An Okinawan mourns for lost relatives during the Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Naha, Okinawa, June 23, 2017.

An Okinawan mourns for lost relatives during the Irei no Hi ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Naha, Okinawa, June 23, 2017. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The names of Japanese sailors who went down with the Yamato — once the largest battleship afloat during World War II — will be added to a memorial commemorating the Battle of Okinawa and the island’s role during the war.

Another 365 names — 296 from the Imperial Japanese Navy ship sunk 78 years ago off Kyushu — will be added to the Cornerstone of Peace at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park ahead of a June 23 ceremony, a spokesperson for Okinawa prefecture said Tuesday.

A research group led by the late Sadao Okamoto, professor emeritus at Hiroshima University of Economics, found that the names were not on the monument, public broadcaster NHK reported Thursday. Hiroshima prefecture submitted them for inclusion among those from Japan and other nations.

The memorial, composed of concentric rings of black granite blocks, holds the names of more than 240,000 people who died during the Battle of Okinawa and other conflicts during World War II.

The Yamato was one of the two largest battleships ever built and featured the largest guns ever fielded on the high seas. Its sister ship, the Musashi, was sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The Yamato went down on April 7, 1945, during a one-way, last-ditch counterattack against U.S. forces on Okinawa. Its demise “conclusively signaled the end of the ‘all-big-gun’ battleship era of naval warfare,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

A search team conclusively identified the Yamato wreckage in August 1985. It lies in two sections about 180 miles southwest of Kagoshima prefecture in more than 1,100 feet of water, according to The Associated Press.

The Yamato and its escorts — a light cruiser and eight destroyers — were attacked by 380 U.S. planes. “Crippled by bombs and at least 12 torpedoes, the Yamato blew apart in a thunderous explosion,” the AP report states. Only about 260 of the crew of 3,333 survived.

The crew names will be added in time for the annual Irei no Hi ceremony, which marks the day fighting ended on Okinawa in 1945. The number of names will increase to 242,046 with this addition, the spokeswoman said. Some government officials in Japan speak to the media on condition of anonymity as a requirement of their employment.

The Cornerstone of Peace was erected in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War and the Battle of Okinawa. It is a place of honor and remembrance but also a place to appreciate and pray for world peace, according to the Okinawa prefecture’s website.

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.

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