Buckner Memorial honored
One of the deadliest battles in American history took place over the course of three months in 1945 — the Battle of Okinawa. The battle claimed 240,000 casualties, including the highestranking American casualty of World War II, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner Jr.
Buckner was the commanding general of the U.S. 10th Army during the campaign on Okinawa and the senior U.S. officer during the battle. He was killed four days before the cessation of hostilities on island.
In the years following his death, a memorial was built and dedicated to Buckner near Itoman City in southern Okinawa, where he was killed.
More than 62 years after Buckner’s death, Takeshi Kinjo, an Eagle Scout who lives in Itoman City, developed a special interest in the memorial and acted on it.
“My son, Takeshi Kinjo, started this as an Eagle Scout project in 2007,” said Yoshitsugu Kinjo, Takeshi’s father. “He saw that it was not taken care of and decided to start taking care of it.”
Takeshi, with the help of his family, worked with the U.S. Consulate in Naha, Okinawa, to partner with the Marine Corps and Army to care for the site.
The cleanup, which was meant to be a one-time event, evolved into an annual tradition, with both Marine Corps and Army service members working with volunteers from Itoman City to ensure the memorial is well taken care of.
“We have been doing this for the past few years,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Kevin P. Nolan, the command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison Torii Station, March 9 at the most recent cleanup. “Coming out here and cleaning up the memorial not only gives (the soldiers) a chance to give back to the community, but also lets them learn about their history and where they came from.”
Buckner was killed June 18, 1945, when he moved to an elevated forward observation post to observe part of the battle. Not long after, artillery from the Imperial Japanese Army hit his position.
“I have tremendous respect for those who came before us,” said Lance Cpl. Carlos Perezardilla, an aviation supply specialist with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Everything we have is because of them. Cleaning a memorial in remembrance of one of our predecessors is a great honor.”
During the cleanup, U.S. service members worked alongside the event organizers.
“We want to continue this cleanup annually,” said Yoshitsugu Kinjo. “With the help of U.S. forces, it is easy to maintain, and we learn things from each other.”
Taking care of the memorial teaches the Marines and soldiers about the history of Buckner and the Battle of Okinawa.
“I was unaware that there was a memorial out here,” said Perezardilla. “It is pretty great that it is maintained and that there is memorial in the exact place Buckner fell. I am glad to be a part of something that helps the U.S. and Okinawa relationship.”
Along with the annual cleanup, other improvements have been added so visitors feel a sense of what so many died for during the Battle of Okinawa — peace.
“My son heard of the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River, and wanted something similar,” said Yoshitsugu Kinjo. “We started planting (cherry) trees in 2007 and have been planting seven trees a year, along with smaller flowers. Once everything grows in, it will look beautiful. When people come to this memorial, I hope they will cherish the peace they now have.”
Maintaining the memorial site allows U.S. service members to honor their heritage and maintain the traditions andvalues Buckner fought to defend.
“Doing something like this gives purpose to the young men and women,” said Nolan. “If you forget where you came from, then you can forget where you are going.”