Still haunted by death of civilians

Still haunted by death of civilians

On May 9, St. Bede’s College history student Liam Donnelly, in New Zealand, talks to former marine Joe Drago through Skype. (Photograph provided by Mark Ealey)

May 13, 2013 Masatoshi Omine of Ryukyu Shimpo

Joe Drago, an 87-year-old Boston resident who fought in the Battle of Okinawa talked about the battle through Skype to a group of students at St. Bede’s College, a Catholic boys’ high school located in Christchurch, New Zealand. The lesson was arranged by New Zealander Mark Ealey who has been involved in the translation of several works on the civilian experience in the Battle of Okinawa. A total of 26 students listened intently as Drago related his experiences from the battle. During the war, Joe Drago fought as a member of the 6th Marine Division, which saw action in Okinawa. Ealey said that Drago talked to the boys about aspects of his experiences from the time of the landings through until when he was demobilized after the war. Drago became emotional when he cast his mind back to how many of his comrades were killed in the fierce fighting that he experienced in places such as Sugarloaf and how on a road near the coast in Onna-son many civilians were killed at night when members of his unit mistakenly opened fire thinking that they were Japanese soldiers trying to launch an infiltration raid.

St. Bede’s College history teacher Callum Wilson, 29, said, “It was an extremely valuable experience for us to be able to speak to someone who has actually been to war. I was struck by how Joe’s painful memories moved him to tears after all these years. That shows how powerful the emotions are that he feels about what happened during the fighting in Okinawa.”

Liam Donnelly, a 16-year-old student who took part in the class, said, “That Mr. Drago can still visualize what happened back then on the road at Onna-son really struck me. I knew that the battle had occurred, but I didn’t know that it was as awful as Joe described to us.”

Mark Ealey, who organized this discussion through Skype, became acquainted with Joe Drago when he contacted the 6th Marines’ historian to ask if any of the division’s former personnel would be prepared to tell him about their experiences on Okinawa. Joe Drago said that he thought that it was a good idea to let young people know about aspects of history that do not get covered in textbooks. Ealey said, “I wanted to have some young New Zealanders learn something about the Battle of Okinawa. I’d like to try it again, maybe after doing even more preparation with the students at this end.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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