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Battle Line: Okinawa
Produced and directed by Sherman Grinberg
Written by Jack Lyman and N.H. Cominos
Time-Life Video, 1963, 25 min., Video

Each week two antagonists of World War II recreated a moment in history during the 1963 television series Battle Line. Two frontline soldiers gave their viewpoint each week of one of the great battles or one particular aspect of World War II, while the narrator told the history with archival footage. In 1991, Time-Life Video released 36 episodes of this classic documentary series in 18 videocassettes. This series succeeds brilliantly in presenting the human emotions of the combatants, the dramatic tension of armed conflict, and an accurate historical record of the events.

The episode Okinawa relates the experiences of Naval Ensign Mitsuo Saeki, a fighter pilot who flew an escort plane on kamikaze missions during the Battle of Okinawa, and Lieutenant Hunter Robbins, a communications officer on the destroyer Hugh W. Hadley. On May 11, 1945, two kamikazes damaged the Hadley so badly that it played no further part in the war. Robbins received a Bronze Star for his part in saving trapped seamen aboard the Hadley after being struck by kamikaze planes. The Hadley had 28 killed and 67 wounded that day (Warner 1982, 256), but the destroyers Evans and Hadley together on one of the picket stations shot down 37 Japanese planes.

This show presents the kamikaze pilots in a realistic, positive light. Robbins says, "You hated to see them coming, but at the same time you couldn't deny the courage of these pilots" [1]. The narrator near the end explains, "As wild-eyed and fanatical as the kamikaze concept of war appears, it's the only chance the Japanese have left" [2]. Saeki tells the sad story of his farewell conversation with a friend from the same prefecture about to depart on a kamikaze mission. The friend refused a treat from Saeki with the response that he wanted to keep fit for the mission, and he said he had no last message for his mother since she already knew. He died three hours later. Saeki explains that every kamikaze pilot was spiritually prepared for death, but he emphasizes that the important thing was to make each death count.

The documentary's script accurately covers the history of kamikaze operations during the Battle of Okinawa. Although the episode Okinawa focuses on kamikaze attacks on ships near the island, the show also covers the landing on Okinawa by American troops and their progress in the three-month battle for control of the island. In additions to film clips of Japanese planes attacking ships and the damage caused by the crashes, this video also includes a good deal of Japanese footage of pilots prior to departure.

This exceptional, moving documentary gives viewers a glimpse into the feelings of two individual combatants who fought during the Battle of Okinawa.


1. At 1:10 in the episode

2. At 22:05 in the episode 

Source Cited

Warner, Denis, Peggy Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.