Himeyuri: A Story of Angels in the Battle of Okinawa

Updated 2/4/16

The Ryukyu Shimpo ran a story on 18 July 2014, “Himeyuri Peace Museum Marks Its 25th Anniversary,” and it was about the success of the museum in attracting visitors. Curious, I searched YouTube for a video that might tell me more about Himeyuri in the context of the Battle of Okinawa. I found the 31-minute animation, with English subtitles, below, [no longer available] which told the story more eloquently than any real-life documentary or written report ever could. The narrator is a young woman, and her voice, calm and objective, captures all the heartbreaking emotions of the young girls and women, ages 13-19, of the Himeyuri Academy, which comprised Okinawa Female Normal School and the Okinawa First Girls’ High School.

[Update 8/6/14: Unfortunately, the video with English subtitles is now private and no longer available on YouTube. However, a version with Spanish subtitles is still available. (See below.) Update 2/4/16: The Spanish subtitled version has been deleted. I won’t embed any more Himeyuri Angels videos because someone is monitoring this blog and having them removed. I know there are other versions of this video in YouTube, but I won’t mention them because doing so will lead to their removal. We have to assume that the policy of whoever owns the video is at odds with the goals of world peace. If the owner is the Himeyuri Peace Museum, then Haji wo shirinasai, はじをしりなさい (shame on you). We have to question their motivation for privatizing a video that has the potential to touch the hearts of the world.]

At the time, for the majority of students, schooling stopped after elementary. Entry to normal school and high school was quite rigorous; furthermore, few could afford the tuition. Thus, only a handful qualified, and these were considered the crème de la crème. As the war drew closer to Okinawa, the students and some of their teachers were activated, en masse, into the Japanese military as a nursing corps. Throughout the Battle of Okinawa, they served in caves, treating the wounded.

In the last days of the battle as U.S. troops attacked caves with explosives and flame throwers, the Japanese military, in a final act of humanitarianism, deactivated the students and teachers and ordered them to leave the caves and survive the best they could. For the wounded and soldiers remaining, death would be certain.

Outside the caves, they experienced the full fury of the battle, and many were injured or killed. When they could no longer run from the enemy, some chose group suicide. Those who surrendered were surprised to find that the U.S. soldiers were humane, giving them water, food, and medical care.

This video is the story of these young women, told in their voice, in all its innocence, pain, and simplicity. From start to finish, there’s not a moment of sentimentality, yet you won’t be able to keep  a dry eye. This is not a story to evoke pity. Nor is it a story of heroism or self-sacrifice. It’s a story of gentle young women who endured the horrors of war with quiet dignity and fathomless innocence. After the war, most of them became school teachers. Watch it. Your perception of the Okinawan people will be forever changed.

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