Hiroshima Insight

Mobilized students

Working daily instead of attending school

During World War II, particularly towards the end of the war, Japanese teens were compelled to work at munitions factories and help clean up the debris of buildings that were demolished to create fire lanes. They were known as "mobilized students" and they attended few, if any, classes.

This mobilization was imposed on students who were of junior high school age and above; in other words, older than 12 or 13. In August 1941, by the order of the Ministry of Education, students were mobilized into groups to support the war effort. As the war intensified, they were forced to work longer hours, and in March 1944, they began working full days throughout the year.

In Hiroshima, older students were directed to work at munitions factories, where they made parts for ships and planes, or they sewed military uniforms at their schools. Starting in November 1944, they helped demolish houses and buildings in order to create fire breaks in the event of air raids.

According to an exhibition held at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in 2004, of the total of roughly 26,800 mobilized students in Hiroshima, about 7,200 of them perished in the atomic bombing. Some 5,900 of the dead were working at demolition sites near the hypocenter.