“Seeking refuge from Yomitan to the north amidst scarcity of goods. War wounds everyone.”

“Seeking refuge from Yomitan to the north amidst scarcity of goods. War wounds everyone.”
Hideaki Tamaki, 87 years old
(Place of birth: Tokeshi, Yomitan Village, Okinawa Prefecture)

(Attack on Pearl Harbor)
The attack on Pearl Harbor began on December 8, 1941. At that time, our school teachers told us, “We destroyed many American warships and sent them to the bottom of the ocean.” I then thought “Japan is great.” The teachers also told us, “You boys, become soldiers as soon as possible and contribute to the country. The sooner you become soldiers, the faster you can climb up the military ladder. You can be a high-ranked officer with many foot soldiers working for you.” We all thought “Yes, that’s right.” We were very much excited.

When I was in my 1st year of junior high school, our teacher told us, “You boys, just go and enlist in the Navy.” And I went to apply for enlistment. Upon enlisting, you had to take a physical exam to verify if you meet the physical eligibility standards for body height and weight. If you fall short, you would fail. My height and weight did not meet the standards and I was not accepted. I have no idea what would have happened to me if I had passed the physical exam back then. I never had even the slightest idea that I could die.

(10/10 Air raid)
It was before 8:30 in the morning when the 10/10 air raid began. American fighter planes flew over the Yomitan airport and dropped bombs making tremendous noise like “Bang! Bang!” There was smoke rising from the airport. We had many underground bomb shelters which were able to hold many people in Tokeshi, where I lived. We all took refuge in the shelters. From time to time when American fighter planes were far away from our shelter, we sneaked a look at the air raid. We saw all the Japanese warships were destroyed. We learned, at a later date, that the entire city of Naha was burnt by incendiary bombs. After the air raid, we were called out by the Japanese Army.

We were mobilized for military works such as digging antitank ditches and foxholes. As our school was confiscated by the Japanese Army to be used as the barracks for their troops, we had no classes. Instead, we were forced to go out and dig air-raid shelters.


It was March 23, 1945 when the air raid by the American Armed Forces to land on Okinawa Island began. I clearly remember the date. We could not even have our graduation ceremony due to the air raid. On the following day, bombs were dropped on the villages here and there. I have never been as scared as I was back then. The bombs were dropped very close to us. I heard the sound “Bang” and the sound of machine guns as well. Even though we were far away from the bomb impact zones, I felt the rumbling of the ground generated by the bombs. When the bombs hit the ground, there was a flash first, followed by the rumbling of the ground and then the sound of an explosion. Each time a bomb hit the ground, the soil fell off the shelter’s ceiling and walls.

The air raid lasted for three days, March 23, 24 and 25, until noon on March 25. In the afternoon on March 25, the air raid was finally over. We came out of the shelter and looked at the sea. There were many American ships, the warships and transport ships, out on the sea. There were so many ships that it made me think I could cross over to the Kerama Islands if I walked from one ship to another. The sea was covered by ships to the point where I could not see the color of the sea.

(Evacuation to the northern area)
We were told, “All residents, evacuate to the northern area. This area will become a war zone soon.” This caused a huge commotion and I heard babies crying in the air-raid shelter. There were old people as well. Some people said, “I cannot make it to the northern area by walking. I will not evacuate. I would rather die here.”

We departed from the village and got to the prefectural road at Yamada. We found many evacuees from the central southern area. They remained speechless and were walking silently to the north. While evacuating to the north, we came across a group of approximately 30 Japanese soldiers. They headed for the opposite direction. It was the only time that we came across soldiers on the move.

(At the place of evacuation)
The American Armed Forces who had landed on Nago came close to the place of our evacuation and we had to climb up the mountain for further evacuation. I believe that it was on April 7 or 8. We climbed up the mountain. There was a mountain hut which, I believe, was built by order from the prefectural office. There were many people who could not get in the mountain hut. People who evacuated due to the evacuation order like us were given priority and assigned a space in the mountain hut. Other people were not able to get in the mountain hut even though they climbed all the way up. They sheltered themselves from the rain under leaves and rocks.

For a certain period of time we were not caught by the American soldiers even if we were picking potatoes at the farm close to the village. However, one day the U.S. Armed Forces suddenly caught an evacuee and took him to the detention camp at Taira in Haneji village. I heard the story from him. He said, “I ate big rice balls till I was full.” He came back from the camp to take his family to the camp, which then started a rumor that he was a spy and caused a commotion. One of the defeated soldiers who evacuated from the central southern area said, “I will kill him.” The evacuee replied, “I am not a spy at all. My eldest son is fighting in the battle in the southern area just like you guys and yet you are going to kill me?” What he said saved him.

One day, some Japanese soldiers came to our house of evacuees. They said, “As we are going to attack tomorrow, will you let us share some of your rice? Will you help us nourish ourselves (gain some physical strength)?” They, however, never went for the attack. Going for the attack was a lie. They simply came to get some food.

We climbed down the mountain on July 23, 1945. We came down because the U.S. Armed Forces said, “We are not going to kill you. It is all right.” I had the preconception that I would be killed. Our lessons back then said that once captured by the enemy, all men would be killed after having their noses and ears cut off and eye balls gouged out, and all women would be killed after being raped. Some people, I believe, thought, “I would rather die than be captured,” and some committed mass suicide.

(After climbing down the mountain)
We climbed down the mountain as we received a notification from the foot of the mountain that we would “not be killed.” The decision was made by the adults after some discussion. Some said, “Our sons are fighting in the southern area and yet are we going to give in? Wouldn’t that be a bad decision?” In the end, it all came down to “The neighboring village already climbed down the mountain. If we are not going to be killed, it seems all right. Let’s climb down the mountain, shall we?” We climbed down the mountain after having such discussion. After we climbed down the mountain, we learned that there were no rations. The evacuees from the central southern area seemed to have received rations, but we, the evacuees from the northern area, were not provided with any rations. It was probably because there was a scarce amount of food and goods delivered all the way here.

(People who remained in the mountain)
People who had not heard the information [of not being killed] remained hiding in the mountain. Some who heard the information climbed down the mountain, but the people who did not, remained hiding in the mountain till September. Some were captured and forced to climb down the mountain, but then they escaped back into the mountain. I believe that they thought it would be better off hiding in the mountain rather than being captured and killed.

(Looking back at the war)
Regardless of winning or losing, war always wounds everyone involved. Nothing is more valuable than peace. We should prevent war no matter what it takes. We should never ever go to war.