The Allies experienced a preview of the fanatical determination of the Japanese, both military and civilian, to defend their Home Islands against the anticipated invasion. In the battle for Ie-Shima and elsewhere on Okinawa itself, female civilians donned uniforms and fought to the death alongside their male counterparts. Preliminary estimates of initial Allied losses in landings to be made on Kyushu were as high as 100,000. Japanese civilians had formed home defense units, often armed with nothing more than bamboo spears, and had pledged to fight until death. The ultimate subjugation of the Japanese Empire could cost in excess of a million lives to both sides.
Of further concern to the Americans would be the fate of the 100,000 Allied prisoners in Japanese hands. Japanese directives called for their execution once Japan was invaded. A protracted invasion effort would certainly result in the deaths of most of the prisoners.
The experiences of the Okinawa campaign weighed heavily on both the military and civilian leadership in the United States. Certainly, the potential losses that would occur if an invasion of the Home Islands were to come about bore directly on President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Dr. Carl H. Marcoux is a resident of Newport Beach, California, and a World War II veteran of the U.S. Merchant Marine.
This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network. This article appeared earlier this year.