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War era shelter discovered on Urasoe construction site

Date Posted: 2008-09-26

Construction workers in the Gusukuma area of Urasoe City were stunned when the ground gave way, opening what officials now confirm was a former Japanese military air raid shelter.

Government officials say the discovery shows the World War II shelter had been used as a guerrilla operations base, expressing relief it was discovered before the new housing area was complete. Inside the collapsed underground shelter explosive ordnance personnel found hand grenades, machine gun parts and cylinders, as personal hygiene items such as tooth brushes.

The construction company was working under contract to the Urasoe City Board of Education. Japanese Self Defense Force teams have taken control of the site while it is scoured for other munitions that could prove hazardous to the residential neighborhood.

The shelter was a 35-meters long tunnel, 1.6 meters high and varying from 1.2 to 3.5 meters in width. Officials say the tunnel ceiling and side walls were cracked and appeared dangerous of collapse even without the vibrations of construction equipment. “We are going to get subsidy money from the government,” Urasoe City officials said, “and then budget tht money to fill in and bury the tunnel.

Okinawa University Professor Shinobu Yoshihama says “the Urasoe and Nishihara areas were fierce battle spots” during the Battle of Okinawa in Spring 1945. He says “The shelter should be more than simply a shelter, and will probably turn out to have peoples’ graves inside.” Officials say they haven’t determined yet which Japanese Imperial Army unit occupied the tunnel, or what the unit’s mission was.

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