• Kyodo

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A new sculpture honoring all victims of the Battle of Okinawa, the final major land battle in World War II, has been added to Peace Memorial Park in time for the annual memorial service Saturday.

The Heiwa-no-oka (Peace hill) Sculpture in the town of Itoman, built at a cost of 400 million yen, will be the focus of the service. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is scheduled to attend.

The sculpture, a large granite arch, is engraved with the inscription “A strong will toward peace.”

Peace Memorial Park, situated on Mabuni hill facing the southern coast of the island, is dedicated to the 278,000 people — civilian and military — whose lives were lost during the 82-day battle that ended on June 23, 1945, when the Japanese military abandoned organized resistance following the suicide of its garrison commander.

At the foot of the hill there is a cavelike space modeled on the “gama,” or caves, where many Okinawans perished at the height of the battle.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government has thus far held the annual memorial service at the Cornerstone of Peace, a monument in the park bearing the names of 278,000 victims of the battle, including Americans and Koreans.

Okinawa officials said future services will be held in front of the new sculpture.

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