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A militaristic boy’s war experiences in the Okinawa Battles

“A militaristic boy’s war experiences in the Okinawa Battles”
Fumio Shimabukuro, 87 years old
(Place of birth: Maejima, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture)

 
All boys dreamt of becoming soldiers back then. There was a great soldier called Senior Lieutenant Ohmasu in the First Junior High School. I heard that his contributions to the country were so distinguished that they reached the Emperor’s ears.


I, of course, was a militaristic boy and was fascinated by the idea of joining the Imperial Military Academy or leaning at the Military Preparatory School. However, after the enrollment, I could study only for one term due to the preparation for the war.
 
As preparation for the war, we built encampments. We dug a semi-subterranean bomb shelter, which we called entaigo, which was surrounded by piled-up soil to hide the airplanes. We also did many other service works including transferring explosives from the shelter to Hantagawa, carrying the goods for the soldiers and reloading them at Naha Port.


(Under the air raid)
On the day of the 10/10 air raid, I went to the work site at 7 o’clock in the morning as usual due to the absence of the information on the air raid. Suddenly, the siren was sounded and the planes flew over. While I was wondering what was going on, an officer drew out his sword and shouted, “Enemy attack! Enemy attack! Get in the shelter!” He was wielding his sword. I hid into the shelter. I felt the ground rumbling and the sand fell all over me from the ceiling. As it was my first experience of the air raid, I was so scared that my legs were trembling.


(Evacuation)
We left Naha from the place in Asato, where a temple was located, to Maeda in Urasoe and took shelter in the house of one of our acquaintances. Although some people evacuated to the north, we went to Urasoe because we were told, “If you evacuate to the north, you will have no food,” and started our lives as evacuees in the shelter in Urasoe.


(Surging American Forces)
On the day of April 1, I saw an uncountable number of warships covering the entire sea between Gusukuma and Yomitan and they looked like they were just about to start firing. Soon after that, the gliders called “dragonflies” started flying around. They looked like they were performing communication of some sort. After a short while, naval gunfire started and the cannon shells flew over to us like fireworks. I never saw anything like that before. While the firing from the Japanese Army was slow and feeble, the firing from the American Navy was fast and powerful. Since the cannon shells from the American Navy flew over to us with so much power and speed like fireworks, I felt my legs trembling in the shelter due to fear.

 
I remember the date of the naval gunfire, April 28, because it was one day before the birthday of the Emperor, April 29, called “Tenchousetsu.” Due to the naval gunfire, the entrance of the shelter was blocked by a fallen roof. We were in total darkness. However, we then found a dim light coming into the shelter. As we had no shovel or any other tools, we pushed aside the soil and sand with our hands and somehow got out of the shelter. It was a close call.


(During evacuation)
After thinking about what we should do, we decided to move to Taira in Shuri through Takushi with our pots and pans. On our way to Taira, I saw people lying on the ground and the Shuri Castle burning from the place where the prefectural museum used to be located.

 

While we were on the move, we opened a burial chamber and hid in it. The situation did not leave us any other choice. Although there were many cinerary urns, we slept with the urns as it was not simply the time to be scared.


After that, we built a temporary house by the rock called Shimeyama on the hill in Oshiro We covered the rock with Japanese pampas grass and bamboo, which we gathered, and hid there for a while.


After a while, we heard the rumor that the Americans were coming from Chinen and Yonabaru. We left our shelter since we were totally preoccupied with the idea that we would be killed once we were captured. We temporarily hid in a straw-thatched house at Funakoshi in Tamagusuku Village, but then, again, we were under naval gunfire. We dashed out of the house, hid behind rocks and we somehow survived. It was so close. We figured that Kyan would be the safest place and moved to Kyan, but the situation there was worse.

 

It was on either June 6 or 7. There was an air raid by Grumman planes and the floor of the house we were hiding was blown off and the house was filled with smoke. I took my grandfather by the hand and escaped, but I did not know with whom my mother escaped.



I hid in the ditch with a stone ditch cover near the farming field. However, my grandfather, who was running away with me, was so scared that he let go of my hand and, to make things worse, ran toward the bombing area. I later found him dead on the ground far away. He must have been hit by a bomb. I found my mother, who was injured in her chest and killed, at the entrance of the house. I’m not sure if she went back to the house to get our belongings. I lost my parent and kept crying. I became a war orphan and alone.

 
When I went out to get some water, I saw many dead people. There was a dead boy floating in the reservoir. He must have been killed while he was getting some water, I think. The body was swollen like a balloon and many maggots were coming out of his mouth and nose.

 
One day, in the afternoon, a cannon shell fell near us and blew off the rocks which we piled up. A shell splinter hit my right shoulder, went through my shoulder into my right arm and it couldn’t be removed. That is why my right arm is shorter than my left arm and I used and still use my left arm to write. I had a hard time because of this handicap after the war.


I then hid in a horse barn. There were three or four Japanese soldiers, and one of them was lying on the ground shouting, “Kill me! Please kill me.” He was shot and severely injured in his stomach. I saw his internal organs draining out. I noticed that he had a hand grenade and took the hand grenade from him and threw it away. If he had tried to kill himself with the hand grenade there, it would have been another disaster. There were some women as well who seemed to be the members of Himeyuri Student Corps.

 
Then, I believe that it was June 21, I heard many sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shot themselves and the women blew themselves up with hand grenades.

 

One day while I was in Kyan, I found the handbills falling from the sky like extra news. The handbills were dropped by the Americans and the message on the handbill was “Surrender now,” I think. One of my neighbors told me, “If you have the handbill, you will be killed by the Japanese soldiers.” I threw it away saying, “I do not want to die!”


The battlefields were like hell, the American soldiers were ferocious and so were Japanese soldiers. I thought that it was the world where the weak are the victims of the strong. I heard at later date that some people who were going to surrender were shot in the back and killed by Japanese troops.


(Looking back at the war)
If there had not been the war, everyone would have lived a healthy life. The peace we are enjoying now has been brought by those people who sacrificed their lives in the war. There are words of wisdom from Sontoku Ninomiya, “Tenchi-Sansai-no-Houtoku.” What it teaches is that we should always keep gratitude in our minds, since we only can live with the support from nature and other people. I am implementing this lesson. Not only oneself, but we all should be happy. This is the only way to create a good world.