Japanese Soldiers Surrender at Kerama-Retto

Fourteen Japanese soldiers surrender to a picket boat at Kerama-retto. They were tkaen to an escort carrier for debriefing. The Kerama Islands were invaded by the US Army's 77th Infantry Division on March 26, 1945. The area was a forward naval base for damaged ships and for shelling Southern Okinawa at extreme range. In operations on Aka and Tokashiki the 77th Division patrols scoured the islands. Hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians managed to evade discovery in caves, ravines, and brush through­out the hilly central parts of the islands. After the Okinawa operation, representatives from Tenth Army tried unsuccessfully to induce the Japanese commander on Aka, 26-year-old Major Yoshitsugu Akamatsu, to surrender. The Japanese soldiers and sailors were not as stubborn, and most of them escaped from the island and surrendered. Many civilians in Kerama-retto committed suicide, a foretaste for the Americans of what they would encounter on Okinawa. Kinjo Shigeaki had just turned sixteen at the time Allied forces landed on Tokashiki in Kerama-retto. Resolved to die fighting after witnessing mass civilian suicides, he recalled, "We didn't know where the enemy was. We carried sticks with which we would charge them. We simply walked where our feet took us. The first people we encountered were Japanese soldiers. You can't begin to imagine what a shock that was to us. Are the soldiers still alive? Ordinarily, that might have given us a sense of security, but what we felt now was anger and disgust, boiling up in us. Now, the Japanese more than the Americans became the object of our fears. On my island, the military never engaged in combat and survived virtually intact. Only the residents engaged in gyokusai (literally "shattered jewels" a term for suicide). Even members of the special-attack boat unit retreated into the mountains when there was no opportunity to attack. The residents committed suicide quite early, gathered in one place as if they were mice in a sack. On other isolated islands, where there were no soldiers, there were no group suicides."
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Tuesday, May 1, 1945
Unknown; Tokashiki or Aka