World War II Pacific Theater: Okinawa--Initial Encounters with Okinawan Civilians

saving Okinawan civilians
Figure 1.--From the very beginning of the invasion, American forces began taking in refugeees and moving them ro secure aeeas whee they could be cared for. As the campign went on the conditions of the refugees steriorted severely. The Americans landed April 1. This photograph was taken April 4. The caption read, "Japanese Women and hildren Rushed to Dafety: Japanese women nd childrenfound by American Trops and Marins on early days of Okinawa invasion, are brought to civilian security selters to remove them from the war zone dagers." The editor calls them Japanese. They were Jaoanese citizens but ethnic Okinawans.

Okinawan civilians went into hiding when the americabs began boming and shelling the island in preparation for the invasion. There wre few actual bomb shelter. Civiliand mostly hid in the island's many caves. Food soon ran out. water was in short supply. And by the time the Americans landed the civilians were in poor shape. Unlike the Japanese soldiers, there was no effort by the Japanese to move the cuvilins behind the fortified areas. They were essentilly own their own. And they were terrified of the Americans. One Okinawan writes, "We were taught that the Americans and the British were kichiku, or 'ogre-beasts.' The Americans were monsters and beasts, and not humans. So, if you were caught by them, you would have your ears and nose cut off, be blinded, and be run over by the tanks. If you were a woman, you would be raped." Most believed what they were told. Many civilians soon learned the truth. But in many cases Japanese soldiers were mixed in with the civilans. This often oroved a death sentence and the soldiers wereprepared to comit suiside and expected the civilians to do the same. Mpre importantly they had the means to do so, guns and grenades. Civilians on their own generally surrendered when the Americans approched. This is what tended to occur on the first few days as well as on the southern half of the island which the Japanese did not heavily defend.


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Created: 1:20 AM 12/22/2015
Last updated: 1:20 AM 12/22/2015