Archive for April 16th, 2008

Well, sort of.  William Shakespeare loved a good tragedy, and many of us enjoy the good tragedies he wrote.  Stuff like…guy and girl fall in love, but come from feuding families, both end up dying…the end.  But the famous playwright probably never heard of Ie Shima, and you probably haven’t either.  But there’s a connection of Shakespearian proportions, and you can’t wait to read about it.

Ie Shima is an itty-bitty island a couple of miles off the northwest coast of Okinawa, with which you are familiar (if you’re a Today’s History Lesson regular).  Comprising only a few square miles of land (enough for Ie Town and an airfield), Ie Shima has a Shakespearian tragedy-legend all its own.  A girl named Hando-gwaa wanted to marry her love, named Kanahi.  But it turns out he’s already married, so she climbs Tacchu Mountain and hangs herself with her long hair.

Anyways, in 1945, nobody cared about Kanahi or legends or long hair.  Ie Shima had an attraction securely anchored in reality.  If you recall, the April 1st landings on Okinawa were unopposed, and U.S. soldiers moving north met only modest resistance (relatively speaking).  As a result, the occupation of Ie Shima, originally scheduled for a second phase of operations, was moved up, so its airfield could be utilized earlier.

So, after three days of bombardment by the U.S. Navy, the Army’s 77th Division landed on the western and southern shores of Ie Shima on April 16, 1945, and began moving inland.  Japanese military opposition was really only battalion-sized, about 1,000 troops.  But their leader, Major Masashi Igawa, had added conscripts (some armed only with bamboo spears) to bring the total garrison to about 3,500.  So the force was not insignificant, but resistance on that first day was, and the airfield was in U.S. hands before the end of the day.  Fighting would become more fierce on subsequent days.

Recommended Reading – Okinawa: The Last Battle – It’s one of the volumes of the U.S. Army in World War II series.  My book covers don’t look anything like those, but the content is the same.  If possible, locate the over-sized atlases as well.  They’re indispensible.

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