DNA of remains of war victims to be examined

July 27, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare will undertake DNA examination of the remains of Battle of Okinawa and civilian war victims.

The Ministry will send application forms for a DNA test to the bereaved families on July 26 and thereafter.

On July 26, the person in charge at the Ministry reported the plans to Takamatsu Gushiken, the representative of the Gamafuya, a volunteer group dedicated to the recovery of Battle of Okinawa remains.

The government had restricted examinations only to military personnel and taken limited measures such as establishing regional conditions for a place of death. However, in the future, the government will include civilian war dead in its examinations as a reflection of the stateʻs responsibility for the misdeeds of the war.

Gushiken said, “I am so pleased that it makes me cry.

I hope many remains will be returned to the bereaved family. It will be a big step.”

In March, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announced that not only will bereaved families of officials of the former Japanese Army who are relatively easy to locate be included, but also civilian victims will be subjects of DNA examination.

In response to this, Gushiken and bereaved families met with the staff in charge at the Ministry in Tokyo on July 12 and submitted the list of 135 people, who are the bereaved families wishing for DNA examinations to identify the remains of 169 war dead including civilians.

The staff told Ryukyu Shimpo, “It is not certain at this time whether all examinations of applicants will be carried out. We will be sure to respond flexibly.

The majority of the war dead to be examined are civilians, and the place of death is not known in many cases.

Gushiken praised the inclusion of civilians, but raised questions about the uncertainty of the criteria for test implementation.

He said, “It is the stateʻs responsibility to search for all the victims of the war and return them to the bereaved families.

” He called for prompt action as the bereaved families age.

81-year-old Yoshihiko Shinzato applied for the remains of his older brother Eitoku (14 years old at the time of death) to be searched and examined.

He was mobilized as a soldier and died in the southern part of Okinawa Island. Shinzato said that he is very pleased with the governemntʻs response.

However, on a personal level the collection of the remains brings up challenging emotions 72 years after the war. Shinzato stressed that “cooperation from the state and prefecture is essential” and called for the inclusion of examinations of all the war dead including civilians.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is accepting applications for DNA examinations on the Ministryʻs website this month.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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