Monday, August 10, 2009

Movie Review: The Battle of Okinawa

Japanese, on my Asian Movie channel. In Japanese, Thai dub available on the menu, letterboxed and full length. Late Sixties is my guess, maybe early Seventies, Tatsuya Nakadai is about forty-five, I recognize lots of the actors from Samurai movies.

This one is a typically heroic-kind-hearted-Japanese-soldiers-vs.-cruel-overpowering-Americans movie. The Japanese soldiers are unfailingly kind to the Okinawans, who in turn are unfailingly loyal to the Japanese. All of this steps far from the path of reality, much like Japanese textbooks of the post-war years, and our own Twenty-First-Century years too for that matter. Only the citizens of what is now Belarus, and maybe the Ukraine, can claim to have suffered in those war years like the Okinawans suffered during the Japanese occupation and subsequent American invasion of their little island. Japanese actions, and Japanese policy, were the most direct causes of this suffering. Slave labor and human shields mostly, and encouraged to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of the hated Americans.

It’s true though, I’ve said it before, that those Japanese soldiers were the most durable, the bravest, the most tolerant of horrible conditions, the most generally effective dogface riflemen in any theatre of that war. The officers not so much.

No effort is made to humanize the American soldiers, although many are portrayed as very courageous in the cave-bound scenes of hand-to-hand combat. No reference is made to the amazement felt by Japanese soldiers and Okinawan citizens alike upon being taken by the Americans, taken, wide-eyed and unbelieving, and given food, water, cigarettes and medical care. The point of surrender or capture was admittedly a different story, with a lot of what was referred to in Vietnam as “kill them all, let God sort them out.” But those were terrible days, and the soldiers on all sides deserve a little consideration before the all too easy condemnation now served up as a reflex.

A nicely made movie with a lot to recommend it.

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