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

  1. Caves = MVP

    The First Samurai: https://youtu.be/-AzWbE4h0fw

    Please consider supporting the channel =)
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  2. I personally would've saved the good stories for the end of the video. You know, to not end in such a down and gloomy note. Also, so it sounds less political and… let's say, naive, to put it in a nice way. But oh well.

  3. OMG I did not know this. How sad! It amazes me how many wars and battles have been fought in human history and we still suck at peaceful negotiations! Humans can punch you in the face, but listen to common sense? Never.

  4. It still better to be drafted into the Himeyuri than into the Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (特別攻撃隊, "Special Attack Unit").

  5. The more facts I learn about the real WW2 the more angry I get at the narratives about it that our society pushes at us at every level. That's why vids about WW2 really get demonitized, because there's a set of narratives to protect.

  6. As a German, this kind of reminds me of the young boys who "volunteered" for the Volksstrurm. Like the Himeyuri they were too young for such a nightmare

  7. That was painful to watch – but necessary. War is never a heroic movie. The sooner everyone in the world learns this the better everyone will be.

  8. What a loads of crap. Who thought that hiding wounded people into caves it's going to get them better in any form? They would have been better left to die quickly into the battle ground than being slowly tortured towards their death using brutal and unsanitary medical procedures. And those poor kids had to endure horror before getting killed.
    Always the young die in vain in useless wars. Humanity seems to never learn from history even these days.

  9. Thank you for this very impressive and heartbreaking video!
    It's very important to know history as to not repeat it.
    Also,these girls,mere kids, really are heroines in my opinion and deserve to be remembered!

  10. "Some were scared and some were excited to serve their Emperor and country "

    Me: And most were probubly pissed the heck off their nails had to be ruined.

  11. woof, that was a dark episode… >.>

    sad they didn't have magical girls back then…
    might have even won the war.
    sailor moon navy…
    strike witches airforce…
    magical girl spec-ops asuka army.
    (googled for the last one, but 'ey… =P)

    …lol, sry. XP had to lighten the mood…

  12. 1945, on the other side of the planet, Germany
    Most Male youths ended up at the front iin one way or another. The fronts came in. Anybody above 18 and not necessary because they worked in an arms manufacturing or vital food production position was already drafted by requirement. The rest however were not spared: Starting September 25th 1944, males of 16-60 were all put into military service as part of what was called "Volkssturm".
    By October 18th, ng men of 25-50 with a job in a factory producing military goods were handed a rifle or maybe an anti tank weapon and sent to guard some position for short periods. The rest already was at the frontlines. Technically, everybody was drafted.

    Those below 25 were not spared though: who wasn't already a soldier, running errands or working for one or another organisation was drafted if they were 16 or older, put up with some very short training, and then sent off to do errands, guard sometimes nonsensical positions or keep the logistics rolling.

    Non-compliance was not an option and was sometimes punished by death.

    A short glimps at the lot of one such group is for example "Die Brücke", an authobiographic narration of Gregor Dorfmeister modeled after this incident:

    Dorfmeister himself was forced into service in late April 1945 about a month after his 16th birthday and trained how to use his rifle for a few days. On the first of may, he was sent to guard a bridge over the Loisach with 7 others. When this position fell, only 3 survived and they were ordered to guard another bridge in Bad Tölz the next day. Dorfmeister fled. His fellows were killed as thir position was overrun.

    In an Interview on 2nd of May 2015 he said, exactly 70 years after the incident: „Ich ging zur Brücke, da lagen die beiden tot da, eine alte Frau ging vorüber und bespuckte sie. Ich werde dieses Bild nie vergessen.“ (I went to the bridge, there the two lay dead, an old woman passed by and spit on them. I will never forget this picture)

  13. My heart just broke while watching this video, I just started crying while watching those photos at the end. Thank you for this video, this should be more known

  14. OH GOD, THIS IS SO SAD…THOSE POOR CHILDREN…ESPECIALLY THOSE YOUNG LADIES, AND I THOUGHT OUR MALE DRAFTED WERE UNLUCKY. BUT DRAFTING CHILDREN, WHY NOT FIND ACTUAL NURSES?! I KNOW TIMES ARE TOUGH BUT I'M SORRY, LIKE OUR DRAFTING I DONT AGREE WITH WHAT THEY DID…I STILL FEEL FOR THOSE WOMEN THAT'S AWFUL. I STILL LOVE THE COUNTRY AND THEY OBVIOUSLY DON'T DO THAT ANYMORE (RIGHT?)…EVERY PLACE HAS IT'S UPS AND DOWNS. I HATE WAR, SO MUCH, ALL IT DOES IS BRING PAIN AND SUFFERING, AND IN THE END, NOBODY WINS, IT'S ALL POINTLESS IF YOU ASK ME, JUST TO GAIN POWER OVER SOMETHING…IT'S SO SAD. 🙁

  15. It's interesting hearing the stories of people who went through war. It just goes to show how horrible it is for everyone involved.

  16. The part about surrender reminded me of what my grandfather said. We are Austrians and he joined the Wehrmacht at 16 to escape the hellish conditions he grew up in and got wounded in the outskirts of Stalingrad and thus narrowly escaped that tragic fate (but not without seeing a sample platter of war crimes and other atrocities committed by both the Soviets and the Axis). Once he recovered, he was sent to fight the Allies in Normandie. Soon they were out of reenforcements, resupplies etc. and they asked what to do and got the order to blow up all bridges, destroy any infrastructure of value, fight to the last bullet, mount the bayonnettes and charge for one last time! My grandfather got hit by a plane dropped bomb. The blast knocked him over and he had multiple shrapnel stuck inside him. He however picked up his rifle and continued to shoot the Americans, but surrendered to the British once they approached from the other side. Why? Not far from his location an entire unit of German soldiers had surrendered to the Americans only to get gunned down! The British however didn't just put him out of his misery, but actually did their best to stich him back up despite being as good as dead. He later learned that a metal fragment was stuck in his brain, which they couldn't remove! This piece of metal remained with him until he got cremated nearly 80 years later! Other comrades of his weren't that lucky. After their surrender, they were paraded through the city allowing the civilians to throw bottles, bricks and excrement at them! My grandfather remained a POW in England for longer than most as he was sitting for war crimes, AKA following the order to destroy civilian infrastructure as if the Allies didn't do this all the F-ING time…

  17. yet.. how the fuck one as a soldier can degenerate that much during war is still out of my understanding. Thanks @Linfamy for the video

  18. Okay I managed to hold it together until you got to the number of girls that died and was then pretty much sobbing the whole rest of the way through 😭 I love your videos for teaching us things even if they make me cry into my teacup before breakfast on Sunday morning 😭❤️

  19. The horror of the war rarely tought in schools, since america are the good guys.
    For anyone interested I suggest to visit the museum in Okinawa about war.
    Heartbreaking.

  20. Great video as always Linfamy! Not as many laughs to be had as your regular videos, but I guess that kind of goes with the territory here. Despite the horror that these girls endured, I’m glad that many of them lived long enough to see peace.

  21. So that's where they got those compelling stories in manga and anime.
    Frankly, when Linfamy read the story, it sounds more like "Bungou Stray Dogs", which chills the topic to a comfortable degree of gore-ish understanding.
    Unfortunately for a girl named Hisa(sounds identical to hiza [knee]), she witnessed a lot of arms and shoulder being cut.

  22. Highschool girls in 1945: helps soldiers to help them survive
    Highschool girls now: literally trips on nothingness and whine

  23. Do you think it’s possible if Moon King the ruler of the moon in Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is Kaguya Hime’s father Tsukuyomi? After all in the Japanese Fairy Tales audiobook by Theodora Yei Ozaki also it was celebrated name giver that gave her the name princess moonlight because her body brought forth so much soft moonlight she could be the daughter of the moon god.

  24. It's very good that the US never needed to invade the japanese islands. Okinawa would have been small peanuts compared to Operation Downfall. Unfortunately the US had complete air supremacy, naval supremacy, and a 3:1 advantage in troops. It would have had none of these things attacking Kyushu and the fighting would've been even more brutal.

  25. Never forget these deaths it doesn't matter if they where soldiers or civilians,ally or enemy each of those death signifies their ideology and beliefs by forgetting their death we are denying their beliefs and ideology. Their is no bigger crime than that. How will you claim that imperial japanese ideology was bad if you don't even accept that ideology in the first place. For that i commend this video and its maker Linfamy

  26. Okay so in the beggining I was like "hmm interesting…." then in the middle and so on I was keep on shaking and I said "CREEPY AS HECK OMYGOD OMYGOD OMYGOD"

  27. This is Amanda on my dad's Youtube account:
    I'd be a pretty good medic until my prosthetic leg busted!

    The Ryukyu people have been abused by Japan since 1609. The Japanese army was authorized to execute as spies anyone speaking the Ryukyu language during WW2.
    Thank you America for liberating our suffering!

  28. Can't wait for when Linfamy covers Japanese comfort women during WW2 and he'll be declared public enemy n°1 by the Japanese government!

  29. What makes this story even more heartbreaking is that the Allies were also committing war crimes themselves, such as shooting a Japanese soldier who wanted to surrender, and then firing on innocent civilians, and yet they deny all of that. To me, the most depressing parts of the story are after the group was disbanded. Btw, weren't the concentration camps in America?

  30. I live in Okinawa and have been to the museum two times. The stories you can read there are really compelling and paint a vivid picture of just how horrendous the battle of Okinawa was. I highly recommend anyone else watching this video to visit the museum if you ever come to Okinawa, and buy a wreath to place in front of the Himeyuri Monument and observe a moment of silence for the Himeyuri corps girls whose lives were unfortunately taken.

    Thank you so much for covering this topic, Linfamy.

  31. 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…

  32. 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!

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

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