ITOMAN, Okinawa — Henry Lukasik has finally joined the list of the fallen.
When visitors flock to the Cornerstone of Peace at Peace Prayer Park here Monday to commemorate the end of the Battle of Okinawa 63 years ago, Lukasik will be one of the 128 new names — and the only American — added to the list of 240,734 people who died during the last major battle of World War II.
Lukasik was a Navy corpsman assigned to the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He was shot in the head April 13, 1945, while tending to the wounded. He is buried in a military cemetery in Hawaii.
But somehow, he was omitted from the Okinawa prefecture’s list of more than 14,000 Americans killed during the 83-day battle. So his name was not inscribed on the 1,200 black marble tablets arranged in zigzagging lines, like the wings of gulls stretching to the sea.
The walls were unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the battle historians have dubbed the "Typhoon of Steel." At the end of the fierce struggle, the commanding generals of both armies were dead and the land was ravaged. The U.S. Navy, its ships beset by Japanese kamikazes, suffered its greatest losses of the war, and more than a third of the civilian population — more than 150,000 people — was killed.
Every year, the prefecture adds new names to the walls. This year Lukasik is the 14,409th American to be listed on the American section.
Thanks to a brother who barely knew him.
When Joseph Lukasik, 73, took a Pacific Ocean voyage with his wife last year, he was surprised to discover the ship would make a one-day stop at Okinawa.
"Once I saw that on the itinerary, I got all excited," Lukasik said. "I thought, I was going to go where my brother was killed. I remember Henry well. I was 9 when he went to war. I remember his last visit home; he played hide-and-seek with me. He was a very handsome young man, just 19 years old."
The cruise line offered a day trip to Peace Prayer Park, and Lukasik looked forward to seeing Henry’s name on the wall, perhaps making a tracing as a keepsake.
But his brother’s name was not there.
"I can’t tell you how disappointed I was," Lukasik said, his voice cracking with emotion over the telephone. "The memorial was breathtaking. I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to the thousands and thousands of people who died during the battle. But I felt hurt that my brother’s name was not there."
He mentioned to the tour guide that his brother’s name was missing, and he was directed to officials in charge of the memorial who told him it would not be difficult to add Henry’s name if he could provide documentation.
That was last October. This week Henry Lukasik’s name was added. His brother, a retired United Airlines employee, hopes he can get a space available flight to Okinawa this week to see it.
Henry Lukasik was posthumously award the Bronze Star for his actions on Okinawa and earlier had received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for bravery during the Battle of Peleliu in September 1944.
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend this year’s memorial Monday at Peace Prayer Park, which will feature songs, dances and speeches by Japan’s prime minister, Okinawa’s governor and other officials. The official ceremony starts at 11 a.m.
A smaller U.S. ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the portion of the wall with American names.