Kennedy, Wissler attend Battle of Okinawa memorial ceremony
ITOMAN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Memorial ceremonies took place June 23 at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Okinawa, Japan to honor those who gave their lives during the Battle of Okinawa.
The 82-day battle, which took place from April to June of 1945, recorded the highest number of casualties in a single battle for both the U.S. and Japan during the Pacific theater of World War II.
Caroline B. Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Japan, and U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, were distinguished guest speakers during the U.S. ceremony organized by the United Service Organization Okinawa.
“Today, we remember the hundreds of thousands of souls who lost their lives in this terrible battle,” said Kennedy, “(The battle) devastated this beautiful island and its communities.”
The U.S. ceremony was followed by the larger Okinawa memorial service honoring all those who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. Over 4,000 people attended the Okinawa ceremony to include Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan.
The strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance is a tribute to all of those who lost their lives, according to Kennedy.
“Built on the devastation of war by countless acts of courage, reconciliation, perseverance, and friendship, our two countries work together to ensure peace and prosperity around the world,” said Kennedy. “Visiting this place on this day, we renew our commitment to that cause.”
Both ceremonies took place at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, which was the site of the last engagement of the Battle of Okinawa. The park is home to the Cornerstone of Peace Monument, which has 240,000 names written in stone to include more than 12,000 U.S. service members who died during the battle.
Members with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9723 attended to pay their respects and support their fallen comrades.
“We came here to commemorate the fallen here,” said Dennis E. Provencher, the VFW Post 9723 commander. “You have to respect the efforts of the people who have gone before you.”
During the U.S. ceremony, distinguished guests and VFW members laid wreaths upon the Cornerstone of Peace Monument as a sign of respect and remembrance for the fallen U.S. service members. Afterward, at the Okinawa ceremony, distinguished Japanese and U.S. guests, including Kennedy and Wissler, presented single white flowers in honor of all who died in the battle.
“The names of the service members engraved on the walls behind me, and before you, provide us with a solemn reminder of their selfless courage and their indomitable spirit,” said Wissler. “They are all heroes and we are internally grateful for their immeasurable contribution to peace.”