Carved into the stone of the Pacific Arch at the World War II Memorial in Washington is a quote from Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was commander of the United States Army Forces in the Far East in 1941.
“The War’s End. Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death – the seas bear only commerce – men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace.”
Right below these powerful words on the monument, three World War II veterans, James L. Riffe, John ‘Jack’ Cassidy and Josiah Bunting III, placed a wreath in honor of the service members, who fought in the battle during the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, April 1, 2015.
After the wreath was laid, Staff Sgt. Kevin Gebo, a U.S. Army Band, also known as Pershing’s Own, bugler, played Taps for the veterans and the crowd
“It’s an honor for me to put the reef on the memorial because today is the start of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa,” said Cassidy, a Navy veteran, who served during World War II. “It’s in honor of all the Navy, Marines and all the people, who participated in the operation.
“Unfortunately, a lot of them didn’t make it.”
On April 1, 1945, allied forces invaded the island of Okinawa and combated the Japanese in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific theater.
“Okinawa, in important ways, was both the most significant and costliest of the American island battles and victories in the Pacific,” Cassidy said. “This operation was the prelude to going to Tokyo.”
Four divisions of the U.S. Army and two Marine divisions landed on the beach with the support of U.S. and allied naval forces.
The entire campaign to secure Okinawa lasted 82 days. In the end, more than 12,500 U.S. service members were killed or missing and 38,000 wounded. The Japanese soldiers suffered approximately 70,000 casualties and 150,000 Japanese civilians died or committed suicide. These facts earned the battle its nickname of Typhoon of Steel.
Two months later, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
“Some paid the ultimate sacrifice, it’s important that America’s younger generations continue to remember and be inspired by their example,” said Bunting, a Marine and Army veteran.