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James H. Hallas's book `Killing Ground on Okinawa' is one of those books that should be in any decent military history library. Having previously read his account of the fighting on Peleliu, `The Devil's Anvil' I couldn't wait to read this account of the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed in this book.
The author allows the Marines who took part in the fighting tell the story and its incredible to read what these blokes went through for what looks like a very small piece of Pacific Island real estate. The accounts of the fighting men are detailed and to the point and you are forced to sit back and think of how these men endured this hell, it is almost beyond the comprehension of today's generation.
The narrative is full of details but the real guts of the book is the first-hand accounts by the men involved in the assaults against the well constructed Japanese defensive positions. Not only were the Japanese well dug in and protected but they used their firepower and weapons to great advantage. They wrought destruction upon the advancing marines. Men and machines were continually being knocked out with no gain being made against the determined Japanese defence.
Finally after a heroic night attack the marines secured a toehold on Sugar Loaf but then had to hold against Japanese counter attacks and massive counter fire from artillery, mortars, machine guns and snipers. The casualty list for the marine units were massively high causing some questioning of the strategy and tactics used by the Army High Command. In over seven days of fighting the 6th Marine Division suffered over 2,000 casualties fighting for this pimple of a hill which secured the Japanese Shuri Line.
The only fault that I could find with this book was the standard of the maps and photographs. I am sure that they could have been of a higher calibre. Overall this is a great story of combat, dedication, bravery and Espirt de Corp. I think it is one of the better combat accounts of the Pacific Theatre that I have read in some years and I am certain that anyone interested in the Pacific War would be fascinated by this account.
Publishers Weekly, 1996-03-18 Sugar Loaf Hill, 50 feet high and 900 feet long, was a key to the Japanese position on Okinawa during WWII. On the hill, the Japanese manned 25 sophisticated defenses with grim tenacity, supported by the heaviest firepower since Pearl Harbor. On the American side, the 6th Marine Division, which attacked the hill in the spring of 1945, may have been the best division in the Corps at the time. Even so, as Hallas (The Devil's Anvil, 1994) details in this intellectually and emotionally compelling account, it took all the raw courage and tactical skill of the division's junior officers and enlisted men to crack a Japanese position that might better have been flanked by an amphibious end run. Hallas uses firsthand accounts by Marine participants to depict the sustained close-quarter fighting that tested the Americans to their physical and moral limits as they engaged in a battle that saw 2000 Marine casualties in seven days. At Sugar Loaf, as on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue; Hallas's chronicle of the former battle's many instances of grace under fire will enhance all collections devoted to war's human dimensions. (Apr.)
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