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Paul Ogle, left, and his son Darren, came to Okinawa for the first time to attend this year's Irei no Hi ceremony, held Tuesday at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman. The ceremony commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. Paul's father, also named Paul, was killed in the battle by a Japanese sniper.

Paul Ogle, left, and his son Darren, came to Okinawa for the first time to attend this year's Irei no Hi ceremony, held Tuesday at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman. The ceremony commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. Paul's father, also named Paul, was killed in the battle by a Japanese sniper. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Paul Ogle, left, and his son Darren, came to Okinawa for the first time to attend this year's Irei no Hi ceremony, held Tuesday at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman. The ceremony commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. Paul's father, also named Paul, was killed in the battle by a Japanese sniper.

Paul Ogle, left, and his son Darren, came to Okinawa for the first time to attend this year's Irei no Hi ceremony, held Tuesday at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman. The ceremony commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. Paul's father, also named Paul, was killed in the battle by a Japanese sniper. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

A young Japanese woman pauses to admire a wreath laid by Mike Stevens and his twin sister Marjorie at Tuesday's annual Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park commemorating the 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II Battle of Okinawa. The Stevens family laid the wreath on behalf of all the British servicemembers who served and gave their lives in the battle.

A young Japanese woman pauses to admire a wreath laid by Mike Stevens and his twin sister Marjorie at Tuesday's annual Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park commemorating the 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II Battle of Okinawa. The Stevens family laid the wreath on behalf of all the British servicemembers who served and gave their lives in the battle. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and the American delegation bow before an altar honoring approximately 200,000 who died in the Battle of Okinawa at Tuesday's Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II battle. The event was more contentious than in previous years as protesters against a new U.S. military runway in northern Okinawa descended on the event in an attempt to send a message to Tokyo.

Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and the American delegation bow before an altar honoring approximately 200,000 who died in the Battle of Okinawa at Tuesday's Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II battle. The event was more contentious than in previous years as protesters against a new U.S. military runway in northern Okinawa descended on the event in an attempt to send a message to Tokyo. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Toyo Nagado, left, attended Tuesday's ceremony with her son, Isao. Nagado lost seven family members during World War II, her parents, brothers and sisters.

Toyo Nagado, left, attended Tuesday's ceremony with her son, Isao. Nagado lost seven family members during World War II, her parents, brothers and sisters. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga bows for the victims of the Battle of Okinawa Tuesday during a ceremony commemorating the battle's 70th anniversary. Onaga used the ceremony as a platform to lash out at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for pushing ahead with a new U.S. military runway in Okinawa's remote north, much to the dismay of families who lost loved ones in the conflict.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga bows for the victims of the Battle of Okinawa Tuesday during a ceremony commemorating the battle's 70th anniversary. Onaga used the ceremony as a platform to lash out at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for pushing ahead with a new U.S. military runway in Okinawa's remote north, much to the dismay of families who lost loved ones in the conflict. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

An Okinawan man plays traditional songs for family members lost during the war at Tuesday's Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

An Okinawan man plays traditional songs for family members lost during the war at Tuesday's Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

The annual Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the Battle of Okinawa gives locals a chance to connect with lost family and friends. Approximately 100,000 locals perished in the World War II battle.

The annual Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the Battle of Okinawa gives locals a chance to connect with lost family and friends. Approximately 100,000 locals perished in the World War II battle. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

A man offers an ancestor a drink of water during the annual Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the Battle of Okinawa, which gives locals a chance to connect with lost family and friends. Approximately 100,000 locals perished in the battle.

A man offers an ancestor a drink of water during the annual Irei no Hi ceremony commemorating the Battle of Okinawa, which gives locals a chance to connect with lost family and friends. Approximately 100,000 locals perished in the battle. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Attendees bow their heads for a moment of silence during Tuesday's annual Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. This year's ceremony drew veterans and dignitaries and commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

Attendees bow their heads for a moment of silence during Tuesday's annual Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. This year's ceremony drew veterans and dignitaries and commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

An elderly Okinawan woman attempts to find a lost loved one's name on the memorial stone Tuesday at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park.

An elderly Okinawan woman attempts to find a lost loved one's name on the memorial stone Tuesday at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Mike Stevens, left, and twin sister Marjorie traveled all the way from England for Tuesday's annual Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park commemorating the 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II Battle of Okinawa. Mike wears his father's medals earned during the war. Samual Stevens served as a British sailor on the HMS Indefatigable. He died of cancer several years after the war. His children believe it was due to being ordered to Nagasaki shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped. The Stevens clan said they wanted to call attention to all the U.K. servicemembers who served and gave their lives in the battle, because they are often overlooked.

Mike Stevens, left, and twin sister Marjorie traveled all the way from England for Tuesday's annual Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park commemorating the 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II Battle of Okinawa. Mike wears his father's medals earned during the war. Samual Stevens served as a British sailor on the HMS Indefatigable. He died of cancer several years after the war. His children believe it was due to being ordered to Nagasaki shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped. The Stevens clan said they wanted to call attention to all the U.K. servicemembers who served and gave their lives in the battle, because they are often overlooked. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

People line up Tuesday to pay their respects for the approximately 200,000 civilian and military personnel who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. Over 5,000 people attended the ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World War II battle.

People line up Tuesday to pay their respects for the approximately 200,000 civilian and military personnel who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. Over 5,000 people attended the ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World War II battle. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Flowers and a note honoring an unknown American servicemember killed in the Battle of Okinawa were placed with care at the base of his memorial plaque Tuesday. Four American veterans of the battle attended this year's ceremony. None attended last year.

Flowers and a note honoring an unknown American servicemember killed in the Battle of Okinawa were placed with care at the base of his memorial plaque Tuesday. Four American veterans of the battle attended this year's ceremony. None attended last year. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Paul Ogle came to Okinawa looking for closure after a lifetime of pain.

On April 13, 1945, Ogle’s father, also named Paul, was fighting with the U.S. Army’s 96th Infantry Division on Okinawa when he was killed by a Japanese sniper.

Ogle and his soldier son, Darren, were part of a small group of American veterans who came to Okinawa on Tuesday for the Irei no Hi ceremony at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. The annual ceremony serves as a remembrance for the 12,520 American servicemembers, 110,000 Japanese troops and 140,000 Okinawan civilians who lost their lives in the 82-day Battle of Okinawa.

This year’s ceremony was somber as usual. But the political bickering between Japanese officials in Okinawa and Tokyo that has plagued the island prefecture found its way onto the park’s hallowed ground.

More than 5,000 people converged on the tiny Okinawan hamlet of Itoman to commemorate the end of a bloody battle, officials said. Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga used more than half of his speech to rail against Tokyo and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for pressing forward with the runway into Oura Bay at Henoko and for discriminating against Okinawa.

The runway will make room for the closure of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in a densely populated urban area in central Okinawa. The station’s assets will be moved to Camp Schwab.

“The heavy presence of the military has imposed various negative impacts on people’s lives and economic development on Okinawa,” Onaga said during his speech. “I strongly urge the government not to be bound by a fixed idea and stop the relocation work, and review the policy to reduce the military related burden of Okinawa.”

The crowd applauded.

Protesters, intent on blocking the construction of a new U.S. military runway in Okinawa’s north interrupted Abe’s speech, in which he vowed to further alleviate the burden being placed on Okinawans.

Abe’s security team protected him as he made a hasty exit to his car after the ceremony as protesters shouted at him.

For Ogle, none of it mattered. He touched his dad’s name on the black granite memorial wall. He and his son had plans to go to the spot where he was struck down.

“We needed to come and see where my father was,” Ogle said after the ceremony. “I don’t know why, but it was very important to do that.”

“Seventy years later, his family is still looking for him,” Darren Ogle said of the grandfather he never met.

Other family members of the deceased thought the forum was not the place for politics.

“In my opinion, today must be reserved as a day to commemorate the victims of the war and pray for their souls,” said Isao Nagado, 63.

His mother, Toyo, 86, lost eight members of her family — both parents and five siblings, ages 10 months to 19 years.

Kosuke Tamaki, 88, of Ginowan, was 18 during the battle. He lost an eye and was buried under the bodies of his comrades after being knocked unconscious by an American tank.

“I crawled out and started walking to look for water,” he recalled. “Eventually, I would find a cave where residents were hiding. I was given water and a rice ball. I was lucky because it was only one eyeball that the war took away from me.”

Twins Mike and Marjorie Stevens traveled from England to represent their father, Samual Stevens, at the ceremony. He was on the British ship HMS Indefatigable and braved kamikaze attacks during the battle. The elder Stevens died from cancer years later. The twins said they wanted to call attention to the U.K. servicemembers, because they are often overlooked.

“Two years ago, we decided to come for our father and for the Okinawan people,” Mike Stevens said after placing a red wreath at the U.K. and Northern Ireland memorial tucked away in a back corner of the park. “It’s for all the people who perished. It’s about peace and reconciliation as well, isn’t it?”

burke.matt@stripes.comsumida.chiyomi@stripes.com

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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