We left our church family, and all Girard families, last month at the end of May in 1945, pondering the words of the Editor of the Girard News in a lengthy editorial which I included for all of us to read and reflect on. When I made a copy of his editorial back in early November of ’19just before I departed for my winter in Florida, I assumed that when I returned in May, I would have ample time to get to the Library and read through the News on Microfilm at the Girard Free Library to report on the happenings in Girard in June, July, August, etc. of 1945. However, as you all know, COVID-19, a “tiny little speck of nuthin”, came along and turned everything upside down and inside out.
Since I cannot go to the library, and the News is only available on microfilm, I had to find a substitute. As I have an on-line subscription to The New York Times, I naturally went to it. One of the advantages of a large paper is that it can make its work available on line. I can go back to 1945 and put in any date, and up comes the paper for that day. The entire paper passes from left to right, a page at a time, across my screen. I can zero in on any article, bring it up to readable size, and read it, then send it back to its little self, and on to another one. The downside is that this is an amazing time-waster!
After pulling myself back to the present, (that is concentrating on writing this blog), I decided to look at the headlines from the Times of June, feeling that they would more or less reflect the headlines in the Youngstown Vindicator, as most people in Girard read that paper regularly, in addition to the weekly News.
June of 1945 began on a Friday. The headline was about Okinawa. “Whole U. S, Army Line Drives Forward on Okinawa - Draws Net on Japanese Bastion, Trapping Many of Foe, as Marines Enter City -- Enemy Dead Mount to 61,519”.
The battle of Okinawa in the Pacific actually began on April 1st. Okinawa was needed to provide an air strip close enough to the mainland of Japan for the large American bombers to deliver their deadly cargo to Japan’s factories and cities, and return safely to their airfield base which we would construct on Okinawa, after removing the Japanese who were defending it.. To their surprise, when our troops stormed ashore on April 1st, they met . . . NOTHING. Their enemy on the island seemed to have vanished. Our troops and their equipment were offloaded with no resistance. It seemed like a dream world – a beautiful beach vacation on a remote tropical island. Reality set in when our boys turned to the interior hills. The hillsides contained numerous caves, which the Japanese had made an important part of their defense. They waited in the caves under cover with their guns pointing down at the advancing Americans. Each hill presented a formidable wall of firing artillery. Now, after almost two solid months of bitter hand-to-hand fighting with heavy losses on both sides, the American boys were winning. The enemy no longer held the high ground. The battle of Okinawa was the most costly one of the war. We lost 12,500 men killed in action. But estimates of the total deaths was much higher, from 14,000 to 20,000. Wounded in action ranged from 38,000 to 55,000. The only consolation was that we won the island and the Japanese lost almost their entire army stationed on the island along with about 20,000 conscripted Okinawans. Their losses were estimated at 110,000. Also, more than 7,000 were captured. Thus, the Battle for Okinawa would dominate the war headlines for most of June in 1945.
On June 1st, President Truman also addressed Congress to explain where we were in the war against Japan and what our future plans were. Our nation’s defense industry was still working at full throttle. The draft would be continued for the immediate future, and we would assemble a force of double the current size in the Pacific when we invaded the mainland of Japan. He warned the Japanese government that the devastation of their City of Tokyo would be repeated to all the cities of Japan that harbored any industry that contributed to their war effort. The President’s message to Congress “combined confidence, determination and realism” according to the New York Times.
Thus, the entire country was focused on the Island of Okinawa during the month of June, 1945. By the end of the month, we had won, but at a very high cost. Everyone wondered what the cost would be of invading the mainland of Japan. Families of victorious soldiers in the European Theatre worried that they would be sent, not home to them, but to Japan where they would be needed to fight against that enemy who had begun this awful war by waging a sneak attack on our fleet at Pearl Harbor back in December of 1941.
June of 1945, 75 years ago, a time of muted celebration of victories tempered by worry of a future invasion of Japan.