Photo/IllutrationKatsuko Miyagi kneels in prayer in front of the Heiwa no Ishiji (Cornerstone of Peace) monument in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on June 23. She remembers the war dead including her three family members. (Masaru Komiyaji)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

ITOMAN, Okinawa Prefecture--Amid rain and occasional gusty winds, residents gathered here to remember the victims of the bloody Battle of Okinawa, which claimed one in four Okinawans, on the annual “Irei no Hi” Memorial Day on June 23.

Many people visited the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, from the early morning and prayed in front of the Heiwa no Ishiji (Cornerstone of Peace) monument, which inscribes more than 240,000 people, including the civilians who died in the fighting.

Katsuko Miyagi, 79, from Ginowan in the prefecture, carried three flower bouquets as she walked around the monument.

“This one is for my father and sisters who died in the war,” she said. “The other two bouquets are for my husband’s family and relatives.”

Miyagi said her husband and brothers are too old and in poor health to visit.

“I came by myself this year, representing my relatives. Seventy-four years have already passed since the war,” she sighed.

U.S. troops landed on Okinawa's Kerama islands in late March 1945, then on the main island on April 1, 1945.

Civilians were caught in the middle of the grueling ground fighting that continued until June 23, 1945, when the commander of the Imperial Japanese Army killed himself and organized resistance ended.

The battle claimed more than 200,000 lives including U.S. and Japanese soldiers and Okinawans.