Tsushima-Maru survivor delivers lecture to elementary school pupils
June 18, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo
On June 12 at Nago Municipal Kube Elementary School, 79 year-old Keiko Taira spoke to a group of elementary school pupils about her experience as a survivor from the Tsushima-Maru, an unmarked Japanese passenger-cargo ship carrying hundreds of evacuated school children that was sunk in 1944 by the submarine USS Bowfin.
Taira said to the pupils, “Localized conflicts could still occur if people do not care enough about others. During your time at school, I want you to look after each other.”
On August 22, 1944, the Tsushima-Maru was sunk by the USS Bowfin while on its way from Okinawa to Kagoshima.
A total of 1422 passengers, including 777 school children died.
Taira was fourth grader at a national elementary school at that time. She, her grandmother and elder sister, brother and cousins were on board the ship. Taira told the children how she was hurled out into the sea when the ship listed to one side. During her time drifting at sea for six days she saw people dying one after another. Taira managed to survive because she remembered how her mother had said that they would definitely meet again that next March.
She said, “I was happy before the war because I never imagined that fighting would break out. After it ended, I could not forget the many people who died. I worry about a war occurring again and how long peace will continue. So, that’s why I’ve come to tell you about my experiences.”
Mirai Shimabukuro, a sixth grader at the school said, “I understand that peace means not only that we don’t have wars, but that we live happily.” Another pupil, Takumi Toyoshima said, “I think that the fact that we are all here today is what peace is all about.”
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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