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Large WWII-era shelter discovered in Motobu

Date Posted: 2012-06-08

A 30-meters-long shelter believed to have been built by the Imperial Japanese Army has been discovered in the hills of Motobu’s Kenken district.

Local residents stumbled onto the dug-out shelter in late April, while upgrading a walking path that had been neglected for more than two decades. The director of the Motobu Municipal Museum, Tetsuo Tomori, says no human remains were found in the shelter, so “the Imperial Japanese Army may have actually abandoned the location before it could be used in battle.”

Officials trying to trace what military units could have been responsible for the shelter discovered an August 10th, 1944 staff diary entry from the 3rd battalion, 15th Independent Mixed Regiment, noting there was a heavy artillery platoon deployed near Tobaru, which is close to Kenken. The artillery unit’s mission was to provide fire-support for units in the area, and the shelter would appear to be in the same vicinity.

Tomori says “It is rare to find a shelter so large and well preserved. We would like to consider using it for peace education. The 30-meter-long shelter is about two meters high and a meter wide. Officials say the shelter could have been critical for Japanese military units in northern parts of Okinawa, where they were to protect Ie-Jima, where vital military airfields were located.

An elderly Kenken resident, 74-year-old Tatsuhiko Shiroma, says he remembers Korean laborers led by armed Japanese soldiers in 1944, and speculated “I imagine it was those Koreans who built the shelter.” Shiroma says no fighting occurred in the area becaue the IJA troops retreated from Kenken following massive air raids on Okinawa on October 10th, 1944.

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