Himeyuri students

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A class of Himeyuri students prior to mobilisation.

The Himeyuri students (ひめゆり学徒隊, Himeyuri Gakutotai, Lily Princesses Student Corps), sometimes called "Lily Corps" in English, was a group of 222 students and 18 teachers of the Okinawa Daiichi Women's High School and Okinawa Shihan Women's School formed into a nursing unit for the Imperial Japanese Army during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. They were mobilized by the Japanese army on March 23, 1945. Many of the Himeyuri students were told (and thought) that the Japanese army would defeat the Americans in a matter of days, and therefore brought along school supplies and their uniforms to study and prepare to return to school. By the end of the war, only a small number of Himeyuri students and faculty had survived.


Falsely briefed of working in Red Cross hospitals away from the fighting,[1][2] the Himeyuri students were instead positioned on the front lines performing crude surgery and amputations, burying the dead, transporting ammunition and supplies to front-line troops, and other life-threatening duties under continuous fire throughout the nearly 3-month-long battle. Near the end of the Okinawan war, those still alive endured disease and malnutrition in dark caves filled with countless gravely injured and dead civilians, soldiers, and co-students.

Unit dissolution and casualties[edit]

The entrance to a cave where several dozen Himeyuri students died on June 19th, 1945

Up until the Himeyuri unit was dissolved, only 19 students had been killed. On June 18, 1945, a rough dissolution order was given to the unit. Told simply to "go home" amidst total war,[3] the schoolgirls suffered a high causality rate in the crossfire of Japanese and American forces. In the early hours of the next day (June 19), 5 teachers and 46 students hiding inside the Ihara third surgery shelter were killed by white phosphorus munitions during an attack by US forces[4] - unaware of the student's presence. In the week following the dissolution order, approximately 80% of the girls and their teachers remaining on Okinawa Island perished. 136 Himeyuri mobilised into the Haebaru Army Field Hospital were killed. Overall, 211 students and 16 teachers were killed.[5][6] Some committed suicide in various ways because of chastity fears of systematic rape by US soldiers. Before the fighting could end, some students threw themselves off the jagged cliffs of the Arasaki seashore, poisoned themselves with cyanide (earlier administered to soldiers in terminal condition), while others killed themselves with hand grenades given to them by Japanese soldiers.

Himeyuri Monument[edit]

The Himeyuri Monument was built on April 7, 1946 in memory of those who died. The monument stands in front of the Peace Museum. It lists the names of every Himeyuri student and teacher killed during the War. Many of those who survived helped build and continue to maintain the facilities. As of 2020, there are still several Himeyuri students alive.

The Himeyuri Monument in Itoman, Okinawa

Himeyuri Peace Museum[edit]

The Himeyuri Peace Museum was modelled after the main school building in which the girls had once studied. Renovated and reopened on Okinawa Memorial Day in 2009, the museum has six display chambers displaying photos from the eve of the Battle of Okinawa, the Haebaru Army Field Hospital, portraits of all the young victims who died after the military's retreat to the southernmost tip of the Kyan Peninsula, panels explaining the circumstances under which they died, twenty-eight volumes of testimonials and memoirs by survivors, and a life-sized diorama of the aforementioned cave where many students lost their lives. The testimonials bring to life each phase of the battle, as witnessed by the student nurses. Some of the former nurses have served as both tour guides and curators at the museum.[7][8] A second renovation of the museum is planned to take place in June 2020, with input from surviving Himeyuri students.

In Media[edit]

  • Himeyuri no Tô (1953) (Tower of the Lilies) Drama | War - (Japan)[9]
  • Â Himeyuri no Tô (1968) (Ah, The Tower of Lilies) - Drama | War - (Japan)[10]
  • Himeyuri no Tô (1982) (Tower of the Lilies) Drama | War - (Japan)[11]
  • Himeyuri Documentary - 2007 (Japan)[12]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Student nurses who survived Battle of Okinawa still campaign against war". Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  2. ^ Shima, Diago (2015). The purification of victims: The Himeyuri student corps through the lens of Okinawa, Japan, and the U.S. 1945–1953 (Thesis). McGill University.
  3. ^ Emily Bates (October 8, 2014). Okinawan Traces of War: Lily Corps, The Himeyuri Schoolgirls (Report). Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "Asian Historical Records Center". Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  5. ^ "The Number of Mobilised Students and the Death Toll". Himeyuri Peace Museum. 2006.
  6. ^ of those killed, 91 (88 students, 3 teachers) were not part of the mobilised group, yet died during the war.
  7. ^ "Project MUSE - Testimonials--Himeyuri Student Nurses". Manoa. 13 (1): 142–151. April 2001. doi:10.1353/man.2001.0011.
  8. ^ "Himeyuri No To Monument". Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  9. ^ "Himeyuri no Tô" – via www.imdb.com.
  10. ^ "Âh himeyuri no tô" – via www.imdb.com.
  11. ^ "Himeyuri no Tô" – via www.imdb.com.
  12. ^ "Documentary Film "HIMEYURI"". www.himeyuri.info.