Survivor leads Marines through Battle of Okinawa tour
TOMIGUSUKU, Okinawa, Japan -- Machine guns sounded and artillery fire echoed as service members watched footage from the Battle of Okinawa.
Although it has been more than 65 years since one of the largest air, land and sea battles ended, more than 40 service members from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma relived the Battle of Okinawa Nov. 13 through the eyes of Setsuko Inafuku, a survivor of the battle and tour guide for 18th Force Support Squadron at Kadena Air Base.
The tour visited the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Hacksaw Ridge and Sugar Loaf Hill.
"The most important thing to take away from this tour in my opinion is knowledge," said Lance Cpl. Carl G. Slack, an aircraft electrical systems technician with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. "If we can learn about what happened, not only can we grow as people, but we can learn from our past conflicts and look toward the future."
Inafuku, who was an infant when U.S. service members rescued her and her family from a cave during the battle, offered her family's experiences and knowledge to the tour guests. Inafuku has been giving tours since 1986 and advocates sharing the truth about what happened during the war.
"My son would come up to me as a young boy and ask me about the war because he wasn't learning about it in school," said Inafuku. "When he passed away, I wanted to (honor) his memory by spreading knowledge about the Battle of Okinawa."
As the service members traveled via bus to the different locations on the tour, Inafuku showed videos and spoke about the historical context of the war, the history of the battle and the mentality of both Japanese and Okinawa citizens leading up to, during and after the battle.
The battle, which began April 1, 1945, consisted of 82 days of brutal fighting that killed or wounded more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers, 65,000 Allied service members and tens of thousands of civilians.
Throughout the tour, service members reflected on the lives lost by both nations and appreciated learning new things about the war.
"I learned more in one day on this tour than I have learned in the past two years," said Sgt. Joshua M. Petellar, a data network specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Futenma. "Having Inafuku as our tour guide really allowed the service members to connect with what she was saying because her family was there during the battle."
Inafuku, who has spent countless hours speaking with veterans about the battle, leaves an impression on nearly every tour guest.
"I have spent so many years around veterans from both sides that I learn as much from them as they do from me," said Inafuku. "I feel as though it is my duty to inform people on the battle, and that's what I'm going to continue to do."