Col. Hiromishi Yahara on Okinawa

Lines of defense on Okinawa. Top Japanese officers were in the bottom line of bunkers.

Colonel Hiromishi Yahara was third in command of the Japanese defenses on Okinawa. Read all about his story below.

It was Colonel Hiromishi Yahara who designed and implemented the jiykusen, or the yard-by-yard battle of attrition that cost the American forces so many casualties in the three-month battle, and he was the highest ranking officer to survive the battle and make it back to Tokyo. Before the overall commander on the island, Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, committed ritual suicide in the battle’s final days, he instructed Yahara to escape to Tokyo to make a final report to the emperor.

Yahara was captured by the Americans, which bothered him immensely—to be captured or to surrender was considered a disgrace to one’s family—but eventually he did return to Japan.  In 1973, Yahara still felt strongly that the garrison at Okinawa, as well as the people of Okinawa themselves, had been betrayed by Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo.  Because he faced personal attacks for surviving the battle, Yahara decided to write a book to set the record straight.


The result is a fascinating and unique look at the last, decisive battle of the Pacific War, written by a surviving member of the defeated Japanese command on Okinawa.  Yahara was a gifted and meticulous strategist, highly respected by his peers. Because he had spent two years in the United States as an exchange officer prior to World War II, he knew his enemy better than did his superiors at Okinawa, Ushijima and Maj. Gen. Isamu Cho.

Yahara makes a startling revelation in the book regarding the events surrounding the American landing on Okinawa on April 1, 1945.  According to Yahara, the plans drawn up in Tokyo called for Japanese air power to play the decisive role in the battle for Okinawa prior to the actual landing.  Japanese planes flying from the mainland along with aircraft launched by the Japanese Combined Fleet—conventional fighters and kamikaze suicide attackers—were supposed to strike the U.S. Fifth Fleet offshore prior to the landing and annihilate the American landing forces while they were still in their ships.  The 32nd Imperial Army entrenched on Okinawa was to play a minor role, mopping up the survivors of the American landing forces as they struggled ashore.

Giretsu Commandos on Okinawa

To Yahara, the failure to launch the promised air attack on April 1 sealed the fate of the island’s garrison—it never had a chance for victory. Hundreds of thousands of Okinawan citizens had been betrayed as well, Yahara believed, sacrificed to the whims of the Japanese high command.

Although his love for his country never wavered, Yahara was unique among his peers.  He fully recognized the flaws in traditional Japanese military thinking—the Bushido code, or way of the warrior—and he was disgusted as he watched his superiors repeat the errors of previous eras.  The Imperial Army had a “blood and guts” mentality; it had been undefeated since winning the Sino-Japanese War in 1895.  To the Japanese militarists’ way of thinking, the combination of Japanese spirit and the willingness to die for the emperor would overcome any material advantage enjoyed by an enemy.

Japanese bunker

Yahara was convinced that the initial Japanese strategy for Okinawa—depending on air power—would fail.  Japan’s air forces were seriously degraded by early 1945, and it had lost many experienced pilots. American aircraft were now technically superior, and Japan’s Navy was down to just a few surviving carriers.  Yahara believed that the only chance for his country’s survival lay in the proper use of its remaining ground forces.

After the promised air assault did not materialize, he went ahead with his planned defenses on the ground.  He would fight for time, making the invaders pay dearly for every inch of ground, to allow Japan to prepare its defenses on the main islands for the Allied invasion that was sure to come.  Yahara’s tactics on Okinawa would utilize the island’s terrain, which was perfectly suited for defense, to wage an ugly war of attrition. His soldiers would go underground in caves and concrete bunkers to survive air, artillery, and naval gunfire, and then battle American ground forces for every inch of island real estate. His intricate, multi-layered defensive positions and the tenacity of the 110,000-man 32nd Army combined to prolong the battle for three long and exceedingly bloody months.

Col. Hiromishi Yahara

In his book, Yahara admits that he despised both the self-delusion practiced by his superiors and the false propaganda foisted upon the Okinawan people, who were told that capture by American troops would result in rape, torture, and death, to which suicide was preferable.

Condensed from an article by John Walker.

Click on images to enlarge.

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 Military Humor – BOOT CAMP 

‘Sign me up for swing shift basic training! I don’t think I could handle early morning hours.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Bathurst – Madison, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Frank Conger – Poughkeepsie, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Bennington

Missing Man formation

Warren Foss – St. Louis, MO; US Navy, WWII, PTO

James Gavette – Bradford, PA; US Army, WWII

Samuel Tom Holiday – Kayeta, AZ; USMC, WWII, PTO, Navajo Code Talker, Purple Heart

Norman Jackson – Watertown, NY; US merchant Marine, WWII

Francis McCormack – Rutland, VT; USMC

Irving Press – Windsor, CT; US Army, WWII

Raymond Rzepecki Sr. – Central Falls, RI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Pfc, B-24 tail gunner, 370th

Omar Shaffer – Linden, VA; US Navy, WWII, gunner

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 21, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 113 Comments.

  1. Yahara’s effort to publish a book is in similar kind to that of Col. Takuhiro Hattori. Hattori was part of the MacArthur drive to publish his own “memoirs” of how he won the Pacific War.

    Like MacArthur’s final publication – the Reports of General MacArthur which was disavowed by the US Army – Hattori’s account was published after his death. It was not well received by the Japanese populace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have to admire Col Yahara’s strategic thinking, the outcome may have been different if Japanese headquarters had heeded his words.
    See at the bottom the Missing Man formation gp, how about a bit of a story on that subject mate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating; I’ve been a fan of reading about the Pacific theatre but his work sounds interesting to read to get the feel of the other side; I just requested this book to be on hold at my local library. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent article Sir, I am going to reblog this one for you. Thank you for the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oddly enough, this tale reminds me of events prior to the Storm of 1900 in Galveston. There, too, there were people warning that the storm was coming, but personal jealousies, bureaucratic rigidity, and presuppositions about what “could” happen prevented people from taking steps that might have reduced the scope of the disaster. It sounds as though Yahara and his command structure had much the same problems. This was a fascinating read.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have nominated you for the get to know me tag. I would be honored if you would participate…
    https://stubaby777.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/get-to-know-me-tag

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for a wonderful topic!
    八原 博通;Yahara-Hiromichi has devised a very Wise strategy in the battle of Okinawa.
    He also devised wise idea strategy in the Burma strategy!
    It is as you wrote here! (It’s been so long,it’s regretful that Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. Army lieutenant general has gone away)

    A lot of Japanese soldiers died in the battle of Okinawa because Misjudgment command of the Headquarters, although the Yahara’s strategy was Good.

    The military issued an instruction to evacuate Okinawa ordinary ppl to the mainland, but then Okinawa Prefectural Governor;泉守紀 (Izumi Shuki) wanted to save(leave) only oneself,And Izumi disturbed with the evacuation of Okinawa ppl. As a result, Okinawa ppl were left in Okinawa. Therefore, the Japanese army fought together while protecting the citizens of Okinawa.

    By the way,About US rape.
    Now it is unknown that there is no description or deleted in the book.
    However, Japan knew the information that American soldiers raped.
    Book; “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France” Author; Mary Louise Roberts (Univercity of Wisconsin).
    It was proved in June 2013 that American soldiers raped French woman (allied), when landing on Normandy. (Book are Japanese and French)….
    As Japan lost the war, like as the Tokyo Trials or Pearl Harbor attacks etc .., Allied fabricated that “Japan is all Bad.”
    If you are interested in this Book,search it (true or Not)please!! 😀

    Get back on topic,
    In the battle on Okinawa, the Communist Party of China FAKE history and propaganda to deprive the place of Okinawa, so there are various fabricated stories about the battle of Okinawa.

    The Japanese army has not abandoned Okinawa. Battleship Yamato and Tokkotai(特攻隊) went for fighting only in one-way fuel (because there was no fuel already) in Okinawa at the risk of their life.

    That’s very informative, I’ve learnt a lot from you,Dear GP Cox!!:D

    Sincerely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • An exchange of information and ideas is always a good thing. We are Lucky these days to have this technology to instantly talk between 2 nations so far a part from each other. We may never know exactly what transpired on Okinawa as each person sees the incident with different eyes. But between you, the other bloggers and myself, we just may get a good idea.
      As far as China goes, they have never been a country to trust, throughout their history, and I do not see where they change my mind today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Excellent!! my Dear GP Cox!!:D

        It is coincidence, today June 23 is the memorial day of battle Okinawa(in Japan) .
        Taiwanese President 李登輝 (95) come to Japan, Japanese are honored!! 😀
        And, on TV, USA Defense Secretary Mathis release that US, S Korean troops stop joint military exercise Indefinity!!Japanese understand its meaning.
        Especially, I respect Mattis Defense Secretary very much.
        If he is my boss, I will trust him Very much! !:D
        Taiwan and the United States are wonderful Nations and Excellent ppl !!:D

        Well, I have to watch world football game, Next,Japan vs Senegal …I’m Busy!XD!!!

        Have a nice day!:D

        Liked by 1 person

      • I write 2 topics.

        One is a not better topic.
        I wrote comment on your blog(I can not remember write where) based on “John · W · Dower” book “War without Mercy”.
        His name was added to KGB members of Wiki ↓

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%99%E3%83%8E%E3%83%8A

        “1948 – 1951 – investigation of VENONA, John Dower~”

        I searched for materials but could not find the name of John.
        But I must tell you the lack of credibility of my those comment.

        The second topic is a good topic!
        When I search John’s name, I find Covername of President Roosevelt on VENONA. His covername was “KAPITAN “.
        I will paste URL,this sentence is soooooo long, you scroll 2 ~3 ,you maybe find it. 😀

        NSA gov Site ↓

        https://web.archive.org/web/20040430144549/http://www.nsa.gov/publications/publi00039.cfm

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t recall seeing a seamen from the Merchant Marine Final Salutes before GP, and it reminded me of a man who came to Australia on the same ship that I did way back in 1951.

    He was ex merchant marine and one of the ships he was on was a tanker that got shot up by the Admiral Scheer, the German Pocket Battleship.

    This ship made British Maritime Naval history. It was the San Demetrio. It was laden with aviation fuel, when it was struck,by several shells from the Scheer. The captain gave orders to abandon ship.

    Two lifeboats were launched but they got split up during the night. One boat was spotted and the crew were picked up and went back to the USA.

    The other boat after drifting came upon the San Demetrio still burning. They reboarded, put out the fires and got the ship going and sailed back to England,

    One of the seaman was an American.

    Heres a link tells ypou and any of your followers who may be interested the full story.

    The man I knew was not one of those that reboarded . But in 1951 he was still feeling the effects of the attack by the Scheer and his rescue.

    For some reason he took a liking to me and named his new son born shortly after arriving in Oz after me. He was a good bloke.Of course I lost all contact with him back in the 60’s

    I suppose he has now received his Final Salute.

    Thank GP for bringing back these memories; the English made a movie shortly after the ship got back, a morale booster and I can still remember going to see it during the war, must have been 1943 or 44/ “The San Demetrio, London”, was the name of the movie

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is an excellent story, Beari, and I really appreciate you bringing it to us here! I don’t always have the good fortune to locate a Merchant Seaman’s story, but I do include them in the Salutes when found. The Merchant Marines is a part of the armed forces during such a time of war, but I also feel they just plain deserve it for all they did. Just as sometimes you will see a civilian employee listed.
      Thanks again and i hope this comment finds you in good health today.

      Like

  9. Very interesting to have the insight of an expert who understood booth American and Japanese military mentalities so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Perhaps it is a good thing Yahara was not in overall charge – on the other hand, his good sense might have prevailed

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The attitude “the combination of Japanese spirit and the willingness to die for the emperor would overcome any material advantage enjoyed by an enemy.” is amazingly the same attitude applied by the upper class British army generals of WW1. Keep attacking, never give in, and if our lads display enough “pluck” they will easily overcome the German barbed wire and machine guns.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Excellent article. I’ve read and reread Yahara’s book, “The Battle for Okinawa”, and am proud to have it among the many books in my Okinawa Library. http://mickmc.tripod.com/books.html

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is more detail than I knew to the story. Thank you, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is an extraordinary post. It seems Yahara was with honor and did what he could to protect his homeland. I can imagine his disillusionment and disappointment in undelivered promises.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. ltijd goed 2 klokken te horen luiden en dus meer inzicht te krijgen in feiten

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dit is één ding dat mijn vader altijd probeerde in mijn hoofd te trommelen. Kijk altijd ALLE kanten naar een verhaal, argument (wat dan ook) om te proberen de waarheid te zien.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This Col. Hiromishi Yahara sounds like a truly great man.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Since they knew the terrain, he thought it best to do the ground fight strategy but without the aid of the airpower, they suffered too much casualties. As I understand they lost thousands of their planes during the kamikaze attacks on our fleet during the month of April.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hard to believe that things could have been any uglier than they were on Okinawa. But it certainly sounds like that was the plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. It sounds like Yahara had a pretty good idea of what was coming, but we could wish that he’d been a little less skilled at planning. This is an interesting look into the conflict- thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Always interesting to hear the other side of the story. Had to smile at the recruiting cartoon, where the young man didn’t want to do early mornings. Good luck on that in the military.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Another fascinating insight into the minds of ‘the enemy’.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Good thing that his commanders were essentially insane. I guess. Or was it? The war would have ended a lot sooner – and not even started – if they were smarter.Millions of lives lost and maimed. For what?

    Liked by 1 person

    • His commanders were either too old to change, too frightened to go against the standard or were leery of his Western education. This was sure lucky for us.

      Like

  23. The Japanese were an amazing adversary. They respected might and warriors as much as anything else. This sounds like a good book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I watched a program about him (that’s how I got the first photo, it was off the TV) and actually found myself feeling bad for him. He was right about so many things, but the Brass didn’t trust his opinion.

      Like

  24. GP – You know that among the many things I like about your blog is the way you include the Japanese perspective of the war in your posts.

    Speaking of Japanese officers being educated in the U.S.: most of them who came to the U.S. to further their education also read British Military correspondent Hector Bywater’s book “The Coming Pacific War”, published in the early 1920s. Bywater predicted that Japan would attack Pearl Harbor – which at the time was mostly a backwater base rather than the major base it had become by 7 Dec 1941. Bywater also predicted the U.S. island-hopping strategy of rolling Japan back to the home islands. It is curious that while the Japanese seemed to have largely followed what Bywater predicted would be their expansion across Asia, they failed to anticipate and prepare for Nimitz’s island-hopping campaign. Bywater was found dead by his housekeeper during the Luftwaffe’s blitz of London. An autopsy wasn’t performed because the London coroner’s office was overwhelmed with casualties from the Blitz, but it is likely that Bywater was poisoned by the Japanese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t see what advantage there would be for the Japanese to poison him so many years after the book was published and especially since the German Blitz could do him in anyway. But I suppose we’ll never know the answer to that one. I’m glad you find the posts interesting!!

      Like

  25. Excellent read. Thanks for sharing. g

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The book sounds interesting. I visited the memorials and battle sites while stationed on Okinawa, but they only scratch the surface.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. We westerners are often puzzled by the Japanese mentality that sees disgrace in defeat and even more puzzling in being captured. I wonder if Col. Hiromishi Yahara is still viewed by his own people that way today.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Always interesting to read the strategic thinking of enemy commanders. It seems to be fortuitous that not many other Japanese commanders felt the same way as he did.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I think Hiromichi Yahara.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. So why was the air attack canceled? Do we know? (Maybe I missed that somewhere.)

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Interesting closer look at someone considered an enemy.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. “Yahara was unique among his peers” yes, he did seem to be. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  33. “He would fight for time, making the invaders pay dearly for every inch of ground, to allow Japan to prepare its defenses on the main islands for the Allied invasion that was sure to come.”

    So much of the war in the Pacific seems to have been governed by this idea. I regret that the atomic bombs had to be dropped, but I can’t imagine what an invasion of the mainland would have been like. Understanding that my father would likely have been part of that invasion, I’m glad the war ended when it did.

    Liked by 4 people

  34. Enjoyed reading this GP, the Japanese were tenacious and ruthless warriors. I love your cartoons, put a smile on my face!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. With all the air power, naval gunfire support and all the other goodies available … it still devolves to the grunt on the ground.

    No grunt = no ground. QED

    Liked by 3 people

    • And, it either all works in unison or the grunt is vulnerable too.
      Thanks for reading here today, Argus.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I still think your works should somehow be collated into one volume and published. As a book, not easy … but as a CD / Dvd … ?

        (Just the guts itself—leaving out all the public’s comments/remarks.)

        I saw a cartoon in a Brit publication quite some years ago … head and shoulders only, two geriatric generals in a club somewhere obviously discussing over pink gins—

        “And again I ask, Sir—how do you propose to hold the moon without infantry?”

        Liked by 1 person

  36. Thank you very much for mentioning this site. I rarely discover if anyone ever took my recommendations.

    Like

  37. Thank you for sharing this as well.

    Like

  1. Pingback: FEATURED BLOGGER REPORT: Gen. Kenney’s report – Reorganization – July 1945 | Pacific Paratrooper #AceHistoryDesk reports | ' Ace Worldwide History '

  2. Pingback: Review: The Battle for Okinawa by Hiromichi Yahara | The Domain for Truth

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