new icn messageflickr-free-ic3d pan white
THE OLD WATER TANK on a HILL ABOVE THE LEPER COLONY | by Okinawa Soba (Rob)
Back to photostream

THE OLD WATER TANK on a HILL ABOVE THE LEPER COLONY

The battle scars of WW2 can still be seen on the water tank on a hill above the Leper Colony. The solid concrete pour was so thick and well done back in the 1930s, that the artillery impacts never breached the core.

 

This tank system is no longer in use, having been replaced by a larger, stainless steel tank on a neighboring hill. However, the Leper Colony keep these tanks as a visible reminder of what they went through back in 1945, and the occasional group of school kids will be brought here for lessons about the Battle of Okinawa.

 

*

 

Some on-line sources describe the Leper Colony’s World-War-Two spring-time experience of 1945 as hosting some “hand-to-hand combat” before the Allied forced took possession of the area. However, while this is true, there are some glaring omissions.

 

Back in 1938, the patients and staff, knowing that only trouble would come from Japan’s increasing military incursions into China, began the laborious work of hand-digging “bomb shelters”. Even the disabled, and those deformed with the advanced stages of the disease assisted in the work to construct what were no more than glorified holes dug into the hillsides --- an effort that continued as the Allied Forces grew closer to Japan after America's entry into the War.

 

It paid off.

 

On October 10th, 1944 --- well before the April 1st 1945 invasion of Okinawa by the Allied forces --- Bombing sorties were sent in to “soften up” the island. Air strikes nearly leveled Naha City, and anything that appeared to be a Japanese Military facility was targeted as well. Far to the north of Naha, this targeting mistakenly included the Leper Colony.

 

While the Staff and patients were hunkered down in their out-lying hand-dug holes in the hills, Airaku-en was bombed and burned to the ground.

 

When ground troops arrived in the spring of 1945, they fought with Japanese Military units that were using the burned out shells of the buildings as cover, eventually taking over the area. Food and cast-offs from the Allied Forces camps in the area formed the meager beginnings of the Colony’s resurrection from the wasteland of war.

 

The following statistics, compiled with the help of the US Military, and provided to me by the Leper Colony, have apparently never been published in either Japanese or English. So, for my Flickr friends who have read this far, here goes :

 

In rough figures, the following was either dropped on or aimed at the Airaku-en Leper Colony in October 1944 and April 1945 :

 

♦ 600 bombs

 

♦ 400 rockets

 

♦ 100 artillery shells (cannon / howitzers )

 

♦ 100,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds.

  

…..and only one patent was killed. Their spider-holes had saved them. Sadly, another enemy had arisen in the muddy squalor that remained, and within a year after the War’s end, 274 had died of malaria.

 

One of the first who made the Lepers and their Colony a priority for aid and reconstruction was an energetic and controversial Naval Officer in his mid-forties, Hyman George Rickover. Many would follow him over the years in their interest and care of the patents there. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyman_G._Rickover

 

Today, those who visit the pleasant environs of the colony find it hard to imagine the suffering and devastation of those days. Even more amazing is that some who survived the ordeal in their crudely dug holes in the ground are still alive today.

  

*

 

MAIN CAPTION and FULL SET HERE : www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/sets/72157631520486965...

  

*

 

*

 

*

 

RANDOM SOBA : www.flickriver.com/photos/24443965@N08/random/

 

1,554 views
0 faves
5 comments
Taken on September 13, 2012