On April 1, 1945, the US Army invaded Okinawa, Japan in what is today known as one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Each year, the Okinawa Association of America — a nonprofit founded over a century ago to promote Okinawan culture in the greater Los Angeles area — stages an event to remember the battle and the more than 150,000 lives lost. This year, on the battle’s 75th anniversary, the event will take place online, on Sunday, July 5, just days after June 23, the date that marked the end of the Battle of Okinawa.
The main speaker of the event will be Hanayo Oya, a journalist and documentary filmmaker who has devoted her work to preserving and sharing Okinawa’s war and postwar histories. Oya will talk about a little-known, and devastating, chapter of the war. While the Okinawa and Kerama Islands were used as battlefields, “the Japanese Imperial Army forcefully evacuated civilians from Hateruma, Ishigaki, and neighboring Yaeyama Islands to malaria-infected jungles and mountains.” This resulted in tens of thousands of infections and deaths, now referred to as “Another Battle of Okinawa.”
Oya explores another hidden aspect of the war — of spies and guerrilla fighters — in her 2018 documentary Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa. She has said, “As the number of people who experienced the war is dwindling, it is our responsibility to not stop at simply sending the message that war is tragic, but to actively pass these stories on to the next generation to prevent wars altogether.”
In addition to her presentation, Oya will perform a folk song from the Yaeyama Islands, and will be joined by Kyle Toyama, a local fourth-generation Okinawan American, who will share a spoken word performance.
When: Sunday, July 5, 2pm (PDT)