NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – A documentary on female high school students recruited as nurses to serve in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II will be screened in Okinawa, Tokyo and other places, starting in late July.
The film, previewed in Naha on Saturday, includes interviews and testimony by surviving members of the Shiraume student nurse corps on their experiences.
Of its 56 members, all seniors at the No. 2 Okinawa Prefectural Girls’ High School, 22 died working as nurses at an Imperial Japanese Army field hospital in a cave on southern Okinawa Island.
In preparation for the U.S. invasion of Okinawa, Japanese forces stepped up nurse training at girls’ high schools and military training at boys’ high schools in the prefecture.
When the U.S. forces finally landed on one of the Okinawa islands in March 1945, the girls were mobilized into a student nurse corps, including the Shiraume corps, and the boys into student military corps that were attached to regular military units at the front.
According to the prefectural government, 2,300 students were drafted and 1,226 died in combat.
In the film, directed by Masayuki Hayashi, the surviving members visit the cave and speak about the fierce battle they lived through.
A woman in the film testified that Japanese soldiers stabbed an old man to death, claiming he was a spy because he was speaking in the Okinawan dialect.
Another woman recounted giving cyanide to wounded people under doctors’ orders.
“I don’t know what to say. It was the most terrible experience of my life,” she said.
Some people in the film, for which shooting started in June 2000, said they were speaking about their experiences of the battle for the first time ever.
Sumi Matsumoto, head of the Shiraume alumni association, said in a speech at the preview, “We should learn the blessings of peace and the preciousness of life and never repeat such a tragic war.”
Hayashi said, “We are running out of time to record testimony from those who experienced the battle.”
Hayashi criticized Japan’s recent enactment of war-contingency laws, saying, “We created a war-renouncing country from the experience of the war, but things are going wrong with our national politics.”
The Battle of Okinawa lasted about 90 days, ending on June 23, 1945. More than 200,000 Japanese and Americans died, including 120,000 Okinawa civilians, about one-third of the prefecture’s wartime population of 450,000. Okinawa was the only place in Japan that experienced ground battles during the war.
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