Seventy five years ago, the final battle of World War II took place on the island of Okinawa.
On April 1, operation Iceberg was set into motion to set up an air base and to take the island, which was occupied by the Japanese military. After taking the island, the American military planned to use it as a base from which to bomb mainland Japan.
Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. led the ground assault. Admiral Nimitz led the naval part of the battle.
The landing that day was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of the war.
A Jefferson man was there. The late Herman Buffington, my grandfather, served in the 96th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
Three days after landing on the beaches, the real fighting started. One of my grandfather's fellow 96th members, Beauford Anderson, led a counterattack at Kakazu Ridge. He single-handedly started to flank the enemy by firing his M1 Carbine and throwing mortars at Japanese positions. He was later honored with the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
As American troops moved south on the island, my grandfather witnessed that many Japanese soldiers would commit suicide instead of surrendering.
The events of that battle led to a recent popular movie about a man from Georgia, Desmond Doss. Doss was a member of the 77th Division and became the hero of Hacksaw Ridge. He personally saved around 75 wounded soldiers on the ridge, but he didn't carry a gun since he was a Seventh-Day Adventist. He, too, was given the Medal of Honor. Years later, my grandfather met Doss at an Army reunion event.
By June, American and their allies had mostly taken Okinawa. My grandfather was wounded that June with shrapnel in his leg. For his actions on Okinawa, he was honored with the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
By August, the war was over and my grandfather, and thousands of other soldiers, soon headed home and back to their "normal" lives.
We haven't forgotten them.