Relatives of victims of the Battle of Okinawa at the closing days of World War II touch the Cornerstone of Peace memorial in Itoman city on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, on June 23, 2005. Okinawa on May 15, 2022, marked the 50th anniversary of its return to Japan on May 15, 1972, which ended 27 years of U.S. rule after one of the bloodiest battles of World War II was fought on the southern Japanese island. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)

GARDENA — On Friday, July 1, at 7 p.m. Pacific Time, the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will host their annual “Irei no Hi: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa” live on Zoom.

A special guest lecturer from Okinawa, Harumi Miyagi, will talk about the forced mass civilian deaths on Zamami Island.

The event will be in Japanese with English subtitles for the presentation and live English translation for the Q&A. Admission is free but donations are very much appreciated. Registration is required (Zoom link and phone number to be emailed): http://tinyurl.com/oaairei22

World War II’s Battle of Okinawa has been called one the bloodiest land battles in the Pacific, with historians calling it a “war of attrition” by the Imperial Japanese Army to prevent the U.S. military from reaching the Japanese mainland.

The U.S. military landed in the Kerama Islands (made up of Tokashiki, Zamami, and Kerama) on March 26, 1945. Okinawan survivors state that the mass civilian deaths that occurred during this time were coerced by the Imperial Japanese Army. In 2007, Japan’s Ministry of Education ordered the incidents to be removed from high school textbooks.

Miyagi will talk about these horrific incidents based on her research and interviews with survivors.

Miyagi is a historian, lecturer, and writer born in Zamami. She is currently the vice chairperson of the New Okinawa Prefectural History Editorial Committee (Shin Okinawa-ken-shi Henshū Iinkai) and chairperson of the Women’s History Subcommittee. As a lecturer, she has spoken at Okinawa International University, the University of the Ryūkyūs, and the prefectural government office about women’s history and gender studies, peace and human rights, and the inheritance of tootoomee (Okinawan mortuary tablets).

Her books include “What My Mother Left Behind: New Testimonies of Mass Suicide in Zamami Island,” “Women’s History as a Minority” (co-authored), and “Listen to the Damage of Sexual Violence” (co-authored).

This year marks the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. In Okinawa, a memorial day known as Irei no Hi is observed annually on June 23, the date that was documented as the end of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The goal of the OAA’s annual “Irei no Hi: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa” event is to memorialize the nearly 150,000 lives that were lost during the war and post-war years and to inform the next generation about Okinawa’s history and current issues.

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