The Japanese Schoolboy Soldiers in WW2 (Tekketsu Kinnotai)


What would you do if you were in middle school
and they forced you to fight in the battlefield? During WaWa2, in 1945, the war was not going
well for the Japanese. In the Pacific, Allied forces were heading
towards Japan, and the Japanese decided to block their progress with a shield called
the island of Okinawa. The Japanese Imperial Army took over middle
schools and high schools in Okinawa. They reduced school hours and trained the
students in skills that would help in the coming battle. They taught the girls nursing and taught the
boys things like building structures, running communications cables, and yes how to fight
in combat. Orders were, military training for the boys
was supposed to be voluntary, but the army thought that restriction was annoying, so
they worked around it. They ordered the schools to force their students
to volunteer. The kids were underage. By law they couldn’t consent without their
parents, so the military often forged the papers for them. The policy was only for boys 14 and older,
but records show there were boys as young as 12. They threatened the kids who didn’t want
to take part, intimidated them, called them traitors. Students who still refused were sent home
without food, sometimes at the point of a gun. We already talked in another video about what
happened to the schoolgirls during the Battle of Okinawa. This video is about the horrific things that
the boys went through. But first, want to know a free way to help
out the channel and learn about stuff? Sign up for free with today’s sponsor, CuriosityStream,
and I’ll love you forever. They have this excellent deep dive on the
Battle of Okinawa and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And you can watch it for free because if you
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keep this little channel alive, our little corner of YouTube, because they’ll wanna
keep sponsoring us. Alright, so the schoolboys’ military training
was like being in the Boy Scouts, but with murder badges. They trained in sharpening the ends of bamboo
stalks with knives to make spears. They would practice jabbing them into figures
of American soldiers. One survivor remembered as a boy having to
stab a straw figure at the school entrance before going in. That was their morning ritual. After training, at least 1787 boys were put
into units called Tekketsu Kinnotai (鉄血勤皇隊), or Iron and Blood Imperial Corps. Their first task? To write their will. On April 1, 1945, a force of US Army and Marines
landed on Okinawa and the nearby islands. It was the last battle in the Pacific, and
the most bloody. Artillery shells rained down on the island
immediately, and rarely stopped. This battle was different from the others
in the Pacific because Okinawa was a populated island. It was full of civilians, and we’ll see
how that fact made the battle a nightmare. The Japanese military did evacuate part of
the population, but most of the residents remained when the battle started. Imagine a war raging right in the middle of
your town or city. Estimates say about one-tenth to one-third
of the civilian population perished. That’s up to one in three people. When the battle started, it was clear that
the Japanese army was doomed. The army got more aggressive with the students. They drafted all the boys from their schools. It was mandatory now. They even sometimes recruited random kids
they found hiding in caves, no need for official papers. The students had all kinds of jobs. They helped make buildings, they laid down
communication wires, they ran supplies back and forth. And yes, they were even allowed to use guns. Many boys were shot if they refused to follow
orders. Surrender was not an option for most of the
students. Years of propaganda told them to die for the
emperor. And everyone, kids and adults, just knew that
the Americans tortured and committed all kinds of evil acts on Japanese prisoners. So to the kids, in front of them lay death
by the Americans and behind them lay death by Japanese soldiers. Many chose to kill themselves. But the truth was, the children’s best bet
was to surrender. Of course, what they were told about evil
Americans was propaganda. Yeah, the relentless American bombing killed
countless people, and American soldiers were known to shoot at kids, so let’s not be
black-and-white about it, but American troops generally protected civilians. Unfortunately, there were plenty of cases
where the Japanese army did not have the same mindset. Civilians ran into the mountains and forests
to hide in caves from the constant bombing and gunfire. Japanese soldiers were known to force civilians
out of their caves so they could hide themselves. There were reports of Japanese soldiers using
human shields, and forcing civilians to walk into a combat zone to get shot and reveal
where the enemy was. As the battle wore on, things got desperate
and soldiers would recruit civilians to join them on attack runs. One survivor recalled it happening to him. He was 14 at the time and wasn’t even part
of the Tekketsu Kinnotai. A soldier found him and his classmates and
taught them how to use a grenade, then marched them into battle. Luckily, a lieutenant saw the group and stopped
them. There seemed to be some miscommunication because
he said there was no such order to use children in combat, war didn’t involve children. He took their grenades and told them to go
home. So why was there such disregard for civilian
lives? Part of it was the nationalist culture of
the time. The indoctrination started at elementary school. You were expected to give your life for the
emperor and for the country. Soldiers just expected civilians to be good
subjects and contribute to the cause. Japan could never lose a war. The Imperial House had lasted for 2000 years,
and it would last forever. Kids sang nationalist and militaristic songs. One American soldier found a diary of an Okinawan
boy who kept writing about his Japanese spirit and how he would die for the emperor if necessary. There are plenty of examples of the girl and
boy recruits embracing the war, even as they were stuck in horrific environments. Another reason for the disregard of civilian
lives was prejudice. Okinawans were considered different from mainland
Japanese. Most Japanese soldiers couldn’t even understand
the Okinawan dialect. In fact, the Japanese army was worried about
spies, so they forbade Okinawan soldiers under their command to speak the local dialect. Failure to comply resulted in execution. Boys in the Tekketsu Kinnotai were often tasked
to find and execute spies, and they did, which brings up the disturbing question of “How did they find these spies?” It was probably all imagined. This view of Okinawans as different persists
to the modern day. The battle was relentless, and we see testimonies
of boys realizing that fighting for the emperor was not as glamorous as they had thought. One former child soldier said, “I felt empowered because I was told I was doing
this to protect the Emperor of Japan. What I didn’t know at that time was that the
Emperor of Japan had no plans to protect me.” Another former child soldier, Yoza Shoken,
tells us about his experience. The army ordered Yoza to submit a military
application for a younger classmate named Kinjo, which he did. The classmate joined a different unit from
Yoza. After Yoza served for a time, the commander
told Yoza’s unit that they didn’t have enough food, so he’d let anyone who was
not confident in his abilities leave. The commander probably just wanted to let
some of the younger kids go home. Like good little soldiers, no one raised their
hand, though Yoza believed that everyone wanted to go home. So the commander picked the boys himself,
and he happened to include Yoza. That was how he survived. He later discovered that Kinjo, his younger
friend, had died. Yoza, now in his 90s, has lived with guilt
all his life. He holds himself responsible for Kinjo’s
death because he submitted the application. Other students were also ordered to submit
applications for their younger classmates, but some of them just pretended that no one
was home and threw away the documents. He asks himself why he didn’t do the same. In the battle, desperate Japanese soldiers
began carrying bombs on their backs, climbing onto tanks and blowing them up. They even strapped bombs onto boys to do the
same. The tactic shocked the Americans for a while
until they got wise to it. Suicide was a common theme, but there was
the disturbing issue of group suicide among the Okinawan civilians. The fear of being captured by evil Americans
was so great that people killed themselves rather than face being a prisoner. The Japanese military gathered people in groups
and gave out grenades. Survivor accounts of what happened in these
group suicides are harrowing. “After the mayor of the village yelled ‘Long
live the Emperor,’ hand grenades exploded all around us. I could hear the screams of the dying.” People killed their own families, then themselves. Most people didn’t have access to grenades,
so they used anything. Kitchen knives, ropes, rocks, items around
the house, anything. There are stories from survivors who killed
their own family members that are way too gruesome to talk about. One mother killed her daughter as the American
troops got closer, only to have them arrive a few moments later and treat her humanely,
giving her candy and cigarettes. Ishikawa Eiki’s story shows the conditions
that the Tekketsu Kinnotai students faced. He was assigned to a group of boys who did
cooking duty for the soldiers. He had to dig potatoes from the ground while
artillery shells fell around him. Two weeks into it, a shell took the lives
of two boys in the group, and Ishikawa thought, “We will all be like them sooner or later.” His only concern was surviving. He didn’t even think of his family. He and the other students only ate salted
cabbage and sugar cane, and drank dirty water from the ground. They never had a change of clothing. He came down with lice, like many others. They slept in underground bunkers. Ishikawa remembered wishing for three things
before sleeping: to drink a clean glass of water, to sleep stretched out on a tatami mat, and to die without pain. One day, before a battle, the Japanese soldiers
gave him two grenades, one to throw at the enemy, and one for himself. Ishikawa hid during the battle and saw Americans
taking Japanese soldiers and civilians prisoner. He had a choice. Throw one grenade at the Americans then blow
himself up, or surrender. Ishikawa tossed aside the grenades and walked
out. It saved his life. Today, Ishikawa argues for removing US military
bases from Okinawa. “When war occurs, a city with a military
base becomes a victim.” I do have a positive story for y’all. Higa Takejiro was part of a US army unit of
Japanese-Americans who served as translators. He spoke both Japanese and the Okinawan dialect. This guy was amazing. During the battle, he went around to caves
that civilians were hiding in, telling them to come out. He assured people that Americans were not
savages. They had food and water. They had medics to care for the injured. He did this over and over again. Being fluent in the local tongue probably
won him a lot of trust. In total, he managed to convince about 3000
people to come out of their caves and escape the battle. Some people admitted they were ready to kill
themselves if it wasn’t for Higa. Afterwards, Higa said he was proud that he
never fired a shot in the entire battle. And then we have a person who became famous
in Okinawa, Ota Masahide. As a high school student, he was sent to the
battlefield with a rifle and two grenades. When they had to retreat south, a wounded
soldier pleaded with Ota to not leave him behind. The soldier’s cry stayed with him for the
rest of his life. A turning point for Ota came when he saw how
the Japanese soldiers treated civilians. “The Imperial Army kicked people out of
caves. They used them for themselves. Young kids cried. Soldiers were afraid US forces would find
the cave, so they ordered the mothers to kill their kids. The mothers could not kill their own kids,
so soldiers did it. I saw this myself. Up until that time, I trusted the Imperial
Army, as we were told. But to see this, I changed my mind, and I
changed my thinking about war.” Even after Japan surrendered, his superiors
told him to keep fighting. A good Japanese gave his life for the emperor. Ota kept on fighting and hiding in caves for
a month afterwards. He was afraid of American soldiers, yes. But he was even more afraid of the Japanese
soldiers. They shot people who tried to surrender. Ota lamented that his classmates died the
deaths not of humans, but of worms. “Militaries absolutely do not protect civilians
in war. That was the biggest lesson I learned from
the Battle of Okinawa.” Ota became a pacifist and became the governor
of Okinawa prefecture with a campaign promise to remove US military bases from Okinawa. He pushed for the creation of the Cornerstone
of Peace, a monument in the
Okinawa Peace Memorial Park and Museum. The names of those who died, civilian and
military, are etched onto the monument. It was Ota’s life mission to never let such
a tragedy repeat. His dream was for an Okinawa free of military
bases. Ota Masahide passed away in 2017 at the age
of 92. When the battle was done, of the 1787 boys
of the Tekketsu Kinnotai, half of them had died. Alright, we have a new emperor patron, Nathaniel
Annunziata! Welcome, you’re awesome. We also have new patrons who are also cool
people: Karen Cannon, Christian, Charlotte Susanne Stephan, Astelle Sky, Wild_Lee_Coyote meep meep, Ricardo Maciel dos Anjos, and William Rhodes. Hey guys, check out the video about the
high school girls forced to be nurses in the battle here. Or see this other video. Alright much love, guys, and spread the knowledge!

100 thoughts on “The Japanese Schoolboy Soldiers in WW2 (Tekketsu Kinnotai)

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  2. I almost hesitate to ask, but did any of the officers responsible for shoving children onto the battlefield ever commit seppuku over it? Or at least feel terrible about themselves? Because maaaaan that is screwed up.

  3. Any thoughts on making a video about the other schoolgirl "Chiran Nadeshiko Unit"?
    It's really depressing and the full story can be read in "Blossoms in the Wind" by M.G. Sheftall and "Tokkou no Machi: Chiran" by Sanae Sato.

  4. Okinawa was returned to Japan on June 17, 1971. I think I was in the 2nd grade and the turn over was in our Weekly Reader. 🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵

  5. I read that Okinawans are closer to the Jomon than the Yayoi. Could the Okinawa local religion be closer to the Jomon religion?

  6. shiiiiiiiiiiit, this was the worst chapter of Assassination Classroom which I have ever heard of, though they would definitely pass with this mentality

  7. "What you do if you are in middle school and was forced to fight in the battlefield?"
    I would ask > Where is my mech!? 😀

  8. Liked and shared. Folks should understand the consequences of waging war, nation against nation. Insanity is not an admissible plea when your crime is abuse of those you have pledged to protect. You're not even a War Criminal. You're a murderer.

  9. Linfamy, can I ask if you have a modern Japan's history, so after Heian period, video series, tried to find it but the Heian is the last part which your videos cover

  10. Well, Okinawan (沖縄口、うちなあぐち in Okinawan ) is a separate language from Japanese. Okinawa only became a part of Japan in 1868. Though closely related to Japanese, it is unintelligible to Japanese and is different from Okinawan Japanese, which is a dialect of Japanese (Okinawan : Uchinaa Yamatuguchi(lit. Okinawan Japanese) , Japanese : Okinawa-ben). Currently, most Okinawans speak only Okinawan Japanese and Okinawan is an endangered language.

  11. All of this was FDR's fault with his damned petroleum embargo, if we (America) had minded our own damned business neither this battle nor the entire bloody Pacific campaign would have ever happened. Would have been the end of China as the Japanese crushed them and brutalized them sure but just look what rescuing China from Japan got us in the long run.

  12. There is a petition on change.org to remove American military bases from Okinawa. Just Google it. I encourage anyone who's interested to sign I just did. Can't do anything to change the horror that happened but this is the least that we can do.

  13. Wow that was interesting. Poor Boys i almost feel like the girls got the Lucky part. Nah they were both a hell. I AM surprized the guy surrendered

  14. As someone who grew up in another right-wing, nationalist "utopia" (Apartheid-era South Africa), I can attest that nationalist brainwashing doesn't begin in primary school – it starts at birth.

  15. Me: Japan is such a great country. It has anime and culture and history and very friendly people

    Linfamy:*is about to ruin this innocent dream*

  16. I was wondering it's kinda unfair cuz you only talked about the school girls (back during the school girls vid). So what, the boys got sent home? But then, this vid explains it. It's sad how the Army are using kids like that 😢😢 If they can kill their own kind, and it includes kids, it just shows how ruthless they are. No wonder they can do crazier things with non-Japanese ppl (when they were conquering Malaysia, Singapore etc back then). My granma lived thru the Japanese army conquering Malaysia and she witnessed the ruthlessness too. 😢😢😢

  17. Kinda related. During the siege of Budapest, the Germans rounded up a bunch Hungarian kids and gave them rifles. Two days later, they were sent to fight the soviets with little training (they were pretty much just taught how to use a gun but not tactics or anything)

  18. My grandfather told me of children fighting tanks and it did surprise the enemy, but once the first tanks went up in flames, they were dead meat. They couldn´t carry additional ammunition and they were neither properly trained nor physically able to do anything more than a suicide charge.
    My grandfather fought the Americans to the last bullet and when all hope seemed lost, they saw a chance to surrender to the British. What´s the difference? Well, there was a nasty rumor (which I think was referring to an actual war crime, but blown out of proportions) that the Yankees gun down everyone once, you drop your guns!

  19. This is literally the boys in the Volksturm from Germany. I did not know before that Japan did the same thing. Thanks for this very informative video

  20. The problem I have with pacifists is that they think everyone is civilized. That they will respect their stance. That does not always happen. Ask the men and women from Tiananmen Square.

  21. So I have a question, if you already have a subscription to curiositystream but you're about to read new, would you still get the bonus credits or whatever for me using the promo code? I really don't care about the free month because I was already going to renew but I do care about you getting that sweet, sweet sponsorship money. Since I'm already existing customer I wonder if you would still get the credit.

  22. You'll soon hit million subs bro..
    That's my gut feeling (mostly never wrong)
    The process is kinda slow because u only focus on a specific type of informative content (people don't love informative content while chewing food lol)
    But..
    Ur hard work is awesome broo..
    Well where r u from

  23. Hey library… Liin uhh look at a channel called beyond science hosted by Mike Chen his older stuff man he hasnt posted in like 4 ever but a lot of its intersting

  24. If during an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands they had a best case scenario 10% of the citizens fighting to the death like those in Okinawa (but likely more since Okinawa was less "Japanese") then it makes alot of sense why the Americans would rather nuke a couple cities than invade

  25. my friend, Okinawan is a language and not a dialect of Japanese.
    this is too sad. may there be mercy and peace.

  26. Okinawa dialect is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, there is a dialect, as in Japanese with differences in pronunciation and vocabulary, but what is often called by Japanese as Okinawan dialect is actually an entirely different language. There are a number of distinct Ryukyuan languages in the Japonic language family.

  27. I truly love and enjoy these videos, linfamy is funny but talks about the history that I WANT to hear and know about Japan! Unlike some of the national geographic crap hahah

    Oh and Gintama Rules BTW!!!!!

  28. It would be great if you could do an episode on the Japanese occupation of Singapore, a part of WWII that is vastly overlooked.

  29. Forced "volunteer" is still a thing. Recently local authority in Tokyo tried to gather high school students "volunteer" for 2020 Olympic. Younger generations criticized this. Hope this kind of stupid tradition die out someday.

  30. Are you going to do a video about the history of Okinawa and Japan? I think it would help put into context about how Okinawa and Okinawans are viewed by the Japanese

  31. nice propaganda you have there saying the fat muricas were the good guys and protected children, i suspect they even they raped them and its probably true

  32. Dude just start the Edo period already, I mean I've been following for about an year now, but after heian period the channel hasn't gone the straight line but straight up one piece style all over the place.

  33. Cool video, but I think it is important to know that the Ryukyu languages are not dialects of Japanese, but completely different languages in the Japonic language family. Okinawa was the Ryukyu Kingdom before it was annexed by Japan in 1879, and therefore not considered a part of Japan.

  34. High schoolers get sent to war: I expected that, given that high schoolers were forced to be field medics
    Middle schoolers get sent to war: What the hell?! They must be desperate, but still, how could they?!
    Now I think I'm going to cry again. After all, this is WaWa2 we're talking about.

  35. So, this is interesting to me. One of the main arguments in favour of using atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the idea that if a mainland invasion had occurred then the Japanese would not have readily surrendered and even more people would have died, both civilian and military. I guess that this idea would be supported by what happened in Okinawa, but I still don't know if it would have necessarily panned out the same way on the mainland. Very few of the people who died during the bombings were soldiers, which suggests to me that more than likely the vast majority of the military was fighting abroad at the time. Anyway, the idea of military forces targeting civilians really doesn't sit well with me. There doesn't seem to be a clean solution either way, but I am interested as to what you think where the justification for using the atomic bomb is concerned.

  36. i learn a good history lesson on a Sunday of the ww2 thanks Linfamy for posted it i love to hear a good Japanese history

  37. War, Scheming and the Victory are so agrandised and romanticised nowadays in Hollywood, in Videogames etc that we forget how horrific these are. Poor children brainwashed in Japan, Somalia, Germany, Sudan Syria for military Games

  38. This was poignant and powerful and I came here for lolz… those aren't tears, they're allergies… yeah allergies, same reason why my eyes are always red… allergies 🥦🥦🥦

  39. congrat, you have been supported by me, I'll drink a cold refreshing corona to your health from my new 可愛い Amaterasu black mug, hope it'll arrive in one piece,😅

  40. It’s very sad what people do to children in times of total war.

    Your channel has come so far. Great vid, keep on spreading the knowledge.

  41. Oh god. Imagine killing your family to spare them from (what you think) Is a fate worse than death only to when you get captured by the Americans they treat you like a real human being and have no intend of harming you..

  42. Linfamy: "Today we will focus on the boys."
    Also Linfamy: "One mother had to kill her daughter…"

    Not that I really mind, but you did kind of blend this into a general-purpose video, instead of strictly focusing on the boys.

  43. Anytime you you resort to using children you know it's a desperate situation
    Edit:feel like throwing up at the thought of mothers and children killing themselves

  44. Amanda here on dad's youtube account –> After the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands, March to May of 1609 the Ryukyu people were brutalized and oppressed. Shortly before until the end of WW2 those who spoke the Ryukyu language could be summarily executed by Japanese officers. The Ryukyu people were not regarded as fully human. They were fed propaganda by the Japanese & brainwashed into believing death was preferable to being captured by the American forces.

    I have been taught that ethnic Ryukyu boys did not need their parents to give consent since they were not considered Japanese, nor fully human, Japanese law didn't apply.

  45. Back then, I would probably be forced not to fight after they find out I lied about my age, as long as I wasn’t in Japan/Germany/any desperate nation

  46. During the siege of Buda as the Soviets closed in on the pocket the Germans handed rifles to highschool boys and sent them into Soviet gun positions. Thank you for putting information out there about this, I really love your videos

  47. Dang…this was pretty rough. (Also, interesting choice of name to give to this corp, considering a certain series about the horrors of war did have a similar name and did implement child units into their ranks. I wonder if it's a way to like bolster the spirits of the "Iron-Blooded Orphans" considering they probably weren't expected to come back home.)

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