Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Impact of WW II

The Battle of Okinawa
Due to Okinawa’s unique location in relation to Japan, China, Korea, and Southeast Asia, the islands were seen as a strategic asset during World War II. In late March of 1945, the battle of Okinawa started and continued until the conclusion of the U.S. military occupation on July 2nd. The battle for control of Okinawa Island, known as the “Typhoon of Steel,” destroyed many of the Ryukyu kingdom’s cultural treasures and resulted in the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II with the deaths of more than 230,000 Japanese, American, Korean, and Chinese soldiers, civilians, and forced laborers (Allen, 2002).

The war inflicted great tragedies on people in Okinawa such as rapes by both Imperial Japanese Army and American soldiers, the mass murder of Okinawan civilians by the U.S. solders, and the order of self-determinations and mass suicides (shudan jiketsu) by desperate Imperial Japanese Army due to their suspicion of American spies among the civilians (Huber 1990; Arasaki, 2001). After the United States gained control of the island, they began to construct military bases as a foothold to invade the rest of Japan (Okinawa Prefecture Government of Military Base Affairs Division, 2008).

by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands
War II ended in Japan a few days after atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. Once Japan laid down its arms, the U.S. military took control of Okinawa and instituted “The United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR), a form of military government (Johnson, 1999). Under USCAR control, 85 percent of local inhabitants’ lands and agricultural plots in Okinawa were taken away by the armed military power to create the military bases all over the islands in a project called “gun and bulldozers” (Arasaki, 2001). Generally, the rents for utilization of the bases and subsidies to neighboring regions were minimum, and local inhabitants were often removed and repositioned by armed force (Karan, 2005).

In 1951, American and Japanese governments signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, ending occupation for mainland Japan in 1952, but that treaty divided Okinawa from Japanese independence and the USCAR occupation of the island sustained for twenty-one years after mainland Japan achieved their sovereignty (Cooley & Marten, 2006; Muto, 2004; Shimada, 2004). In the peace treaty, Okinawa was used as a “bargaining chip” to accomplish a main island Japan independence from the U.S. occupation, and the islands were left as an American colony until 1972 (Hein & Selden, 2003).

During the USCAR regime, American military bases were reinforced and extended for use in the Korean and Vietnam Wars (Shimada, 2004; Okinawa Prefecture Government of Military Base
Affairs Division, 2008). Karan (2005) argues that the American military bases in Okinawa were used as the most significant port for the solders and supplies set off the frontlines during the Vietnam War. She continues that most of the U.S. military bases in Japan were either former Imperial Japanese military bases taken over after 1945 or new bases that were constructed during the Korean War (1950-53).

The USCAR administration was terminated in May1972 due to the U.S. and Japanese governments’ agreement of the Okinawa reversion to being a Japanese prefecture with strong Okinawan local support (Allen, 2002; Johnson, 1999; Hein & Selden, 2003).

Allen, M. (2002). Identity and Resistance in Okinawa. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Arasaki, M. (2001). The Struggle Against Military Bases in Okinawa: Its history and Current Situation. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2, 102-108. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from Routledge.
Cooley, A., & Marten, K. (2006). Base Motives: The Political Economy of Okinawa’s Antimilitarism. Armed Forces and Society, 32, 566-583, Retrieved April 7, 2009, from Ebsco Electronic Journals Service.
Hein, L., & Selden, M. (2003). Culture, Power and Identity in Contemporary Okinawa. In L. Hein & M. Selden (Ed), Island of Discontent, 1-35. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Huber, T, M., (1990). Japan’s Battle of Okinawa, April-June 1945. Leavenworth Papers, 18, Retrieved April 7, 2009.
Johnson, C. (1999). The 1995 Rape Incident and The Rekindling of Okinawan Protest Against the American Bases. In C. Johnson (Ed.), Okinawa: Cold War Island, 5-9, 109-129, 215-232. Cardiff, CA: Japan Policy Research Institute.
Karan, P, P., (2005). Japan in The 21st Century: Environment, Economy, and Society: Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky.
Muto, I. (2004). U.S. Military Presence in Mainland Japan and Okinawa. U.S. military Bases in Japan, 1-2. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
Okinawa Prefecture Government of Military Base Affairs Division
Shimada, M. (2004). U.S. Bases in Okinawa. U.S. military Bases in Japan, 1-2. Retrieved April 7, 2009.


  1. This is a very interesting blog. I hope disarmament, indigenous rights, anti-militarism, and women's rights activists visit this site. I would cast out an inquiry: Where else has nonviolent action been used to attempt to shut down a military base? Was it successful? Why or why not?

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