Captain Thomas Stanley, in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, explains that Okinawa was different from Peleliu because it consisted in “land” warfare, as the island had a network of urban and rural communities, airfields, roads, and a civilian population. There, the Japanese fought with the knowledge that they were defending their own territory, and that this was their last barrier before the Americans could reach the rest of the country. They displayed sophisticated new defensive tactics that made attack extremely difficult.
This introduction puts Sledge’s personal narration in greater geographical and historical perspective, emphasizing that—unlike in Sledge’s story—the goal of the war is not necessarily for individual Marines to survive, but for the United States to force Japan to surrender and thus put an end to the war. The Japanese’s desperation serves as an explanation for the particularly ferocious nature of fighting on Okinawa.