Seven names added to Tsushima-maru victims list after 68 years

Seven names added to Tsushima-maru victims list after 68 years

On August 17, at the Tsushima-maru Museum in Wakasa, Naha, Kazuko Onaga (from the left), Shoichi Tokeshi and Take Arakaki look at the names of their classmates who died on the Tsushima-maru.

August 22, 2012 Eriko Tamaki, Ryukyu Shimpo

August 22 marked the 68th anniversary of the tragedy of the unmarked passenger-cargo ship Tsushima-maru being sunk by the submarine USS Bowfin on its way to Kyushu carrying hundreds of school children. The Tsushima-maru Memorial Museum engraves newly identified victims’ names every year, and this year has added seven names to the victim’s name panel. Among them, Kiyoko Omine’s name was included. This came about because her classmates who survived requested it in her memory.

Seventy-nine year-old Kazuko Onaga was one of those classmates who asked to have Kiyoko’s name added to the list. Kazuko was with Kiyoko when they applied to be evacuated on the Tsushima-maru in August 1944. Kazuko’s family did not approve and in the end she went on a different ship with her family. When Kazuko returned to Okinawa after the war she met Kiyoko’s mother, but she did not mention what happened to her daughter.

In order to find out whether or not Kiyoko was on board the ship when it was sunk, the museum staff and one of her old classmates, Shoichi Tokeshi tried to gather information from other survivors. It was difficult work to trace back through 68 years of memory, but Take Arakaki recalled that Kiyoko had in fact been on the Tsushima-maru. Take remembers that the day before the ship departed she visited Kiyoko’s house with her grandmother. Kiyoko was a bright student who was good at all sports. She played a major role in school play every year, was cheerful and well liked by the other students. Kiyoko’s mother told Take that she would send her daughter to the main islands of Japan because Kiyoko’s friends had said that they would not go if her daughter did not join them on the ship.

After the museum decided to add Kiyoko’s name, Kazuko and Take commented that they can imagine Kiyo-chan’s smile. Tokeshi said, “Victims would want their names to be added with those of their friends. I want to do more research because there will possibly be more names to add.”

The Tsushima-maru Museum compiles the victims list based on the applications for bereaved family pensions, as well as checking it against the names inscribed in the Cornerstones of Peace at Mabuni. Some names could be missing because there are no survivors in the family or because a pension application has not been submitted for some reason. Kuniko Hokama, the executive director of the museum, commented, “The children who died had their dreams and hopes destroyed in the blink of an eye. My wish is at least to have their names all engraved with those of their friends.”

(English translation by T&CT, Kyoko Tadaoka and Mark Ealey)

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