Okinawa—Nexus of Borders: Ryukyu Reflections

Part 2
The Battle of Okinawa: The Final Conflict between the U.S. and Japan

The American military attached cameramen to units and faithfully recorded “Operation Iceberg,” the name given to the invasion of Okinawa. There were already efforts to legitimate the war by conveying its reality to the American public. In the coming years America consciously tried to record the reality of the wars that it brought about, pressured by fears of the “East,” namely the Soviet Union and its socialist system within the East-West Cold War.

These films hold a record without mercy. However, the same images can be viewed from the perspectives of Okinawans who continue to exist in the gulf between America and Japan. When put into this context, they express entirely different meanings. This section provides an opportunity to fundamentally rethink war reportage and documentaries themselves.


1 Records without Mercy

Records of the Battle of Okinawa—from the Collection of the One-foot Film Movement (unedited version)

- USA / 1945 / Silent film / Color, B&W / 16mm / 120 min

Source: Okinawa Historical Film Society

A portion of the vast quantity of unedited raw footage collected from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration by the One-foot Film Movement, an organization of Okinawan locals who purchased Battle of Okinawa footage shot by the U.S. military. They produced films from their own perspective to convey the truth of the war to the next generation. Fifty-six hours of 16mm film was collected, amounting to 313 reels, or 120,405 feet. Various aspects of the Battle of Okinawa clash and become entangled, remaining without temporal connection or links in meaning.

2 Records and Propaganda

From German Newsreels, “The World in Film” (Welt im Film)
WIF 1, WIF 4, WIF 9, WIF 14, WIF 21

1945 / German / B&W / 35mm / 60 min

Production: Allied Military Government
Source: Imperial War Museum (U.K.)

These newsreels depict World War II as the ”good war for justice“ for the benefit of post-occupation Germany. Scenes of America fighting in Okinawa are included. Footage shot by U.S. cameramen on the frontlines was narrated in German and screened for people in Germany, a defeated nation like Japan. The U.S. perspective was literally exported to Europe, enabling Germans to vicariously experience the Battle of Okinawa through an American point of view.

From U.S. Military Official Publicity Films
Pacific/Ryukyu Operations
The Conquest of Okinawa
The 6th Marine Division on Okinawa

USA / 1945 / English / Color, B&W / Video (orig. 16mm) / 90 min

Source: Okinawa Historical Film Society, Ryukyu Broadcasting Corporation (RBC), Research Group on Lost Cultural Properties

Series of publicity films produced by the U.S. military to report on the Battle of Okinawa. These images give a storyboard dramatization of the Ryukyu invasion beginning with America’s landing on the Kerama Archipelago, through the defeat and mass surrender of the Japanese army, culminating in the raising of the U.S. flag on Okinawan soil. The Battle of Okinawa was executed not only with a whole array of new military equipment, but also using devices to record the myth known as war.

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3 The Production of Memory and Transmission of Narrative

A Document of the Battle of Okinawa, Told One Foot at a Time

(“1 fito eizo de tsuzuru dokyumento Okinawa sen”)

- 1995 / Color, B&W / Video / 57 min

Director: Shibata Shohei
Sound: Miyaguchi Takuya, Komuro Hiroyuki
Research: Yamauchi Sakae
Narrator: Kusayanagi Ryuzo
Songs, Sanshin: Terukina Choichi
Supervisors: Makiminato Tokuzo, Fukuchi Hiroaki, Miyagi Etsujiro
Producer: Nakamatsu Shoji
Production, Source: Okinawa Historical Film Society

The Okinawa Historical Film Society (Association to Teach Children about the Battle of Okinawa through Film) extended the One-foot Film Movement and produced their own pieces to convey the truth of the war. This work shows the hardboiled and cruel logic behind a war that brutally trampled local citizens underfoot.

• Okinawa—Nexus of Borders: Ryukyu Reflections | Part 1: Oriental Ryukyus: Showa Era Pre-war Perspectives on Okinawa | Part 2: The Battle of Okinawa: The final Conflict between the U.S. and Japan | Part 3: The Battle of Okinawa in Relief / A Chronicle of Memories | Part 4: Americanization and Japanization | Part 5: Caught Between Different Worlds / When the 27th Parallel Disappears | Part 6: Okinawan Diaspora / Leaving Okinawa | Part 7: Okinawa: Colonial Landscape | Part 8: Earth Songs and Celestial Fantasies | Part 9: The World of Takamine Go: Blood (chi), Earth (chi), Wisdom (chi), Foolishness (chi), and “chi” | Part 10: Diffused Reflections of Okinawa