Interview — The War Stories by the Experienced

Takeichi Kakinohana

b.1930 from Aka

Volunteer Corps, The Combat Efficiency of Child Soldiers

A commander who was stationed there
Forcefully recruited us without authority
I thought it was an honor (to be in the Volunteer Corps)
I was happy at first, after being recruited
Because I thought it was an honor
To help the Japanese military as a country boy
Many people asked me if I was really able to help the war
15 year olds at the time were considered adults
My body may not have been fully grown
But I was already an adult mentally
When I moved into junior high school
Battle training was a compulsory subject
So junior high students at the time were all like soldiers
There were guns in school
There were always 4 or 5 soldiers among teachers
There was always a teacher for battle training
We had practical training 3 times a week
There was something called
“All Okinawan Junior High Student Training”
We practiced attacking the enemy
Assuming Naha to Shuri Castle was the enemy base
On one end, there was First, Second and Third Junior High Schools
While students from the Special Support Education School protected the other end
We would battle over the course of 2 to 3 days
As the training teacher took command
So the student soldiers at the time
Had the same fighting power as regular soldiers
Although we were still young boys

Interaction Between Former Japanese Soldiers and Villagers

After the war, special attack squad on the island left
They returned for a memorial service 27 years later
We were able to speak
The common language fluently by then
They told us that if we had spoken it back then
They wouldn’t have looked at us so strangely
Because we had this interaction, the misunderstandings were cleared
Without this conversation, the misunderstanding would have never been resolved
Because there were no group suicides, former soldiers and villagers are able to interact
Only this island kept lines of communication open after war, and I still interact with them

Special Attack Soldiers Stationed in Kerama Islands

Special Attack Ships were deployed as the (Japanese military’s) main weapon
Although there were 300 Special Attack Soldiers deployed
They couldn’t attack because the U.S. Forces attacked first
They were crushed and lost its opportunity
The Japanese military’s strategy was ruined
But because of this, a few hundred special attack soldiers had survived
These soldiers would have died as Kamikaze(suicide) soldiers
They were all supposed to die
I met one of the former special stack soldier after the war
They told me that they were prepared to die back then
But thanks to the enemy’s strategy
They were all able to return home alive

Grandmother’s Younger Brother and Wife Killed by Japanese Soldiers

The grandfather of the brother and his wife was working in Osaka
The wife was from Wakayama Prefecture and they had no children
They left their homes in 1943 (Showa 18)
And came back to the island for the first time in 20 years
They were skilled in Kansai dialect which was rare on island
Japanese soldiers adored them
They took the lead in making the soldiers’ barracks
The husband was the one giving instructions
But they were caught
On the same day the U.S. Forces landed on the island
Because the old lady (the wife) had weak legs
They could not evacuate fast enough
They were caught as one of the first captives
In the trenches near the village
The U.S. soldiers sheltered the old man and woman
It would have been better if they were taken to Geruma Island
But they were left in the village
The couple received some canned foods from the U.S. soldiers
The Japanese soldiers found the couple
Hiding in the trenches
The two were accused of being spies
Because they had received tons of food from the U.S. soldiers
And in cold blood
They were slit in the throat with Japanese swords

Airstrike of March 23

I was recruited by the Japanese Army
As I stood guard of the areas by the mountains
A unit of the Grumman fighter jets
Flew in from Tokashiki like a large flock of hawks
With no specific target, the entire island was the target
In just one day, the fields, mountains, villages, were all burned down

Assignments and Equipment of Child Soldiers

There were 18 child soldiers
As we were anxiously waiting to receive our weapons
We were told that they didn’t have any weapons to give us
We were handed two hand grenades
“If you run into enemies, fight with these two grenades”
“If you fear one can’t fend off the enemies, use the other one to commit suicide”
Those were the commands we were given, along with 2 grenades
But I never had to fight with the U.S. soldiers
So I never used the grenades
My main mission was to draw water, transport food
Carry ammunition and that was it
Defense position was placed at the top of the mountain with a machine gun
Using we had, we fired at the U.S. soldiers
The U.S. soldiers also fired back
During that time
We reloaded ammunition, handed out water and food

We were risking our lives

We worked harder than the soldiers
If we didn’t do our jobs
The soldiers wouldn’t have been able to fight

The Battle of Aka Island

We were so desperate
We carried food and water supplies
Through a storm of bullets
We were doing all we could to get through it
But before we knew it, we had gotten used to it
The fear was gone
There were 5 or 6 Japanese soldiers shooting a grenade launcher
An enemy mortar hit them with one shot
Those 6 soldiers died, blown to pieces
We were covered in their blood
I understood what “blood of rain” truly meant
Internal organs that had splattered
Were hanging from the trees
For the first time, I saw the gruesome death and corpse of a soldier
And I thought… So this is what “war” is
And this is what they call, “a fighting battle”
This incident is something that is still in my head

A Message to Your Children and Grandchildren’s Generation

Since I had a tragic and gruesome experience
I feel that we shouldn’t do things that could lead to war
There are people who are pro the Self Defense Force
Because they protect the country
But as good as protecting the country may sound
I’m hesitant about even having a military
I think if there were more education and diplomacy centered around peace
We could protect the country
We haven’t had another war for 70 years after the war
There are no casualties of war
There are no other countries like that
It’s the greatness of us Japanese citizens
I want to tell the children
To always keep that spirit