Today is the 67th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest encounter in the Pacific during World War II.
Friend Murphy and I drove to Peace Prayer Park on the south end of the island today where we encountered the remnants of this year's memorial service. It appeared as though thousands of people, mostly Okinawans and Japanese, had gone to the ceremony commemorating the war dead. Of those who remained when we arrived, many were sitting in front of specific places on the walls which have inscribed with the names of all who died in the battle: Okinawans, Japanese, Americans, and Brits. Flowers had been placed in front of many of the Okinawan and Japanese sections of the wall, and the smell of incense offerings wafted through the summer air.
Some families were having picnics on the park grounds, and I watched one very elderly lady pointing at a name on the wall and telling a story to a young child.
I have a plan for a tribute to Okinawa that I have been mulling over for the past two years. I would like to photograph all of the American and British names on the wall (the Okinawan and Japanese names are written in Konji script), and then enter them into a posting on the Internet where it could serve as a genealogical and history reference.
(I have not been able to find the list of American casualties anywhere else on the Internet, and I am certain that there are descendants of some of these thousands brave men who would love to know that their ancestors have been memorialized on a stone wall on Okinawa.)
Unfortunately, the war gods do not seem to be in sync with me on this project. I have been to Peace Prayer Park on three previous occasions, and photographed enough panels of the wall to know that it can be done. Today I went there with the sole goal of finishing the task - only to discover that after charging my camera battery last night, I forgot to put it back in the camera!
I have three weeks remaining on the island and may get it done yet. I believe there are over fifteen thousand names on the American wall panels, and they that would then have to be transcribed from the photos onto an Internet posting - so it will be a lengthy process even after I get the pictures taken!
Maybe the fifth time will be a charm!