Delbert Belton’s Death: Where Eagles Fly and Vultures Stalk

Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub reported that authorities believe they have arrested everyone involved in the robbery and beating death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran last week.  A second teen suspect was arrested without incident early Monday morning in a Spokane home. The first suspect turned himself in last week.  Both suspects are 16-years-old.

According WCBS News affiliate KREM in Spoke, Spoke, Wash., police in initially arrested a juvenile male in connection with the Wednesday beating death of an 88-year-old WWII veteran outside The Fraternal Order of Eagles Ice-A-Rena

Police say two teens are suspected in the beating death of Delbert Belton, who was shot in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa, where thousands of American soldiers died. Images of the two teen suspects were captured on surveillance video, police said. Authorities say the two young men approached Delbert Belton in his car Wednesday night outside the Ice-A-Rena as he was waiting for a friend.

The victim’s daughter-in-law said Belton was hit with “big heavy flashlights” and doctors told her he was bleeding from all parts of his face

“The way he died, you expect older people to die. But not that way,” the daughter-in-law, Bobbie Belton, told the station. “They shouldn’t have beaten him up. That was a bad thing. You don’t do those kinds of things.”

Belton had reportedly gone to the lodge to play pool with a friend when he was attacked.

The Ice-A-Rena is reportedly owned by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The Eagles pushed for the founding of Mother’s Day, provided the impetus for Social Security and advocated ending job discrimination based on age. The Eagles have provided support for medical centers across the country to build and provide research for medical conditions — we raise millions of dollars every year to combat heart disease and cancer, help handicapped kids, uplift the aged and make life a little brighter for everyone.

A makeshift memorial was placed there in Benton’s honor, reports the station.

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryuku Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II.  The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 miles away from mainland Japan, as a base of air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (code-named Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island while the 2nd Marine remained as an amphibious reserve and was never brought ashore. The invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The battle has been referred to as the “typhoon of steel’ in English, and tetsu no ame (“rain of steel”) or tetsu no bōfū (“violent wind of steel”) in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Japan lost over 100,000 soldiers, who were either killed, captured or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of local civilians were killed, wounded, or committed suicide.  Two months after the end of the fighting at Okinawa, Japan surrendered after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The Battle of Okinawa was renowned for several facts:  it was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War, with 62,500 casualties overall, with over 12,500 soldiers killed or missing in action; Lt. Gen. Buckner was the highest-ranking U.S. Officer to be killed by enemy fire during the war.  Buckner’s decision to attack the Japanese defenses head-on, although extremely costly in U.S. lives, was ultimately successful.  Just four days before the closing of the campaign while inspecting his troops at the front line, Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire, which blew lethal slivers of coral into his body.  The day after, Brig. Gen. Claudius Miller, his replacement was killed by machine gun fire; it was the battle where noted World War II journalist Ernie Pyle was killed; and it was the battle where, urged by Japanese propagandists that the Americans would rape and torture them, Okinawan residents committed suicide, some of them plunging off the steep cliffs of the island.

The land battle took place over about 81 days beginning on 1 April 1945.  The first Americans ashore were soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division, who landed in the Kerama Islands, 15 miles west of Okinawa on March 26, 1945. Subsidiary landings followed, and the Kerama group was secured over the next five days. In these preliminary operations, the 77th Infantry Division suffered 27 dead and 81 wounded, while Japanese dead and captured numbered over 650. The operation provided a protected anchorage for the fleet and eliminated the threat from suicide boats.

With the impending victory of American troops, civilians often committed mass suicide, urged on by the Japanese soldiers who told locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping.  Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, wrote in 2007:  “There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide. There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers” to blow themselves up.  Some of the civilians, having been induced by Japanese propaganda to believe that U.S. soldiers were barbarians committing horrible atrocities, killed their families and themselves to avoid capture. Some of them threw themselves and their family members from the cliffs where the Peace Museum now resides.

Some islands that saw major battles, such as Iwo Jima, were uninhabited or previously evacuated. Okinawa, by contrast, had a large indigenous civilian population; U.S. Army records from the planning phase of the operation make the assumption that Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians. According to various estimates, between one tenth and one third of them died during the battle, or between 42,000 and 150,000 dead.  Okinawa Prefecture’s estimate is over 100,000 losses), while the official U.S. Army count for the 82-day campaign is a total of 142,058 civilian casualties, including those killed by artillery fire, air attacks and those who were pressed into service by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Since many Okinawan residents fled to caves where they subsequently were entombed, the precise number of civilian casualties will probably never be known. At the conclusion of hostilities, around 196,000 civilians remained.

During the battle, U.S. soldiers found it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers. It became routine for U.S. soldiers to shoot at Okinawan houses, as one infantryman wrote, “There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians – and we didn’t care.  It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children. Americans always had great compassion, especially for children. Now we fired indiscriminately.” When the American forces occupied the island, many Japanese soldiers put on Okinawan clothing to avoid capture and the Okinawans would come to the Americans’ aid by offering a simple way to detect Japanese in hiding. The Okinawan language differs greatly from Japanese; with Americans at their sides, Okinawans would give directions to people in the local language, and those who did not understand were considered the mainland Japanese in hiding who were then captured.

In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught in the fighting between America and Japan. During the 1945 battle, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawa’s defense and safety, and the Japanese soldiers used civilians as human shields against the Americans. Japanese military confiscated food from the Okinawans and executed those who hid it, leading to a mass starvation among the population, and forced civilians out of their shelters. Japanese soldiers also killed about 1,000 people who spoke in the Okinawan language in order to suppress spying. The museum writes that “some were blown apart by shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops.”

However, having being told by the Japanese military that they would suffer terribly at the hands of the arriving Americans if they allowed themselves to be taken alive, Okinawans “were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy.” Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden, notes that the Americans “did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned.”  Military Intelligence combat translator Teruto Tsoba —a U.S. Marine born in Hawaii — convinced hundreds of civilians not to kill themselves and thus saved their lives.

The 88 year-old Belton was one of thousands of surviving casualties of the horrors of Okinawa.  The veteran was lucky to live to be an old man – an old man, who instead of dying peacefully in his bed,  fell a defenseless victim of two vicious teenage thugs bent on robbery (or should we use the more politically correct phrase, “redistributing wealth”?) and murder.

Having served his country honorably, this soldier of the Greatest Generation deserved a better, more honorable and dignified death.  To think, Belton and those thousands of other soldiers fought bravely so that the hoodlums who killed him could run the streets in freedom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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Published in: on August 26, 2013 at 6:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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