Up to now, these articles have gone above and beyond to praise and honor the slice of warfare, rulership, leadership, and politics women have occupied since the dawn of any of those human endeavors. In this final installment, we’ll cover a very dark chapter in Japanese women and warfare: The Himeyuri Gakutotai. The Princess Lily Corps.
We fast forward from the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the rise of the Chrysanthemum Throne as the sole seat of leadership for the entire empire of Japan, to the mid-20th Century and the Battle of Okinawa, 1945. In this article, we will blur the lines between women’s role in warfare, heroicism in combat, and the shit that previously got my goat:
the exploitation of children.
The Battle of Okinawa was an almost three month battle, and was America’s last real stop before ingressing the Japanese Home Islands (which had never happened before; including a failed invasion by the Mongols). This battle really showed what the Japanese were made of by this time: cowardice. The unfortunate pivot man in this circle jerk ended up being the Okinawans themselves.
See, Japan had owned Okinawa for a coupla centuries by this point, but had only recently granted any of them citizenship…so they could draft them. Of those drafted 240 females (222 students, 18 teachers) were raised as an irregular front-lines nursing unit. The unit was raised on 23 March 1945, and was only expected to have been active for a number of days.
Prior to American forces hitting the beaches of Okinawa, Okinawan-Americans serving in the U.S. military were transmitting radio broadcasts *in Okinawan* to the Okinawans on the island, spelling out what to do and not do if they wanted to avoid being collateral casualties. Even as the forces hit, the radiomen were still transmitting, and receiving traffic from Okinawans. As a result of this, the Imperial forces began to take their own Okinawan forces prisoner, or even kill them.
As the Japanese defensive went to complete shit, and U.S. and local Okinawan forces began to maintain action on the Japanese lines, the Japanese manuever units began to realize that this entire shitshow was going to last more than a week. The Himeyuri had been told to bring their school supplies so they could continue to study throughout the repelling of the American forces. They were not issued any real supplies beyond that. Certainly nothing for survival or sustainment in a full combat environment.
As U.S. forces continued to fold up Japanese lines, the Imperial forces retrograded. In this retrograde, they left many Himeyuri teams behind. They were given grenades and told to wait for the American forces to get close enough, and then pull the pin. They were told that they would *want* to pull that pin, since the Americans were going to rape them to death. So, these young women were left to die, along with the wounded that the Imperial forces were not taking with them.
Once the Imperial forces had left them behind, many of the Himeyuri killed themselves, either with the grenades they were given, or by throwing themselves off cliffs and into the sea.
The unit was disbanded as the Japanese Army retreated. So, while these girls were eyeball deep in the shit, the Imperial Army rescended their status as employees. So…who was rapin’ who, here. Prior to that disolution order, only 19 of these women had died in combat. In the week following the order, more than 80% of their total starting numbers were dead. By the time the battle was over, 136 or the original 240 were KIA (including a large number of combat suicides).
There was at least one case of a suicide pact, were multiple girls had pulled their pins simultaneously, killing themselves and collapsing the cave they had occupied after the Japanese retreat.
There is a monument to the Himeyuri. It was dedicated on 7 April 1946. There is also the Himeyuri Peace Museum. This museum is pretty expansive. It’s modeled after the main school building most of the girls had come from. There are the usual pictures, models, and portraits, as well as detailed explanations of each KIA’s death and 28 volumes of testimonies from the survivors. The highlight for everyone is the *lifesized* diorama of the Himeyuri Cave.
Actual Himeyuri survivors/members still work at the museum. And every year thousands of Japanese students visit the museum and are taught how horrible the battle was, how horrible war is, and how brutal the Americans were when they attacked.
Before we finish, I’d like to note that this tactic of telling the women they were going to be raped and murdered–probably not even in that order–by the Yankee monsters was used all over Japan and its territories, as the U.S. closed in. I have mentioned about how women on the Home Islands were literally turning plow shears into weapons of war. They were given the duty of keeping the homefires burning while the dudes were off at war, and they were encouraged to fight to the death, or kill themselves, instead of falling prey to us evil G.I.s.
See how well that worked out for them.
Thus ends my epic monologue on the role of women in rulership and politics–as well as politics extension: warfare. Nothing happening now is new. No one is breaking new ground. None of us is a unique snowflake. Honor your warrior forebears, and remember that no matter what path you take…blood has already been shed there. (And if you continue to highlight the comparative relevance of the sex and sexuality of the person who shed that blood, you are not a part of the conclusion of this skipping record.) History proves my point.
You can either fight/lead/rule…or you can’t. Neither my blade nor my loyalty give a single squirt of piss for what’s between your legs. METT-TC.
Featured image courtesy of cnn.com