In the pitch darkness of Nunumachi Gama, a gama (cave) in the town of Yaese, Okinawa Prefecture, all that could be heard was the steady sound of water droplets dripping from the ceiling. The cold air was filled with the smell of mud. It was here that 16- and 17-year-old girls were forced to work as student nurses during the Battle of Okinawa, 77 years ago.
The girls attended the former Okinawa Prefectural Daini Girls High School in Naha. Just before graduation they were mobilized as nurses for the Imperial Japanese Army and worked in Nunumachi Gama and at a field hospital bunker a few kilometers away. They were known as the Shiraume (White Plum) student nurse corps — named after their school emblem, which bore a design featuring white plums.