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Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review - The Girl With the White Flag

Recently I read a book called “The Girl with the White Flag.” The book is a personal account of a young girl separated from her family during the battle of Okinawa. I’ve decided this fits the War, Peace and Politics category for Saturday’s. The book is a short read being only 127 pages in length but it is a true account of a little girls struggle during the battle for Okinawa during World War II. It is written by Tomiko Higa, the actual girl holding the flag in a photo snapped by a military photographer soon after the battle for Okinawa came to an end and the fighting was drawing to an close. The author kept quiet about her experience until the photo surfaced many years later and was misrepresented in the media. The author then felt compelled to set the story strait and went public before writing down her account in the book.


First sentence: I was born in Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, which is now part of the city of Naha.
 
The Girl with the White Flag is the story of period of time in 1945 during the author's childhood in war-time Okinawa. It begins by giving the reader ample background into the time and culture and place. It provides good insite into the innocence of the time before world war II and a much more primative Okinawan. We meet our heroine, a young girl who through out most of the book spans the ages of five through seven although at the end she is an adult as it describes her decision and search for the photographer who took her photo. One of the first events she shares with readers is the death of her mother. She then relates what life was like with her father, two older sisters, and her older brother during a much simpler time in Okinawa. She describes a life in rural Shuri that may be hard for modern readers to grasp and understand. The little girl’s family life, the harshness of the times she lived, the strictness and discipline of her father, as well as the monstrosities of war and starvation.
 

About halfway through the narrative, the father disappears while setting out to find food. He had given the children instructions to follow if he failed to returned home and after a couple of days they realize they are left to fend for themselves. The American soldiers have just begun their invasion of the island and the children become refugees moving south to look for their father. The going is very rough and they struggle along the way just to survive. The children range in age from six to seventeen. Somewhere along the way their brother dies one night from a stray bullet while huddled next to the little girl. Then soon after burying their brother the little girl becomes separated from her sisters.
 

The book recounts what it was like to be seven and alone and wandering in and out of danger. There was no safe place. Not really. Japanese soldiers weren't "safe." In fact, in her brief encounters with them she was almost killed by one of them. She figures things out as she goes and realizes that being near soldiers wasn't safe and was something to avoid at all costs. She realizes that the only "safe" soldier is a dead soldier the kind that was a source of food because of the supplies they carried with them during the battle.

Her will to survive was strong. She uses the knowledge her father had provided her earlier in her life to find food and safety in a very precarious situation. The sights, sounds, and smells, which surrounded her, are very well portrayed by the author.

If there is power in this book, the Girl with The White Flag, it is in its sheer rawness, its simplicity, and its boldness when it comes to being straight forward and honest. The story is incredibly powerful because it's a true of the girl’s experiences. Here is an eyewitness account of what it means to be seven and a refugee in a war zone. It can be brutal. It can be intense. But there is more to it than that. I would recommend the book to the younger generation of Okinawans whose grandparents probably lived through the same traumatic experiences as the little girl telling the story. Many of the older generation were traumatized by the war and did not speak of their experiences during the battle. These however are stories that should be told to the world so that people will realize how horrendous war actually is especially when it is up close and personal. Let's all strive for Peace.

3 comments:

  1. I recently visted the peace memorial in Okinawa and came across the picture of the "girl with the white surrender flag." The picture inspired my curiosity to find out more about the battle of Okinawa. I have studied the War Strategy intensely, but never the human side. This was a powerful and loving book of this young girl. I reccomend this book to any one.

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  2. I just finished this book. What a tremendous read. I spent three years in Okinawa, from 1975 to 1978, while my father was stationed at Kadena. My love for this tiny island in the East China Sea has never faded, and after reading this book, it has only grown. I remember my parents trying to impress upon me the horror the Okinawan people endured during the invasion, but my young mind couldn't even begin to comprehend it.

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  3. We Are Reading This Book In Class For This Year. I Think It Is A Very Interesting Book, Full Of Amazing Details About The War. You Should Definitely Read This Book!!!

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