When the World War II battle over the Japanese island of Okinawa officially ended 70 years ago today, on June 22, 1945, it had secured its place as the bloodiest clash in the Central and Western Pacific fronts. TIME’s initial estimate a few days later was that more than 98,000 Japanese people had been killed and nearly 7,000 Americans were dead or missing.
Two men were not among that haunting count. It wasn’t until weeks later, in its July 9 issue, that TIME reported on what happened to Lieut. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima and Lieut. Gen. Isamu Cho, based on the tale told by the soldier who cooked their last meal:
On a narrow ledge overlooking the sea at the southern end of Okinawa the two Generals whispered to each other. They knelt side by side on a patchwork quilt covered by a white sheet (the color of death). Ushijima’s aide…
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