Interview — The War Stories by the Experienced

Mie Tanaka

b.1930 from Zamami

Father, The First Casualty of War in Zamami Village

On August 29, 1938 (Showa 13) at the Second-Sino Japanese War
My father was the very first war dead in Zamami Village
At the time, we were winning
So everyone came from Aka and Geruma
To have a funeral
In my 3rd trimester of 5th grade
I visited the Yasukuni Shrine
I was made to write an essay
With the topic, Facing my father
When I went in front of the mirror of the Yasukuni Shrine
I was told that our father was there
And I should say my honest feelings
I am the oldest amongst my 4 siblings
So I said, “Dad, I’ve gotten bigger”
It felt as if my father responded,
“Mie-chan, you have gotten bigger”
“Listen to your mother and take care of your siblings”
I think that’s what my essay was about

The Airstrike of March 26

On March 23, the day the airstrikes began
Students above 5th and 6th grade
Went to the a mountain in Asa called Machan
To plant potatoes
As we were walking to Machan
Which was far from the school
A lot of planes flew by
The airstrikes began around the same time we got to the mountain
All the mountains of Asa burned in that one day
Zamami was completely burned down in almost 3 days
From the mountains of Asa
It kept burning for 3 days
At the time, fukugi trees surrounded my house
There were tons
So many that we could hide from the planes there
But we couldn’t anymore
Because the airstrikes were too intense
More and more came to the villages
We couldn’t hide here (in the village) any longer
So we went to the Yuhina Gama

Self-Determination Suicides in the Yuhina Gama

There was a teacher there, of the public school
In Zamami, municipal staffs were gathering
People who were going to commit to Self-Determination to the Maka Shrine
The teacher said,
“Shall we begin as well”
I said “Yes” and went right away
My sister and mother didn’t move
They said “What?”
And just watched
I thought this (Self-Determination)
Was normal
There are stories of forced Self-Determinations
But I don’t think they told us to “commit suicide”
The teacher asked, “Shall we proceed?”
“Mie-san, come sit next to me (the teacher)”
The teacher was regretful and teary-eyed
The teacher had a family too
Uehara sensei
Was a teacher that came from Naha
The pin to the hand grenade was pulled
But it didn’t explode
Since the hand grenade didn’t explode
The teacher began sharpening a razor
To slit our throats and die
We finally started to get scared
If we don’t run away, the teacher is going to kill us
One ran, and another two ran away to the Nunduru Gama

Experience in the Nunduru Gama

At night, we went to the paddy fields
To fetch drinking water
My cousin Ai-chan and I
Were carrying a bucket together when a lightning bullet went up
We placed the bucket on the wave and hid in a hole
The bucket kept getting washed away before we could get out of the hole
The American soldiers didn’t come out at night
So we went to cook rice under the adan tree
A place called Yamato-uma
Was the food storage shelter for the Japanese soldiers
We knew there was rice in the Yamato-uma
So a few of us went to go get it
But around this time, people were
Committing suicide in this shelter
At the time, it was beginning to rot
So I think several days had passed
There was no light and we had to go by touch
Corpses were on top of the rice
When you stepped foot, it went to your ankles
And got into the stomach
That’s where we had to get the rice from
They scooped around
To make sure kids wouldn’t starve
We were finally feeling full
Yet we were still living in fear everyday
Not knowing when we would get caught

When Becoming Captives of U.S. Forces

We found another small hiding hole
We went to a place where only our family could go
When my mother stepped out to relieve herself
She was spotted by U.S. soldiers who then radioed it in
The U.S. soldiers immediately came
To the entrance of the hole
It would’ve been pointless to cause a scene
So we calmly and quietly just thought, “So, this is the end”
We went all the way to Asa Village
And were put on the landing craft and taken to Ama

Asa Village After the War Ended

Everyone was enjoying the time, youth were dancing
And performing plays in the village
Even schools had field days
But the school play yard was dreadful
There were lots of
Crosses of the U.S. soldiers
At that time, demobilized soldiers
Were all doing military work
Furuzamami Beach
Was the U.S. soldier’s garbage dump
There, you could find anything in supermarkets
Probably more
Like clothes, bedding, pots and other things too
Food and meat, just as is, untouched
Field food cans
Things like that
Flour was washed up ashore by the waves
There was anything you could think of, so we picked these up
And took them to Kume Island to trade
Fishing boats brought potatoes from Kume Island
We distributed these to everyone

American Soldiers Postwar

There were U.S. soldiers who would get on their jeeps
And come to the streets at night
But no one was harmed in Asa Village
One old lady was put on the jeep
And taken away
But she escaped and hid under a pine tree
The American soldiers couldn’t find her
This old lady was taken
But she wasn’t harmed

A Message to Your Children and Grandchildren’s Generation

Let’s all work together
So there won’t be another war
We can not let another war begin
Everyone must all come together