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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2013/4/18/shonentachi-ha-izukohe-3/

Where are those boys from back then? - Peter Ota, a second-generation Japanese-Okinawan, and Okinawan boy soldiers - Part 3/3

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What are other former members of the Iron Blood Loyalist Corps up to now?

After interviewing Asato and Asato at the headquarters of the Okinawa Times, we visited the headquarters of the Ryukyu Shimpo and met with Uchima and journalist Masatoshi Uehara for an interview and photo shoot. The next day, my visit to Okinawa to investigate the Tekketsu Kinno-tai was reported in the morning paper. Some former Tekketsu Kinno-tai members who read the article contacted me, and I was able to hear more from them. However, I was unable to find time to interview everyone during my short visit, so I visited Okinawa twice in total and heard valuable stories from former Tekketsu Kinno-tai members about what it was like back then and what they are doing now.

Mr. N, who lives in Naha City, was a student at Okinawa Normal School during the war. Although he was not sent to Angel Island, he was interned in Honolulu, Hawaii for a long period of time. Mr. N told us in detail about the war.

After the war, Mr. N. obtained a teaching license and worked for many years as an elementary school teacher in Okinawa Prefecture. He also visited the United States to obtain the documents that were issued to him when he was a prisoner of war by the U.S. military.

Mr. T, who was active as a teacher at a high school in the prefecture for many years, was a student at a normal school during the war, just like Mr. N mentioned above, and like Mr. Asato, he was arrested by the US military during the Battle of Okinawa and interned on Angel Island. Mr. T did not seem to have known about Mr. Ota, but after hearing about him from me, he later gave him books on Okinawan literature. After the war, he obtained a teaching qualification and taught Japanese language and calligraphy at a high school in Okinawa Prefecture.

Mr. F. told me in detail about the ship that transported the Japanese from Yaka to Hawaii. He said that there was a ship that treated the Japanese with complete disregard for human dignity, and that they were called the "Hadaka Gumi" (Naked Group). Mr. F., who was detained in Hawaii, also told me that there were Japanese people of Okinawan origin who threw food and daily necessities over the fence of the detention facility. Mr. F. told me that he still has deep gratitude for them. After the war, Mr. F. became a politician.

I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Ms. A, whose father was a former member of the Tekketsu Kinno-tai who was sent to Angel Island, and Mr. H, who was sent to Angel Island with Mr. Asato.

In addition, Uehara-san, who is active as a journalist and reporter in Okinawa Prefecture, told us about the details of the postwar Okinawa reversion movement and the peace movement. Uehara-san has been involved in historical research on the Battle of Okinawa for a long time, and has been an active voice on issues of wartime experiences, such as the issue of mass suicide, which is a major topic of discussion not only in Okinawa but also at the national level.

It was a great honor for me to meet Mr. Asato and other members of the Tekketsu Kinno-tai, especially those who were sent to Angel Island. There were several dozen boy soldiers sent to Angel Island, but most of them have already passed away, so these are the few living witnesses.

During my two visits to Okinawa, I will never forget the kindness shown to me by many people, including Mr. Asato. I also believe that the opportunity to hear directly from them about their precious wartime experiences was a very important experience for me in understanding the "history of the past war."

Meeting with Ota

After returning to Tokyo, I briefly told Ohta about the stories I had heard about the child soldiers during my visit to Okinawa through letters, emails, and phone calls. Then, in the fall of that year, I was able to personally tell the stories of the child soldiers to Ohta, who was living in his home in Tustin, Orange County.

After hearing my story, Mr. Ota said:

"Actually, I've been to Okinawa once before, but it was a long time ago, so I didn't have time to think about Angel Island or my father's hometown. It was a tour trip, after all. But this time, I definitely want to go to Okinawa. I want to meet the child soldiers, and I also want to visit my father's hometown."

With the book that Mr. T had given him in one hand, Mr. Ohta showed a strong desire to visit Okinawa. I myself also wanted to make it possible for Mr. Ohta to visit Okinawa as soon as possible.

However, a few days later, Ota-san had to undergo knee surgery. Furthermore, because he needed a lot of time for rehabilitation after the surgery, it became unclear when he would be able to visit Okinawa again. This came as a great shock to me, as I had hoped that meeting Ota-san and the people of Okinawa would serve as a catalyst for further invigorating JA Living Legacy activities in Japan. I also think that it was very disappointing for Ota-san himself that he no longer knew when he would be able to visit Okinawa, which he had longed for.

I have called Ohta-san frequently to ask how his rehabilitation is going, but there is still no prospect of him visiting Okinawa, and I am worried that as time passes, he will forget about this.

lastly

Listening to the stories of the Okinawan people, I thought that while there is the Battle of Okinawa experienced by the Japanese people and the Okinawan people, there is also the "Battle of Okinawa" experienced by the Japanese people who have a connection to Okinawa. Through this interview, I was able to understand that the "Battle of Okinawa" is a very painful history for the Japanese people who have a connection to Okinawa.

Unfortunately, Ota and the former child soldier have yet to be reunited. However, over the past few months, something has begun to change.

Recently, I heard that an American media outlet had contacted my boss, Mr. Uemura. I think it all started with the publication of "Proud to Serve" by Mr. Uemura together with Michael Komai of the Rafu Shimpo newspaper. The book contains an article about the Japanese POWs on Angel Island. After reading the book, a member of the National Park Service contacted Mr. Uemura, saying that they wanted to investigate the history of Angel Island during the war.

Now that about 60 years have passed since the end of the war, I hope that Ota and his friends' war experiences will become known to many people.

© 2013 Takamichi Go

Angel Island (Calif.) armed forces Battle of Okinawa California child soldiers generations Hawaii Japan Nisei Okinawa Prefecture retired military personnel soldiers Tekketsu Kinnotai United States veterans World War II
About the Author

He studied American social history and Asian-Ocean American society, including the history of Japanese American society, at Orange Coast College, California State University, Fullerton, and Yokohama City University. Currently, while belonging to several academic societies, he continues to conduct his own research on the history of Japanese American society, particularly in order to "connect" Japanese American society with Japanese society. From his unique position as a Japanese person with "connections" to foreign countries, he also sounds the alarm about the inward-looking and even xenophobic trends in current Japanese society, and actively expresses his opinions about multicultural coexistence in Japanese society.

(Updated December 2016)

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