Japanese Prisoners of War Receive Care on an Escort Carrier

Japanese prisoners of war, part of fourteen who surrendered to a picket boat in Kerama-retto, are given comfort on an escort carrier after swimming out to be picked up. Note the words "Medical Department" and "US Navy" embroidered into the towels. During the Kerama operation the US Army's 77th Infantry Division killed 530 of the enemy and took 121 prisoners, at a cost of 31 Americans killed and 81 wounded. Many civilians committed suicide, but several hundred soldiers hid on Aka and Tokashiki islands until the end of the war. Surrendering was a dangerous process; several men were killed by their comrades for attempting to surrender. Miyagi Kikuko, was one of the few survivors of the Himeyuri Student Corps, a group of nursing students, witnessed one soldier shooting another on Okinawa: "Arasaki Beach was totally silent on the twenty-first. We were nearby. I was facing a warship, glaring back at it, gripping my grenade. A small boat approached and signaled to us. They waved, 'Swim out, we'll help you!' I shuddered. I was completely exposed. Suddenly, a Japanese soldier climbed down the cliff. A Japanese soldier raising his hands in surrender? Impossible! Traitor! We'd been taught, and firmly believed, that we Okinawans, Great Japanese all, must never fall into the hands of the enemy. Despite that, a Japanese soldier was walking right into the sea. Another soldier, couching behind a rock near us, shot him. The sea water was dyed red. Thus I saw Japanese murdering Japanese for the first time."
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Tuesday, May 1, 1945
Unknown; Aka or Tokashiki