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U. S. Army June 18, 1945
J. Taylan March 30, 2019
Lat 26° 8' 2N Long 127° 43' 44E Tomori 富盛 at an elevation 164' / 49m of located in Yaese, Shimajiri District of southern Okinawa Island and Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. Also spelled Tomimori, Tomoi, Tomui, Domui or Tumui. During the Battle of Okinawa, U. S. spelling was "Tomui" or "Tumui". To the southwest is Mount Yaese (Mt. Yaese) during the battle this feature was known as the Yaeju-Dake escarpment dubbed "Big Apple". A road running roughly northwest from Iwa passed to the northeast of Tomuri then continues to the southeast to Hanagusuku (Hanashiro) and Gushichan (Gushicha) on the southeast coast of the island. A trail extended westward around the northern end of the escarpment south of Yonagusuku (Yonagushiku) then beyond to Yoza (Yuza).
In early June 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, the Tomori area became the front line of the Japanese Main Line of Resistance (MLR) at the flank of the Yaeju-Dake escarpment to the west defended by remnants of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) 24th Division and 44th Independent Mixed Brigade (44th IMB) defending the area. Initially, Tomori was inside the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) III Amphibious Corps area with the boundary line following the road east of Tomori as the boundary with U. S. Army XXIV Corps. Before the advance into this area, the U. S. boundary line shifted to the west with the Tomori area inside the U. S. Army XXIV Corps boundary assigned to the 96th Infantry Division and 7th Division.
By June 10, 1945 the U. S. Army 96th Infantry Division, 381st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion cleared Tomori and attempted to advance southwest to the escarpment but the terrain was steep and rough. The 7th Division, 1st Battalion line was to the east of Tomori. On June 11, 1945 the U. S. Army 7th Division began to directly assault the Yaeju-Dake (Big Apple) to the southwest.
Stone Lion at Tomori
During the late 1600's wild fires plagued the farmland around Tomori and prompted villagers consulted a feng shui master, who suggested "disaster could be prevented if a lion-shaped object was placed facing Yaese". Following this advice, a stone lion (in Chinese シーサー, in the Ryukyuan language known as shīsā or spelled shisa. A carved stone statue of a guardian lion roughly 5' 6" tall by 4' 6" wide with an open mouth to ward off evil spirits. According to local folklore, after the lion was placed on the hilltop, fires no longer impacted the area.
During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, Tomori village survived without severe damage. This stone lion sustained superficial damage from bullets or shrapnel but was not destroyed or defaced during the fighting.
On June 18 1945, a photograph documented U. S. soldiers near the stone lion (shisa). This photograph was taken facing towards the southeast with the soldiers looking toward the southwest towards Mount Yaese (Yaeju-Dake escarpment, Big Apple). The right side of the lion has a half dozen bullet holes that have chipped the stone leaving circular white marks plus one on the lower lip of the lion's mouth. Two U. S. soldiers with binoculars taking cover near the stone lion are looking to the southwest. Nearby, five U. S. soldiers are crouching below the crest of the hill top.
Some sources claim this photographed was staged. Most likely, this is a candid combat photograph of soldiers during the U. S. Army assault against Mount Yaese (Mt. Yaese). None of the soldiers are carrying rifles and the photographer standing upright (not taking cover) indicating this photo was taken after the area was secured and the battle had moved further to the southwest. Likely, the soldiers were observing combat in the distance or spotting targets during the assault.
Today, the lion remains in situ and is located in a small park that is open to the public and frequently visited by tourists and Americans on battlefield tours as a physical artifact that survived the Battle of Okinawa. Since 1974, the stone lion at Tomori was designated as a tangible prefectural cultural asset by Okinawa Prefecture. Today, stones are arranged around the lion and a
U. S. Army in World War II - Chapter XVII The Enemy's Last Stand pages 449
(Page 449) "The 3d Battalion had cleaned the enemy troops out of Tomui but was unable to proceed against the blunt and steep segment of the escarpment that lay in its zone."
This Was The Battle of Okinawa (1981) by Masahide Ota (cover photo)
DVIDS "Battle of Okinawa [Image 5 of 5]" by Spc. Leigh Campbell November 30, 2003
Okinawa Prefectural Government "Origin of the stone shisa at Tomimori" via WayBack Machine March 11, 2007
6thCorpsCombatEngineers " Tomori Lion of Okinawa" by CaptO December 5, 2013
Weathering the “Typhoon of Steel” (鋼の台風): The Tomori Stone Lion by Islandkings January 4, 2014
Stars and Stripes "Tomori’s stone lion one of the most famous survivors of the Battle of Okinawa" by Matt Burke March 15, 2018
Wikipeda Shisa Great Stone Shisa at Tomimori includes photo of the Tomori shisa accessed June 13, 2020
Thanks to Matt Burke and Steph Ochar Pawelski for additional information
June 1-3, 1945
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