Battle For Okinawa: World War II     |     home

Civilian Casualties on Okinawa Reach 142,000+ (C)

Statisticians estimate about a third of the civilian population were killed on Okinawa
The assumption was that; Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians; according to the 10th Army records during the planning phase of the operation.  

At the conclusion of hostilities around 196,000 civilians remained.  The exact figures remain a mystery as no actual count of civilians before and after the war was made.  The heaviest fighting raged in the most populated areas of the island; and therefore the civilians could not be protected from firepower, shelling and bombing by friend or foe according to documents of the 10th Army Headquarters.

10th Army Casualty Figures for the 82 Day Campaign:

142,000 Civilian dead.
73,000 Japanese Soldiers
12,281 US Soldiers and Sailors

The figures show a total casualty figure of 142,058 civilian casualties.  The figure of 142,000 civilians killed in action would include those killed by artillery fire, air attacks and those who were pressed into service by the Japanese army, some of which were hostile to our forces and were caught in-between the two armies; while others were unfortunate victims of circumstances; such as more than 289 students and teachers killed at the Cave of the Virgins; they had been pressed into service by the Japanese Army to help with a hospital constructed in a cave.

American soldiers saw little distinction between Okinawans and Japanese. The final days of the Battle of Okinawa were extremely bloody and fast-paced and was total all out warfare.  Evidently and unfortunately combat did not distinguish civilian from soldier.

As the fighting continued and the tremendous loss of life to both sides mounted; our forces set up a group of civilian camps, to find subversives to interrogate, and also to hold civilians for their own safety.

The purpose was to put the Civilians in a place where they would be safe from Japanese aggression and be insulated from the warfare and eventual mopping up operations.

In these camps our forces were allowed to interrogate civilians to identify possible subversives / spies. 10th Army strategic documents cite that any civilian could be questioned.  The record indicates some rough treatment of some POW's but does not investigate the nature of the treatment nor the interrogations; and are documented by third party assumptions and unsubstantiated evidence using pictures of Okinawans with injuries.

The residents of these camps were separated into groups as POW's which includes military prisoners of war, unarmed laborer POW and combatant civilian POW's, Spies including saboteurs, belligerents and armed prowlers.  Noncombatant Civilians includes those who present a potential threat, and harmless civilians who appear to offer intelligence value, and other miscellaneous civilians.

The interrogations of noncombatant civilians were used to determine if any member of this group warranted being moved into another group.

The camps were primitive shanty housing surrounded by barbed wire. 10th Army documents describe evacuating Okinawan civilians from the island's caves at gunpoint and herding them to these camps.

Males 17-45 years old were separated from their families and taken to specific labor camps. The civilians were to be rationed a daily diet of 1800 calories.  Many of the islands residents were starving after having hidden from the Japanese in caves throughout the island; and they were promised kindly treatment in these camps.  There is some third source information about the abuse of some of these inmates; but,  as far as known there are no first hand accounts on record to describe how widespread this type of activity was.

A 10th Army surrender leaflet was issued to the Okinawan public. It reads:  

"...Place complete trust in the American Army. [you] will be given food, water and medical care and will be treated with kindness..."    (C)

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