In May 1945, as the Germans formally surrendered to the Allies in Europe and Americans were celebrating wildly in the streets at home, one of the largest battles of the entire war was in full, bloody swing. On Okinawa, about halfway between Iwo Jima and Tokyo and held by the Japanese since the 1870s, a 1,300-ship combined British-American invasion force had landed 60,000 men on L-Day (Love Day), 1 April 1945. Instead of invading Japan proper, expected as the next logical move after taking Iwo as a forward air base, the decision was to subdue Okinawa. The Japanese were adroit strategists and perhaps had learned something from the intensive Allied shelling at Normandy. This stand in the Ryukyu Islands was Japan’s most essential defensive action of the war—an attempt to keep the Allied fighters away from the homeland. As on Iwo, few rounds were fired by the defenders, and those were from a distance. The Marines who landed on the coast felt both as if they had outlived their life expectancies by far and that they were arriving on a territory so starkly alien it might as well be the surface of the moon.