On April 1, 1945, the United States invaded the Japanese island of Okinawa. This was the last major battle of World War II. It was a costly victory. More than 50,000 Allies were killed or wounded. There were also over 100,000 Japanese casualties. It was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific during World War II. Its purpose was to secure Kadena Air Base for air operations during Operation Downfall. Operation Downfall was the planned invasion of the Japanese homeland. Okinawa would not only provide an air base but anchorage for the fleet and troop staging areas. Causality figures for Operation Downfall were estimated by some to exceed a million American lives. When planning began for Operation Downfall, it was not a question of being defeated by the Japanese but how long and costly would the victory be. After six years of fighting, Americans were getting tired of the war. Knowing this, President Harry Truman had to make one of the most controversial decisions in history: whether or not to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the end, he chose to drop the bomb to save countless lives and bring the war to an end. With Japan defeated by August 1945, the question was what should be done with her in the post-war world. The occupation of Japan had been discussed and agreed upon by the Allies in a series of wartime conferences.
THE UNITED STATES OCCUPIES JAPAN
The military occupation of Japan by the Allied Powers lasted from 1945-1952. Supposedly a joint occupation by international powers, it was primarily carried out by U.S. forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. During the occupation, Japanese soldiers and civilians, who had been displaced or fled, were returned to Japan. All factories which produced weapons and arms were torn down. Trials were held for Japanese wartime leaders and seven of the defendants were executed. The most far-reaching reform was the creation of a new constitution, which put power in a democratic government. Labor unions were initially encouraged; however, with the victory of the communist in China, fears of leftist organizations gaining too much influence, so government control of labor was supported. Technically in 1952 the occupation came to an end; however, to this day we maintain a strong military presence throughout the Japanese islands and Japan is one of our strongest supporters.
Public opinion polls give us unique insight into America in the WWII era. Each week, historians from the Institute of War and Democracy work with the archives of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research to explore what Americans believed and how they felt about events and people related to the WWII years