I’ve been a casual user of GPS technology for a while now and am just learning to exploit the possibilities that exist with some of todays new devices and features. It is possible to merge the old with the new and I’ll try to explain.

One of my favorite places in the world is a small island just about 3 miles from the main island of Okinawa Japan called Ie Shima. Ie Shima has a couple of claims to fame. First and foremost it is one of the few places in Japan that was actually invaded during World War II. Second is that the famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle was killed by a sniper there.

So sometimes it is a little hard to find, but the evidence of the invasion still exists on the island and we’ll get to some of that later.

So how do your find the old evidence? How can you tell that the farmers field was once a bloody battleground?

It is an intriguing thought to stand on the island and look at the ocean and imagine how it might have happened, but it is an entirely different thing to stand on THE SPOT and know it is THE SPOT.

So with the help of Google Earth and an invasion map I found on the internet I’m able to achieve the goal of unlocking history a little bit, at least to my satisfaction.


It’s a pretty simple process. Open Google Earth, fly to Ie Shima and then “Add Image Overlay” to drop your jpg map over the top of Ie Shima. Then you can stretch your map until it fits perfectly. Fortunately for me the map I had was obviously to scale. It only took a couple of manipulations to make if fit perfectly.. Also the Image Overlay function has a transparency feature that really makes it easy.

Once that is done you simply save the file as a Google Earth KMZ file and upload the custom map to your GPS, in my case a Garmin eTrex 30. Then if you choose to enable the custom map it is what appears on your GPS screen. Pretty cool.

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So now I know EXACTLY where the Red 1 landing zone is. Now I can stand on the spot the old Japanese runways were that are now long gone. Now I know how the troops moved. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Next up is a current Google Earth Shot of Ie Shima followed by an Image Overlay of a 1945 aerial photo. I really had a hard time with the bottom left of the overlay but when i went to the original website where I got the photo the author explains that the lower left of the photo is inaccurate and was cloned presumably by Photoshop or some other means.

Aerial WW2 image overlay photo used by permission of YellowAirplane.com



Current Configuration


Image Overlay of Post US Occupation


Image Overlay of Pre US Invasion (Japanese Configuration)

And one more photo from YellowAirplane.com showing the Japanese configuration before the war overlaid on a Google Earth map. Of particular interest to me here is the X runway particularly the straight up and down runway which no longer exists. I’m going to use this map to see if I can find any old remnants of it. The runway it crosses still “exists” but isn’t functional and is more of a road the local farmers use. The runway depicted furthest to the right is now a functional commercial runway.

What is great about this is now I have the Japanese runway configuration mapped, the US runway configuration mapped and todays present mapping.. History is speaking to me.