The Japanese High School Girls Forced to be Battlefield Nurses in WW2 (Himeyuri)


What would you do if you were in high school
and they made you go into the battlefield to take care of wounded soldiers? Himeyuri (ひめゆり) translates to Princess
Lily. It refers to the white lily flower, which
people associate with purity and rejuvenation. This white flower would be painted red in
the Battle of Okinawa in WaWa2. The year was 1945, and the fighting in the
Pacific was heading towards the main Japanese islands. Allied forces wanted to use the island of
Okinawa as a base for a land invasion of the main Japanese islands. The Japanese Imperial Army was hell-bent on
stopping them at Okinawa, so they sent a bunch of troops to the island to prepare for the
coming battle. The army took over schools and school hours
were reduced as they taught the students how to be of use in battle. That’s right, students. When I was in high school, the biggest thing
I had to deal with was wondering whether or not Allison liked me when she sat next to
me at lunch and ate food off my plate. She didn’t. She was just poor and hungry. They taught boys things like fixing bridges
and running supplies. They taught girls a crash course in nursing. Now the stories these girls told about what
they went through were amazing. Pretty sure this video will be demonetized
because YouTube likes to do that to every video about WaWa2, but I was researching this
and couldn’t wait to talk about it. To be fair, we do go into some heavy stuff. On March 23, 1945, the Japanese military organized
high school students from the top two all-girl schools in Okinawa into a medical unit. They were called the Himeyuri Student Corps,
and their symbol was the white lily. 222 high school girls and 18 teachers marched
to a field hospital in a town called Haebaru. There was actually an additional 79 students
and 3 teachers from other schools, but they were assigned to other units. The students were all 15 to 19 years old. So these girls all thought that going to a
hospital meant going to a clean, well kept building, fully stocked with sterile equipment
and medicine. You know, a typical hospital. When they got there, it was literally a cave. The field hospital was a whole network of
caves dug into the mountains, halls of dirt and rock around 6 feet high, often lit by
candles. The girls got in and got ready. But none of them were ready. On April 1, 1945, a ground force of US Army
and Marines landed on Okinawa and the surrounding islands, kicking off the Battle of Okinawa. It would later be called the Typhoon of Steel,
the last battle in the Pacific, and the most bloody. Imagine being in high school, some girls were
barely in high school, and being thrust into a warzone. These were upper class high school students. They probably had never seen a dead body before. They waited in their caves. Some were scared, some were excited to serve
their country and their emperor. When the fighting began, the wounded started
pouring in. Horror came with them. Military doctors ordered the girls around
to help with this and that. Take care of this soldier, feed that soldier,
pick maggots from that other soldier’s dying flesh. I’ll be reading a lot of testimonies from
these girls because man their words are brutal. They really give you a sense of what these
HIGH SCHOOL girls went through. Yabiku Toshiko, 17. “The stench was unbearable, so it was almost
impossible to nurse the wounded or tend to their wounds. I can still hear the cries and shrieks of
those soldiers in the throes of death during surgical operations. It was hell itself. We didn’t have enough anesthetic, so doctors
administered it just enough to ease their patients’ tension. One patient begged desperately, ‘That’s
enough! Doctor, kill me! Just kill me now!’ ‘Shut up! You can’t put up with this much pain?! You’re a Japanese soldier, aren’t you?!’ the surgeon shouted at him. By mid-May, you could tell the condition of
the patients had gotten really bad. All of them were smeared with pus, and lice
crawled all over their bodies. The number of brain-fever and tetanus patients
rapidly increased. Completely deranged, brain-fever patients
were really terrible. They’d suddenly stand up and start walking,
trampling seriously wounded soldiers lying in the cave.” All the while the battle happened around them. Remember, they weren’t in some green zone
away from the fighting. They were right in the middle of it. The bombs and gunshots rang right outside
their caves. Even so, the smell of rotting flesh and bodily
fluids was so strong that many of the girls risked leaving the cave’s protection anyway
when they had the chance, just to escape the stench. Yabiku Toshiko again. “Tetanus patients developed cramps in their
legs and arms, finally getting lockjaw. When they reached that point, they could no
longer even eat the cream of rice gruel. Such patients were taken to a narrow isolation
ward enclosed by wooden shutters. They kept their eyes wide open and just stared
at us as if to implore us to get them out of there.” Food was an issue. There wasn’t much. No meat. Vegetables, rarely. They mostly had rice. So they made rice balls, onigiri, for the
soldiers and themselves. The food situation got so bad, soldiers would
beg for them to cook amputated limbs for food. They didn’t do it, that I know of. Speaking of amputations, there was a lot of
that too. Kishimoto Hisa, 17. “I held down the arm a doctor was going
to cut off and encouraged the patient to endure. That was really frightening. The amputated hand still clutched my hand.” Surgery without anesthetic was common. “For an operation on the shoulder, a soldier
was told to sit in a chair. He was a sergeant who’d been shot through
his shoulder. He was operated on without any anesthesia. His muscles were cut about three centimeters
deep and ten centimeters long, with a special pair of scissors, in about ten cuts. He didn’t scream, but his brow was sweating
and tears streamed down his face. I tried to hold his hand, but he wouldn’t
let me. Instead he held his own hand to bear the pain.” For 2 months, the Himeyuri students did their
jobs. Most girls said they stopped having their
periods because of stress and bad nutrition. And the bugs. Oh god, the insects and maggots and all kinds
of things with too many legs. Imagine sleeping in those caves. It was clear the battle was not going their
way. Then on May 25, 1945, the girls and everyone
else in that field hospital were ordered to evacuate the caves. The enemy was coming and they had to retreat
south. Everyone packed their things and left the
safety of the caves. Well, not everyone. Those who couldn’t walk, including students,
were poisoned. Why? Maybe to help them escape the pain. But also maybe to prevent them from divulging
information to the US forces. So the soldiers, students, and teachers moved
out in the open, hiding behind what little cover was left after the constant firebombing. They were in the midst of bullets now. They headed south, moving from cave to cave,
and these brave girls kept doing their jobs caring for the wounded. Luckily it was an area with many caves, but
that was probably the only luck they had with them. On June 18, when defeat was inevitable, the
Japanese Imperial Army disbanded the Himeyuri. They were free from their service. But free to do what? Where would they go? Well, that was their problem, because the
soldiers forced them out of the caves. The caves were overcrowded and they were for
the Imperial Army, not civilians. Now you may be saying, “What the hell, that’s
a dick move, cave soldiers. These girls took care of you and worked alongside
you for months, and now you just kick them out?” Well, you see, it was a military operation
and you don’t want civilians hanging around– Yeah, you’re right, it was a huge dick move. This actually happened a lot. There were civilians on the island, and many
of them hid from the fighting in their own caves. There were reports of Japanese soldiers kicking
Okinawan civilians out from their caves so the soldiers themselves could use them or
hide in them. However, we do know of one report that a Japanese
doctor chased some of the girls out of his cave because he feared for their safety. The Americans were about to raid his cave. Anyways, the students were released into the
battlefield, no military escort, no weapons. And now things get worse. Shockingly, up until this point, not many
of the girls died. They were in caves and were under military
protection. There were student deaths of course. We don’t know the number, but apparently
it wasn’t that many. That would change. Surrender was forbidden for loyal subjects
of the emperor. The girls were even told that they would be
tortured or worse by the Americans if they surrendered. So the girls had to navigate the battlefield
and find their own shelters. This is when most of the deaths happened. The official count was 219, which is clearly
wrong because we know of many more survivors than that would suggest. Someone smarter than me went ahead and combed
through the text and arrived at 123. The actual number was probably around there. Which is still a LOT. There were soldiers who helped some of the
girls out. Miyagi Toyo, 20 years old, tells us about
one. “Two soldiers happened to pass by, so we
told them we were looking for refuge and asked if they could take us to a cave […] When we got there, an Okinawan man and a boy
about fourteen or fifteen, apparently his son, were sitting at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, one of the soldiers started shouting
at the father and son, brandishing his sword at them. ‘Anyone who does not obey military orders,
I’ll cut him down,’ he growled. In other words, he was trying to drive them
out of the cave in order to make room for us. The four of us were really frightened and
said to the soldier, ‘Please, soldier, we don’t want to get in the cave by driving them
out!’ But the frightened father and son jumped out
of the cave and ran away before we knew it.” Some groups were less fortunate. Kaneshiro Kikoku, 16. “We stuck to Taira-sensei and kept on fleeing
along the shore. By then our group had been reduced to twelve. Enemy ships would come close to the shore,
broadcasting calls to surrender: ‘Americans will protect you. Come aboard as soon as possible’ […] We could see their faces clearly. That made us even more scared. Tanks were approaching with flame throwers. I felt more dead than alive. […] ‘Taira-sensei, let’s die before it’s
too late!’ some demanded. ‘Sensei, let’s do it immediately!’ others
prodded the teacher. Taira-sensei looked quite disturbed because
he, as our teacher, had the responsibility to protect our lives and was determined to
do so. I had a hand grenade he had given me.” The story of Kaneshiro Kikoku’s group is
heartbreaking. Someone suggested that they sing to cheer
themselves up, so the kids sang. But the singing quickly devolved into crying. The Americans kept calling for them to surrender
through the loudspeaker. The girls saw a Japanese soldier raise his
hands and walk to shore, right before getting shot. Later on, an American soldier found them and
fired into the group. Taira-sensei took the grenade and ran into
a cave where 9 of the students hid. Out of mercy, he pulled the pin from the grenade
and killed himself and all 9 girls. Now I don’t want to paint American soldiers
as all terrible. One girl talked about an American soldier
who gave her water and helped her to safety, even though she thought he was going to kill
her. The Battle of Okinawa ended on June 22, 1945. Three months of the bloodiest fighting in
the Pacific. Even when the news came around that the battle
was lost, some girls showed their devotion to the Emperor by refusing to surrender. But eventually they all did. Thing is, the nightmare was not over. 100,000 survivors were put in concentration
camps. Janice Suetomi, still alive today, said that
her camp was dirty and did not have enough food. So many people died from malaria and starvation
that they had to bury them in large graves. Janice herself would’ve died of malaria
if it wasn’t for a soldier who took care of her. She reunited with her family afterwards and
went back home. Unfortunately, their house was occupied by
strangers who refused to let them in. They said it was wartime, and there’s no
such thing as a home that’s yours anymore. She and her family had to live in a barn for
a time before the people in their house finally left. I could probably make a whole video where
I just read the words of these high school students, they’re that compelling. What really killed me was finding out that,
before it all started, the girls thought that they would be called on to help out for a
few days, then go back to school. The girls didn’t want to fall behind in
class, so they brought books and school supplies with them to study and do homework. Something about seeing a student’s backpack
in the middle of a cave of dead and dying soldiers, jeez. Back during the battle, there was a cave where
a group of 51 students and teachers hid. 46 of them died in a bombing. Today, the Himeyuri Peace Museum sits at that
very spot to remind us of the horrors and sacrifice of these high school girls and teachers. In the museum, there’s a room with pictures
of all the Himeyuri girls who lost their lives. Looking at them, it really hits home that
these were just kids, put in a situation that kids should never be put in. Oof. Alright, this was a serious video. What do you guys think? If you liked it, consider throwing a few bucks
to my Patreon. It’s information that you keep for your
entire life, isn’t that worth the value of a cup of coffee? I wanna thank our new patron this week, Danielle
Bissonette. Thanks, Danielle, you’re the best. Alright much love, you guys. And spread the knowledge!

100 thoughts on “The Japanese High School Girls Forced to be Battlefield Nurses in WW2 (Himeyuri)

  1. Caves = MVP

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  2. only the dead have seen the end of war… poor little things, Japanese girls are cultivated and expected to be sweet and naive even at this day and imagine in a much more traditional society what was their mental condition and then throw them into the meat grinder of Pacific war terminal states… it's just inhuman… poor little things…

  3. Hey umm,is it okay if I made the same story of the nine tailed fox? But I might change a very little things of the story as I'll try to remake it as the same as I could,in the description I'll put the link of this video but if you say no I'm really okay with it I'm sorry for disturbing you!

  4. Yes! Please make a video on the Himeyuri testimonies. As dark as this video was, it's still very much a part of history!

  5. Just remember guys, when you go to Okinawa, save the WW2 stuff to the last. You have to visit it, but the impact may impact your experience if they are the first place you visit.

  6. "An americn soldier found them and started firing into their group"
    yeah…war is hell, and men devolve into beasts

  7. The Japanese also forced girls from China and Asia to be comfort women in WW2, so yea bad times to be a women during war times

  8. YouTube is afraid that if people watch WW2 videos then they might actually learn what real Fascism is, and heaven forbid we actually learn that.

  9. I'm still in high school. I've seen bodies of humans and animals. I at least have been exposed enough to where I can somewhat stand it better than most.
    I feel bad for these poor girls. They have seen horrors I can only vaguely understand. They were forced by a tyrannical regime to go into almost literal hell.

  10. I won't lie, I prefer your funny and lighthearted material BUT this is good because here in the U.S. most of our movies and tv shows romanticize wars, fighting, and especially guns. There is never any thought or emotion about those that are killed or wounded, never any thought about the enemies wives or childrens waiting back home that will now be orphaned and widowed.

  11. Thank you for sharing the stories of these young women. It means so much to tell the stories of the brave women who supported men in war only to fade off into the void of history. They deserve recognition and honor of the highest degree.

  12. For a Chinses person like me,we seldom know the story like this,but we do know that Japanese government used students as paramilitary personels.

  13. While it's tempting to say certain soldiers did a dick move, the truth of the matter is soldiers are used exclusively for dick moves.

  14. there is one comic that contains about this, the title is "cocoon". if you are interested you can read it, the comic is very sad to read even though the drawing style is cute

  15. My Uncle fought in Iwo Jima, and I have other relatives that fought in Okinawa. Crazy to think how people I knew potentially contributed to all that death… shouldn’ta attacked Pearl Harbor then idk

  16. As horrible as this subject is, it is important for people to know what happened. Yes, please read more of these girls' words, as painful as they are. There are child living in war zones right now. We must remember the human cost of war.

  17. I'm kind of a bitch, when it comes to leaving a Like, i usually just listen to the video and that's it.
    But this one, this one, deserve 123234123 likes

  18. Japanese history, Linfamy style, Heine period to the close of WW2. Absolutely nothing happened between then to cause any of that.
    I lived in Japan during the sixties, seventies period. I met a few veterans of WW2 , most were not resentful. One stands out me. He survived being bayoneted, and was treated by the American forces ( didn't get a chance to suicide) and woke up to the end of the war. He appreciated sleeping through the end and the medical treatment. That's all. I told him I was sure he fought honorably.

  19. I heard that Japanese high school girls were conscripted to fight the potential invasion of Japan by the Allies with bamboo spears. Luckily because of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan surrendered before that. Although I think that Japanese teenage soldier girls sounds badass and sexy which reminds me of my Attack on Titan waifu, Mikasa Ackerman and the other teenagers sent to fight Titans. I would rather fight have US soldiers fight alongside these soldier girls against Communists and the US soldiers and Japanese soldier girls fall in love. Maybe you could do a video on them next please.

  20. This was painful to listen to, but so, so important. People need to hear how awful war really is, so they can realize there must be a better way.

  21. Saying that they were too young implies that there is a right age for such horrors.
    No, war is hell, and we should avoid it at all costs.

  22. The sad truth about wars is that there are more civilian casualties than the ones siting in thrones, giving out orders to start a war, because they(imperial and government fraction) never go out in the battlefield!!!

  23. Thank you for this video, it was very touching! Also great to put things into context even more, as I recently finished reading "The rape of Nanking". I can only conclude that war was horrid, no matter which side one fought for, and we should never let such atrocities happen again.

  24. Thanks for that. I hope to visit their museum soon. I try to find as many of these civilian accounts of wartime as I can, especially in Japan. If you can, do a video on the gakuto-doin which were high school girls drafted into munitions factories and they served through the last few years of the war. I interviewed one a few years ago and have a few good reference books and resources.

  25. I am so sorry that i went on a hiatus on watching your videos Linfamy, now I must regain my family honor by…

    Rewatching all your videos.

  26. For everyone who loves war: this is what it's like.

    I wish Russians would hear this. There is quite a bit of pro-war sentiment over there.

  27. Visiting Okinawa really puts what you read about the Pacific campaign in perspective. The Imperial Navy Headquarters and Urasoe Castle (what we call Hacksaw Ridge) shows why the campaign was so difficult. And the Himeyuri museum and the Okinawa Peace Park showed the civilian causalities of the war.

  28. More prisoner were taken on Okinawa than every other Pacific battle combined. Yes, the amount of dead was staggeringly high, but not as high as it could have been.

  29. It's really sad how innocent people have to sacrifice die to war between countries. Those poor girls would not have die hadn't for the war

  30. Not really much choice either as the girls or as the American soldiers because Japan at the time had a 'suicide bomber' strategy they'd also employ back in the day called Kamikaze. This among with many of the Japanese war strategies literally made people go to hell to fight for Japan. They stated directly that they'd fight down to the last man if they had to rather than surrender. It's not a surprise that some soldiers wouldn't see them as trustworthy, and even worse is trying to sneak past all of your own people to surrender.

    If anything it is on the Japanese government for employing such a strategies. Before this there was a general named Grant who fought in the American Civil war who suggested that citizens who support their troops were the lifeblood of wars because they'd keep morality alive by showing support for the hell that is war. This general told his troop to devastate the opposing American faction's children to curb that, and it worked.

    It's hard to claim a high side in a war where civilians don't remain civilians or are threatened into becoming dangers to the battlefield. In other places children [even currently] are literally used to bomb troops during wars. So not just the kamikaze method but direct suicide bombing.

    The Japanese directly stated this would be their battle tactic pretty early on. While I do wish there was a better way or a way to detect bombs, I think the best 'surrender strategy' would've been placing a flag on your cave and staying inside and if a 'hostile' group showed up just to remain prone and submissive and hope for the best.

    This is the same war Hiroshima and Nagasaki was used, to explain how verdant Japan was about refusal to surrender. In a surrender sometimes a country will give leeways or freedoms if you ask for them. Japan going this route, was basically asking as the one who gained the U.S's attention during this war, to be utterly annihilated or colonized.

  31. *"their country and their emperor" kinda, many still felt Ryukyuan {former name of the Okinawan Kingdom and its people} more than Japanese (some people still do, it's an interesting conversation to have if people are willing to open up). Many people still only spoke the Ryukyu language. Before the Americans landed, Japanese soldiers would sometimes kill the people for speaking languages other than Japanese, not taking into account that many, mostly the elderly had never learned Japanese, only the Ryukyu language(s).

    Museums on Okinawa Honshu (the main island) mostly show the civilian side rather than the US or Japanese side. But they do try to be fair to everyone. The Island is covered in caves that you can go in (please show respect) I have stumbled upon shrines to the dead and ancestral gods for keeping people safe as well as artifacts from people who used the caves. (shoe sole, lots of cans and metal bits).

    If you see the caves take nothing this is living memory for a people who were already being abused by the country some of them were forced to fight for.

  32. If you think their fate was bad imagine being one of those soldiers(maybe just 1-2 years older than those girls) lying in that cave, limbs missing and insects crawling through your open wounds(while some doctor tells you to quit complaining).

  33. 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚜𝚘 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚊 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚕𝚘𝚕

  34. My great uncle was a marine corps medic at okinawa and Guadalcanal. He never forgave me for studying Japanese language. The Japanese killed the medics first, using their red cross as a easy target. They'd intentionally wound the first medic to draw in the others, then kill those who cane to help to eliminate all medics for the Americans first and foremost

  35. Better than what they forced Korean girls to do during the war…edit: okay not better… but still please don’t forget forget women and girls were kidnapped and forced them to “serve” soliders

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