Officially announced June 22, 1945, it was actually the day before (June 21) when the guns finally fell silent on Okinawa, Japan after 82 days of near-constant fighting. The end of the fighting there marked an end to the last major battle of WWII, and set a pathway to the surrender of Imperial Japan.
Okinawa was a different battle than most fought in the Pacific Theater in several ways. It was longer than most, bloodier than most, and was indeed the true last stand for the Empire. Despite beginning the Battle for Okinawa with minimal shots fired against American forces, the Imperial army, led by Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, used the uniquely hilly terrain and natural caves of the island to create a defense-in-depth, luring American forces deep into the island and forcing them to fight for every foot of land they took.
After months of intense fighting, on June 21, 1945 the island was finally silent. As the Americans began mop-up operations, they also began accepting Japanese POWs surrendering en masse after learning that two of their top three commanders – Gen. Ushijima and Lt. Gen. Isamu Cho – had both committed suicide, with a third unaccounted for (Colonel Hiromichi Yahara, senior staff officer in charge of operations of the 32nd Japanese Army at Okinawa). Despite the official declaration of the official end to hostilities, many small skirmishers continued throughout Okinawa as some Imperial units were determined to fight to the death.
The Battle for Okinawa cost American forces a total of 75,362 casualties (battle and non-battle), of which 12,520 were killed or missing and 36,631 wounded. They also counted 763 planes lost, 368 ships damaged, and 36 ships sunk.
Evan Muxen is the Historian for the 446th Airlift Wing, ARFC, located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He previously served as the Command Historian for the 18th Wing at Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan, the U.S. Air Force's largest combat wing.