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Japanese, American names mingle on Okinawa memorial

He was a strapping 17-year-old farm boy from Michigan; she was an Okinawan schoolgirl just a bit younger.

Robert C. Fawley and Utako Ogidoh were two of the more than 200,000 people whose names were unveiled Friday on the same vast tombstone.

They died in the battle of Okinawa.

The black granite monument was dedicated Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of the last great campaign of World War II. It is engraved with not only the names of the Japanese who were killed in the battle but also the names of the Americans who died while seizing the island of Okinawa south of Japan.

It is as if the Vietnam Memorial in Washington bore not only the names of the Americans who died, but also those of the Vietnamese.

John Foley, a retired New York City police officer, came to Okinawa for the battle anniversary partly to look for the name of his buddy, Fawley, the Michigan farm boy.

"I think of him every day of my life," Foley said. "He was like my brother."

Fawley was a machine-gunner, and he stood up during a vicious firefight to rake the enemy positions. They got him instead.

"I'll never forgive them," Foley said of the Japanese soldiers. "I'll say "hi' to them, but I won't shake their hands."

As for Ogidoh, she died when a U.S. shell hit the cave in which she was hiding, sending shrapnel into her stomach.

"Don't worry about me _ go help the others," she told her school friends. "I've seen people with stomach wounds. They never survive."

She soon died.

"We should learn from this history," Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said Friday as he unveiled the peace monument. "We should pass this legacy on to future generations, and we must renew our vow to achieve world peace."

Max Clayton, a retired history teacher from Atlanta, choked as he carefully used a pencil to make a rubbing of the name of his pal, Carl T. Redmon, an 18-year-old from Arkansas.

"We were digging our foxholes, and a sniper shot rang out, and he gave that awful sound," Clayton said, his voice breaking. "I'm going to take this rubbing and give it to his family."

Like most of the Americans _ and all of the Japanese _ interviewed Friday at the monument, Clayton said he bore no hard feelings toward his former enemies.

"They were fighting for a cause they believed in, just as we were," said James S. Rigas, a former Marine from Tucson, Ariz.

Rigas was searching for the name of Joseph Martinez, a 19-year-old fellow machine-gunner.

"He saved my life," Rigas said. "We were firing at the enemy, and he flopped down beside me, and then suddenly he was shot all over and fell on top of me."

Martinez stopped bullets that otherwise would have killed Rigas, who also was hit but recovered after three months in a hospital. Rigas says he no longer hates the Japanese, and he himself ponders things that he did that he regrets.

"One night, we felt someone coming through our lines, so we thought that it was the enemy, and I started firing," Rigas recalled. "In the morning, I saw that it was women _ a group of women _ who were trying to get through. That has always bothered me."

Most books list 12,000 Americans as killed in the battle, from April through June 1945. But the Okinawan officials who planned the monument consulted with U.S. veterans groups and the U.S. Defense Department and came up with the names of 14,005 Americans who died in the battle; their names are engraved on the wall. A U.S. official said that figure was probably more accurate.

Some 200,000 Japanese died in the battle. Most were Okinawan civilians _ including huge numbers of women and children _ killed when the Americans bombed and shelled the island.

The monument lists the names of 234,183 war dead, but it also includes Okinawans who fought in the Japanese army and were killed in other battles. It also lists Koreans and Taiwanese, most of them forced laborers brought here by the Japanese, who died in Okinawa.

"This is my dad," said Mihono Saihara, 62, pointing to the name Yoshio Saki. Saki, a Navy man, apparently committed suicide in a cave as the Americans closed in, but his body was never recovered.

"At the time I hated Americans," Mrs. Saihara said, as tears rolled down her cheek. "But now there's peace, and I don't feel that hatred anymore."