Battle of Okinawa survivors share their fears about Russia’s attack on Ukraine

Battle of Okinawa survivors share their fears about Russia’s attack on Ukraine

February 25, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo


The news that Russia began its attack on Ukraine broke on February 24, instantly sending the world, including Okinawa, into a frenzy. The question on everyone’s lips is, “Will this plunge us into a time of war?” Okinawan citizens are concerned about the effect this will have on Okinawa, where U.S. military bases are concentrated. Okinawan citizens, touching on their experiences from the Battle of Okinawa, have voiced their concerns for the citizens of Ukraine, being toyed with by a large nation like Russia.

Yasuko Onaga, 92, of Naha City, who experienced the Battle of Okinawa when she was 15 years old, criticized Russia’s attack, saying, “Just the thought of starting a war, itself, is disgusting. I don’t expect to see any signs of humanity.” During the Battle of Okinawa, Onaga belonged to a Kyodo Butai (a troop from her hometown) as a nurse and as kitchen personnel, and had to try to escape during the intense bombardment of the southern part of Okinawa. She showed concern for Ukrainian citizens, saying, “I don’t want anyone to have that sort of experience. An armed person who goes to a safe place to become a pawn [of war] is, in the end, a weak person. Doesn’t it seem that politicians only consider people’s lives on par with insects?”

Hikonobu Toguchi, 95, of Yomitan Village experienced the Battle of Okinawa, having been conscripted right after graduation from the Prefectural School of Agriculture and Forestry. He said, “Military force is foolish. It is better to devote oneself to peace diplomacy.” Toguchi was a prisoner of war in the postwar period and spent time at an internment camp in Hawaii. He called for a deliberate dialogue, saying, “War is wretched, there is no victory or defeat. Both sides are wounded.”

Osamu Ogata, head of the East Asian Community Institute Ryukyu Okinawa Center, said, “Russia’s military strike was absolutely inexcusable. The citizens are the victims here. The president should stop military movements at once.” Ogata also said, “A military conflict in Ukraine could also have a negative impact on East Asia, such as the Taiwan emergency or the Senkaku Islands. I would like Europe and the United States to refrain from military intervention, and for the United Nations, for example, to attempt a peaceful resolution through international dialogues.”

Etsuko Urashima, 74, of Nago City, who has been participating in the peace movement in Okinawa for many years, said, “Military force only produces hatred. The citizens at the site [of the attack] are being toyed with by the government of a large nation and the military affairs game.” On top the construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility and the deployment of missile units in Okinawa, Urashima also expressed apprehension about the matter at hand, saying, “Resolution by means of military strength only complicates the problem. It leads to retaliatory fighting, and instability around the world. I feel this will plunge us into a time of war.”

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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