“Okinawa Campaign, 1945. Military ambulances lined up on shore at Guam, awaiting the arrival of U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USS Solace (AH-5) with casualties from Okinawa, 4 June 1945. Among ships in left background is USS LSM-242. Photographer: PhoM2c J.G. Mull.”
World War II Confederates and the storming of Shuri Castle,
On April 1st, 1945, over 500,000 soldiers and marines of the 10th Army invaded Okinawa with the intent of wresting control of the islands from the Japanese Army. The fighting was fierce and bloody, lasting 82 days. One key strategic point in Okinawa was Shuri castle, and ancient fortification dating back to the Middle Ages. The Japanese had occupied the castle and were using it as a headquarters.
On May 29th, Major General Del Valle ordered the 5th Marine regiment, commanded by Capt. Julius Dusenberg to storm the castle. After a short but fierce battle, the marines wrested control of the castle from the Japanese. Like the capture of Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, it was time to raise the colors over their hard won castle. However, the flag raising that occurred next was nothing like flag raising at Iwo Jima.
Capt. Dusenberg, a native South Carolinian, produced a Confederate battle flag from his helmet, which was raised above the Medieval Ryukyuan castle to the shrieks of rebel yells. One Marine (a New Englander) who witnessed the flag raising remarked, “What does he want now? Should we sing ‘Dixie?’”. If ever there was an inspiration for a Harry Turtledove alternative history novel, this would be it.
The Star and Bars flew over Shuri Castle for two days before it was replaced with the Stars and Stripes. The flag was presented to 10th Army commander Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., whose father was Gen. Simon Buckner Sr., famous for surrendering Fort Donelson to Grant during the Civil War.
Andrew Garfield is radiant. This may be particularly noticeable because we’re having breakfast at the upscale vegan restaurant Café Gratitude in Venice, Calif., which is the epicenter of wellness culture in Los Angeles, crowded with surfers and yogis smiling beatifically on a sunlit patio. But it’s not just the environment—out of Garfield pours the easy charm of someone who’s done powerful soul-searching and found enlightenment. It’s an infectious energy.
It’s also probably not a surprise, given that the actor, 33, stars in two back-to-back films this winter, in each of which he plays men spurred by faith to do the unimaginable. First, there’s Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge (out Nov. 4), in which Garfield gives an awards-worthy performance as conscientious objector Desmond Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist who served as a medic during World War II in the gruesome Battle of Okinawa, though he refused to carry a weapon. The film makes Doss’ heroism feel intimate and deeply personal; the film’s violence is harrowing, but it’s anchored by Garfield’s sensitive, humane performance. Then, on Dec. 23, he stars in Martin Scorsese’s Silence, in which he plays a 17th-century Jesuit priest who travels to Japan to minister to outlawed Christians.
These projects have led Garfield on a journey of spiritual discovery and self-interrogation; reflecting on his recent work, he is philosophical but not at all self-serious. We talked about God, Mel Gibson and the presidential election.
TIME: What drew you to the character of Desmond Doss?
Andrew Garfield: First, it was beautifully written. The character was so compelling—it was one of those stories that rang a bell inside me. I’m pretty good at saying no to things, at discerning between what I’m supposed to do and what I’m not supposed to do. With this one I felt compelled enough that I knew my drive to do it would supersede any doubt I had about myself being able to do it. If the longing to do it goes beyond my self-doubt, then I’m in.