Living with Wounds I Suffered in the Battlefield

“Living with Wounds I Suffered in the Battlefield”

Shigeko Higa (37比嘉茂子)
Date of birth: January 5, 1921
At the time: 24-year-old field hospital worker

There was intense naval bombardment. My house was located on an elevated area, and when I climbed a hill at the back, and looked at the ocean toward the west, the whole ocean was swarmed with American ships. The fleet of American ships looked almost like an island.

We spent a life of hiding in an air raid shelter during the day, collecting food in the evening, and preparing meals at night.

There continued days where we would take wounded soldiers from the air raid shelter where we were staying to a field hospital in Shuri Sakiyama. Every night, a team of four people would carry the wounded soldiers on stretchers. After we carried them to an area that is now known as Nishihara Iriguchi, people who came from Shuri Sakiyama would put the wounded soldiers aboard vehicles and take them to Shuri Sakiyama.

As the battle intensified, it was decided that we should move to the south. We stayed in Shuri for a while, but on the second day, Itokazu was hit by a bullet and died. After that, we moved further south. The place we reached was where the Himeyuri Memorial was later built. We also hid in an air raid shelter around this area. It was there that we were all instructed to assemble. We were given two grenades and a bag of hardtack, as well as instructions to find our own parents, etc. and leave this place. We were taught that the grenade would explode immediately if we tapped it even against our shoes after pulling the pin. I had already been taught before then about how to use a grenade. There was a woman named Teruya, who was the owner of a liquor shop in Shuri. She was carrying a four- or five-year-old boy on her back. She seemed to be in distress, but she went along with strangers and kept fleeing. I followed them and fled to Mabuni.

At first, we were able to find an air raid shelter and hide there. However, Japanese forces came there and told us: “This is an order. Get out.” We were chased out, so we hid behind rocks. Teruya-san paid money and managed to be allowed inside the air raid shelter, but she was also expelled from there eventually. I believe it was either on the 14th or 15th of June that shrapnel bursting in the air came pouring down on us. I suffered an injury that almost made me blind. One of my friends named Miyazato suffered a leg injury. She had been worried about me, but she died two days later from tetanus.

The day after Miyazato-san died, an acquaintance of Teruya-san came over. She told us that after holding a family discussion, they had decided that instead of staying still in this place, they were planning to leave this place and break through the fierce battlefield. I felt that it would be dangerous to stay here alone, so I decided to go along with them. With an injured foot and carrying a cane, I went along, almost like crawling after them. At that time, I had started thinking that if I was going to die anyway, I would want to die in a bright place, drinking a stomach-full of water. After leaving this place I looked around me, relying on the lights of flares. There were enemy soldiers everywhere.

I felt that it was over. Thinking that I would rather die than get captured, I searched for the grenade that I had been carrying, but it was gone. I think that a Japanese soldier took it away from me while I had a hard time seeing due to my eye injury. Perhaps I did not know what I was doing then, but now I was thinking about loosening the strap around my waist and die by wrapping it around my neck. Then, somebody removed the strap from my neck and saved me. At that time, I felt envious about people who were dead. There were dead bodies all over the place.

I became a prisoner of war. Since I was injured and could not walk, I was put on a truck and taken to a place for treatment. Still thinking that I would die rather than become captive, I tried to jump off the truck while being transported. Then, the strings on the shoes I was wearing got caught on the truck, and I was unable to jump off.

Many American soldiers came and began to give us candies and chocolates, but since I was prepared to die, I refused to take them. At that time, I thought I was the only survivor of Tanabaru community, where I was born. I was thinking about dying in one way or another.

After receiving treatment at Gushichan, I was put aboard the same truck. As we passed by Hyakuna, I was surprised that so many prisoners were rounded up there. As I was thinking that perhaps there might be some people I know among the prisoners, there was an uncle who lived in the same community. My uncle told me that my older sister and others were transported here in Hyakuna yesterday, and all the family members were doing fine. After being unloaded from the truck, we were told to wait in designated tents, as we were to be transported to the Yanbaru area on the following day. Thinking that I would be unable to see my sister and others if I were sent to Yanbaru, I left the place where I was told to wait and headed for Hyakuna. After joining my sister, we moved to Chinen. Then, our father managed to find our whereabouts. Apparently, he had become a prisoner before we did.

My injured leg still hurts even now when I work for a long time while standing. So, although people say that the war had ended, I feel that the war is not over for me as long as I live and as long as this pain continues. Doctors advise me to remove the debris that remains in my injured leg, but I reply that I’ll leave this debris there as a memoir, turning this into a laughing matter.