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Interpreting the Battle of Okinawa 75 Years after the Event

  • Monday, October 12, 2020
    6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill burns after being hit by two kamikaze planes within 30 seconds.

The aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill burns after being hit by two kamikaze planes within 30 seconds. (US Government photo)

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the last major battle of World War II and one of its deadliest conflicts, the Battle of Okinawa. How did people experience this event? How have historians written about it? How have the media and public portrayed it?

Join HIST 301 students to explore various ways of knowing, interpreting, remembering and forgetting the past with our special guests: Matt Gossett (history major, Metropolitan State University), Dr. David Obermiller (associate professor in History, Environmental Studies, and Japanese Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College), and Dr. Rustin Gates (associate professor of History, Bradley University).

This public event will be conducted by Zoom videoconference. RSVP by email.

First, Gossett will discuss his experience of researching for and writing his paper, “Analyzing the Battle of Okinawa through Event, Experience, and Myth.” Obermiller, a historian specializing in the history of Okinawa, will offer comments. 

Obermiller will deliver his talk, “Selective and Competing Memories (Amnesia) for the Battle of Okinawa: Japan, the U.S. and Okinawa.” 

World War II epitomizes the ability of nation-states to impose total mobilization of the masses. Complete mobilization also meant the creation of "total" memory as understood by each national state, a war memory that is largely monolithic and hegemonic within the nation-state, yet ironically, becomes what Carol Gluck observed as a memory "of a world war with the world left out." It can also be stated that the totality of these national war memories rarely includes more localized memories, especially ones that challenge and contest national memory (one such example would be the "Comfort" Women issue). Okinawa's collective memory over the Battle of Okinawa represents such an account where a local memory not only challenges the national narrative of two nations, but how it undermines and threatens the seventy-five-year Japan-U.S. security arrangement.

A discussion will follow Gates’ comments on this presentation from a diplomatic historian’s perspective.


  • 6 p.m.: Introduction 6:05 Matt Gossett, “Analyzing the Battle of Okinawa through Event, Experience, and Myth”
  • 6:25 p.m.: Dr. David Obermiller’s comments
  • 6:35 p.m.: Discussion
  • 6:50 p.m.: Break
  • 7 p.m.: Dr. David Obermiller, "Selective and Competing Memories (Amnesia) for the Battle of Okinawa: Japan, the U.S. and Okinawa"
  • 7:45 p.m.: Dr. Rustin Gates’ comments
  • 8 p.m.: Discussion


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