefers to highlight the intuitive thinking, instinctive reactions and immediate strategies that are both intrinsic to and inevitable in a war of immense gravity and intense magnitude.
Leckie’s “Okinawa” is a grim reminder of the courageous brave hearts who willingly and voluntarily sacrificed their precious lives so that a vast majority of humanity would go on living. For this noble deed, a major part of the world would be forever indebted to them, and rightly so!