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Marines tour WWII battle sites

Date Posted: 2004-05-20

OKINAWA, Japan — Overshadowed by D-Day with the Normandy Invasion, the Battle of Okinawa is a prominent, but often unrecognized event among the great Marine Corps battles of World War II.

This year marks the 59th anniversary of the significant battle in the Pacific, which began on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 and ended June 21, 1945, with an American victory over the Japanese.

During one assault, the 6th Marine Division assaulted a hill 11 times in seven days. When they finally reached the top of the hill, 2,652 Marines were killed or wounded, explained Dave Davenport, tour guide, Marine Corps Community Services, to more than 100 service members and family members during the MCCS Tours Plus Battle Sites Tour April 29.

Davenport is one of two tour guides authorized to conduct the tour on Okinawa. Serving 25 years in the Air Force, and as founder of The Tunnel Rats and Battle Sites Tour, he is the local authority on the Battle of Okinawa.

Nicknamed “Love Day,” the landing forces encountered practically no resistance from opposition forces while landing on Okinawa the first day and for nearly a week more.

“There were more football related injuries during the first week of the battle, than combat related injuries,” Davenport said.

Military units fighting the battle consisted of three Marine Divisions, the 1st, 2nd and 6th, with support from five Army Divisions from the Tenth Army, along with naval forces.

Fighting fiercely, service members braved the kamikaze-like relentlessness of the Japanese soldiers, stopping only with they reached their objective, Davenport explained.

“The battle had a lot of firsts. It was the largest American invasion in the world’s history, and it was the only battle where both commanders didn’t survive the battle,” Davenport said.

As a result of Army General Simon B. Buckner’s death, a Marine Corps general, General Roy Geiger, commanded a fighting force as large as a field army for the first time in American history.

Davenport said the most important thing people will learn are the sacrifices that were made here. The Japanese lost 110,000 soldiers and an additional 7,000 soldiers were held as prisoners of war and Americans lost 40,000 troops.

Lance Cpl. Ricardo Baez, company clerk, Company B, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base, did not want to complete his one-year tour on Okinawa and miss the opportunity to experience where important Marine Corps battles took place.

“I wanted an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Marines in combat,” Baez said.

Reading a history book is an alternative to studying the battles that make up the Corp’s history, but experiencing them personally adds perspective to what Marines of the past have accomplished.

"What we’re trying to do is let people know about where they are, why we were here, and why we’re still here after 59 years,” Davenport said. “We do two tours a month, but we also do unit tours, private tours and customized tours.”

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