Everything about the Battle of Okinawa was big, except for the island itself. The Americans gathered together the largest open sea armada in history — 1,200 aircraft, 1,300 ships, 540,000 servicemen and 747,000 tons of cargo. The landing, on April 1, 1945, was admittedly smaller than the Normandy invasion, but this attack force had to cross the Pacific Ocean, not the narrow English Channel. Gargantuan supply and meticulous organisation were devoted to capturing an island less than 80 miles in length.
Okinawa was the prelude to a planned invasion of the Japanese mainland, scheduled for November. It was, writes the military historian Saul David, “by far the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War, and one of the costliest in America’s history”. (Superlatives prove useful when describing this battle.) “We were in the depths of the abyss,” one American soldier wrote, “the ultimate horror of war … Men struggled and fought and bled in an environment so degrading I believed we had been flung into hell’s own cesspool.”