Maeda Escarpment used as the main stage of “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Maeda Escarpment used as the main stage of “Hacksaw Ridge.”

June 19, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

On June 18, non-profit organization Urasoe History Guide Friends’ Society conducted a tour of a bloody battlefield around Urasoe Gusuku. The tour included Maeda Escarpment, the set of director Mel Gibson’s movie “Hacksaw Ridge” in which the main character is a U.S. combat medic who saved many colleagues. Organizers say 175 people including active members of U.S. Marine Corps joined the tour.

This is the largest number of participants the Friends’ Society has had since it began tours of battlefields for the public in 2015. In the U.S., the movie was released last November. Many U.S. military officials in Okinawa have visited Maeda Escarpment since the movie’s release.

The Maeda Escarpment was where the defense line of the Japanese army was stretched to protect the 32nd Army Headquarters in Shuri, and where the Japanese military attacked the incoming U.S. Army. The U.S. military called the Maeda Highland “Hacksaw Ridge”, because it has a cliff like a saw.

The tour was divided into five groups, with five volunteer guides.

Norio Mekaru of the Friends’ Society explained that “there were many people killed in both Japanese and US forces. This place was a terrible battlefield.”

The deceased Desmond Doss, who served as a combat medic in the Battle of Okinawa and was the main character of the movie, visited Maeda in 1995. Kiyomi Tamanaha, the secretary of the Friends’ Society, pointed out to participants a location where Mr. Doss dropped a ladder.

In the former Urasoe Village, approximately 44.6 percent of the total population died in the war. The tour participants also visited Kuchigawa gama, where residents sought refuge from bombing and where dried bread food was stored. They learned about the battle in Urasoe.

A U.S. Marine Corps serviceman who visited Maeda said, “It was good that we could see various places. This way of seeing and feeling is different from reading books. If you think about the miserable situation of the past, when soldiers had to fight in this small place, it is painful.”

The film won awards in two categories (editorial and recording) at this year’s Academy Awards. “Hacksaw Ridge” was released nationwide on June 24.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana) 

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