When the World War II battle over the Japanese island of Okinawa officially ended 70 years ago today, on June 22, 1945, it had secured its place as the bloodiest clash in the Central and Western Pacific fronts. TIME’s initial estimate a few days later was that more than 98,000 Japanese people had been killed and nearly 7,000 Americans were dead or missing.
Two men were not among that haunting count. It wasn’t until weeks later, in its July 9 issue, that TIME reported on what happened to Lieut. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima and Lieut. Gen. Isamu Cho, based on the tale told by the soldier who cooked their last meal:
As for the American forces, the battle closed in a much gentler fashion: to symbolize that the U.S. had conquered the island all the way to its farthest tip, Corporal John C. Corbett of the 8th Marines stood on a cliff and tossed a stone into the ocean.
Read more, from 1945, here in the TIME Vault: End on Okinawa