On this day 75 years ago, one of the most intense conflicts of World War II—the Battle of Okinawa—concluded in a historic victory for the United States. Today, we pause to remember the more than 12,000 American heroes who perished in that monumental struggle and pay tribute to thousands of service members who were instrumental in the forces of freedom emerging triumphant.
The Battle of Okinawa was the last major battle of World War II. Dubbed Operation Iceberg, a fleet of 1,300 American ships and 50 British ships descended on the island of Okinawa in April of 1945, with a mission of securing it as a critical strategic base for Allied Forces for the final stages of the war, which ended just months later in September 1945. By the time the battle ended, 26 of these ships had been sunk and another 168 were severely damaged. In total, the battle cost more than 200,000 lives, including the tragic loss of nearly 100,000 Okinawan civilians.
The grueling struggle on Okinawa lasted 3 months and consisted of multiple battles, both at sea and on the island. American and Allied troops had to navigate treacherous terrains, including cliffs and tunnels. They valiantly rose to the challenge, demonstrating the bravery and resolve that have always defined the men and women of our Armed Forces. In total, Presidents awarded 23 Medals of Honor to true American patriots for their gallantry and courage during the 82-days of fighting on the island. Their service and sacrifice, along with that of their fellow brothers in arms, are a tribute to the selflessness and stalwart bravery of their generation—the Greatest Generation. The legacy of that sacrifice includes our alliance with Japan—forged after that terrible conflict—that embodies our shared commitment to freedom and democracy, which is a beacon for the world. Today, that alliance is on watch against would-be adversaries who, but for the combined strength of the United States and our Japanese allies, would undermine the global order to the advantage of totalitarian ideologies and dictatorial autocracy.
Today, we remember our Greatest Generation and salute those who answered our Nation’s call with unyielding valor and intrepid resolve. As our country continues to recover from the unprecedented hardships we have faced over the past months, let us draw from their patriotism and conviction in our efforts to build a stronger, more united country for all Americans.