I want to give praise to the Lord of life, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Good afternoon everyone. I want to thank all of you from all over Asia who have come here today. My name is Nobuko Ooshiro.
Fifty-nine years ago the people on Okinawa suffered a terrible war that took the lives of hundreds of thousands. I was 16 years old at that time, and though as painful as it is I would like to share my experience of that war with you.
On March 23, as part of the Himeyuri Student Nurse Corp. we were ordered to serve in the Haebaru Army Hospital as nurses. The hospital was located inside a cave network of over 40 caves. Each of us nurses were assigned to an individual cave. I was placed the first surgical ward. This particular ward had no wooden walls, just cave walls and there was constant water dripping. Dim lamps shone through the dark cave as bunk beds that looked like book shelves lined the entire walls of the cave. Our job in the cave was to take care o and feed injured soldiers. Also to take care of the hygiene needs of the soldiers.
On April 1, 1945 when the American military landed on Okinawa, soldiers began arriving at our hospital with no hands or legs, with their bodies, faces and chests blown apart, and with deep painful cries and moans. As the fighting got worse the injured increased and the cave became too full. And the more the injured increased the worse the condition of the cave and sanitation became. Soldiers had to wait 3 or 4 days to be treated. During that time many soldierfs wounds would become infected and fester, flys and maggots infested many, and the smell would be so bad at times that I would feel like vomiting. Some people were in terrible pain, while others suffered despair, others were crying for water in small weak voices. And because all of them were seriously injured many of them died.
Our job outside the cave was to carry food, get water, and bury the dead. It would take two of us to carry barrels and we would have to dodge and run through hails of bullets as we made our way to the kitchen facilities. As we were carrying the barrels of rice and water we were praying hard that the barrel would not be hit. Normally we would have two meals a day, morning and evening, however things were so bad that we could only have one meal, a rice ball.
We would carry the bodies of the dead, 5 or 6 a day, on stretchers to gravesites everyday morning and evening. As we would carry the bodies through hails of bombs and bullets sometimes we would fall on sloping roads and drop the bodies. We would pick them up and then carry them again to gravesites like bomb craters and bury them. Then, praying again, we would frantically run back to the cave. Working outside the cave was dangerous and always a matter of life and death. Many of my co-nurse friends were injured.
We worked so hard day and night that we barely had time for sleep, barely getting 3 hours a day. We couldnft wash our faces or our clothes and were constantly bothered.by about the lice in our hair and clothes.
On May 4th, the American Naval bombardment became even more fierce. The cave next to mine was hit by a bomb and the nurses and patients inside were buried alive. A doctor by the name of Nakasone, and the head of the nurse corp together, through a hail of bullets and bombs tried to save the trapped people in the cave. Eventually they saved a person by the name of Sawada. However, the next day we found out that Nurse Kakazu and the other patients were killed. We cried. During the rescue Doctor Nakasone injured his foot on a rusty nail. But in spite of his injuries, he and others still tried to help and save other injured and dying in other caves.
On the night of May 25th as the US military drew close to our position, we were ordered to move south. All nurses and patients who were able to walk were ordered to leave the cave. So carrying all of our medical and hygiene supplies we nurses, while helping the injured, walked along muddy roads towards the south.
The following is the account Ms. Nobuko Ooshiro of her experiences as a teen-ager during the War for Okinawa. she gave this testimony the the Asian Ladies Baptist Convention held on Okinawa February 2004. It is translated by Chester & Naomi Carney.