MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan --
Takejiro Higa, a Battle of Okinawa survivor, returned today to a cave here where he was able to use his Okinawa dialect to convince local non-combatants hiding inside to surrender peacefully and without harm during the battle.
Higa served as a U.S. Army Technician Fourth Grade for the military intelligence service language team with 96th Division. Higa, a Waipahu, Hawaii, native, lived in Okinawa from age two until 16, when he moved back to Hawaii.
Higa was invited by the Okinawa Prefectural Government to attend a symposium at the Peace Memorial Museum in Itoman and during his visit was able to return to the cave located on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma where he rescued Okinawans 69 years ago.
“The day of the invasion, I just couldn’t help but feel sorry for invading my ancestors’ homeland as an American in the armed forces,” said Higa. “My main mission was translating captured documents and interrogating prisoners.”
Higa was determined to do what he could to keep people from Okinawa safe, as well as serve his purpose as a military translator, according to Higa. He wanted the relationship between Americans and Japanese to heal in time and develop to be peaceful.
“An officer later reported about Okinawa citizens using the caves as hideouts, and I told myself that it was my job to rescue them,” said Higa. “I introduced myself, and talked to them in their Okinawa language to give them some feelings of comfort.”
The Okinawa citizens were frightened because they were being held there by Japanese Military, and were given a bomb in case they were seized by American soldiers, according to Higa. He spoke calmly to try to get the citizens to leave the cave to find a safer shelter.
“Even though I was here from the very beginning (of the battle), I never shot out of my rifle, I didn’t kill or wound anybody,” said Higa. “I did my job as an American citizen soldier at the same time. I was able to help non-combatant Okinawa citizens with whom I grew up with for 14 years, and I feel proud to have helped save the lives of both Americans and Okinawa citizens.”
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