“Evacuation from Urasoe to the southern area”

“Evacuation from Urasoe to the southern area”
Tomiko Ohta, 86 years old
(Place of birth: Jicchaku, Urasoe City, Okinawa Prefecture)

On October 10, when I was 14 years old, the U.S. Armed Forces bombed Yomitan Airport for the first time. Then, the airplanes flew over the ocean to Naha and bombed Naha. Naha was covered in smoke. I heard the sound of the air raid, “bang, bang,” and someone shouting loudly, “Air raid alarm! Air raid alarm!” and saw the smoke due to the bombing.

I remember that I took refuge in a shelter with my school text books all bundled up. The next day and thereafter, it was peaceful without any air raids until March came. On March 22, as the news said that Tsukenjima Island and Kudakajima Island were under naval gunfire, my father took my elder brother’s wife, her children and her younger sister to Kawasaki so they could evacuate by carriage. It seems that he was killed on his way back to Jicchaku from Kawasaki. He never returned.

Three months after the US Armed Forces landed, we went to Sueyoshi
In Shuri relying on our elder sister, the second daughter in my family. We opened a huge burial chamber and were hiding in it. We watched the naval gunfire all through the day at the Japanese Army headquarters based at the foot of the Shuri-jo Castle from Sueyoshi every day. I believe that my father made me and my mother evacuate to Sueyoshi because he thought Jicchaku was so close to the beach that it would be first village to be attacked once the US Armed Forces landed. However, when returned to Jicchaku after the war, I didn’t find any bullets on the ground at all. There were some houses burnt down, but they seemed to be burnt down by the Japanese soldiers from their encampment built in Jicchaku.

On April 29, the burial chamber we were hiding in was destroyed by naval gunfire. We hid in the chamber all day long because of the American planes flying around from morning. In the late afternoon, children said that they wanted to pee and got out of the chamber. It was when they got back into the chamber after they finished peeing, the chamber was hit by bombs twice in a row. My mother and I were standing close to the entrance. The entrance was covered with soil piled-up by the bomb blast and the inside of the chamber was also filled with piled-up soil. We went to a relative’s house for help. They had a Japanese soldier who came to the shelter and said, “No one can survive under a massive volume of soil piled up like this. Just dig them out after the war and bury them. Leave them as they are for the moment.” We left them covered under the pile of soil.

My mother was crying. My heart was torn when I thought there were children under the piled-up soil. I lost eight family members, the second eldest sister, her five children, grandmother and the youngest sister.


Then we moved to the shelter in my second sister’s house lot then we all evacuated together to Shimajiri, located in the southern part of the main island.

We moved into the small shelter in the small forest close to the governor’s office, then we moved to Yoza via Tsukazan on foot on the next morning. Soon after that, since the American planes came flying around above Yoza, too, other people from Sueyoshi moved to Tamagusuku Village. My mother told me, “Since my oldest sister is a civilian war worker, she must be in Shimajiri with the army. We must find her.” And we headed for Kiyan-Misaki (Cape Kiyan). However, she was in Tamagusuku Village instead. I was told that one of her classmates saw her in Tamagusuku Village. We should have gone to Tamagusuku Village.

(On the way to Kiyan)
We found the shelter fenced by rocks on the corner of a burnt-down house. My mother who injured her legs said, “I no longer can make it to Kiyan by walking. Even if I live or die, this is it.” Then, we got into the shelter. We could see outside through the openings of the rock walls. I saw the soldiers shooting outside and was scared that we might get shot if we stayed hiding in the shelter. However, after watching closely for a while, I noticed that the soldiers didn’t shoot a single evacuee walking down this way. If any of them tried to hide, the soldiers shot them, but if the evacuees were just walking without any suspicious actions, they did not shoot them.

When the line of the evacuees broke, an American soldier came close to the shelter where we were hiding. As I thought that we might be killed if he found us hiding, I rushed out and raised my hands. The soldier was surprised and stared at me with his gun aimed at me. Then, he said, “Come here!” but I replied, “No, you come here. I have one more person lying in the shelter. So, you come here.” He did not move with the gun held in his hand. When I told my mother, “Since he may be angry, I will make the movement first,” he shot. The bullet hit the rock beside me and scattered the broken pieces of the rock. I walked to the soldier while murmuring, “Wow, he shot me.”

The soldier took me to the place under the banyan tree on the bank of the water spring. There were about 15 evacuees. Then we started walking with two American soldiers leading us and I was walking slowly at the end of the line. Since the soldiers did not look back, I made a U-turn and ran to the water spring. I scooped up the water and returned to the shelter with the water. I made some rice gruel and fed my mother.

The next day, two people from Okinawa came to the shelter with a stretcher. It made me feel like that they heard me yesterday when I said, “I have one more person in the shelter.” They carried my mother on the stretcher and I followed them.

We became the prisoners of war and were taken to the camp in Tomigusuku. My mother was always carrying some sugar with her and she kept putting some sugar into my mouth even while evacuating. Although I never said that I wanted sugar, she just put some sugar into my mouth. Since she always gave me food and never fed herself, she must have been hungry.

(My mother’s death in the camp)
A soldier felt the pulse of my mother followed by a woman who looked like a nurse and called for people after saying, “She is dead.” My mother was laid on the stretcher, carried to the pit dug at the foot of the mountain and buried there. An old woman standing next to me said, “If she is your mother, sit down and fold your hands.” I sat down right beside the pit and folded my hands.

(Message I want to pass on to the next generation)
I want to say, “You are lucky to live in a peaceful world,” and “During the war, people had to run from place to place and some were killed by bullets. But now, you are living in the peaceful world and if you work diligently, you can have a good life. Do not forget to be dutiful and devoted to your parents.”