30 July 2015
Okinawa is one of the few dozen small strategic subtropical islands in southern Japan between the mainland Japan and Taiwan. In 1945 Okinawans were part of the Japanese Empire, and citizens considered themselves subject of the Emperor - but they were a separate nation with their own language and autochthonous traditions.
By the time Allies landed on Okinawa in March, the Japanese could only hope to protract the war a bit longer. The outcome was inevitable. Already in February 1945, the Emperor’s Prime Minister has advised surrender. On April 1, when the U.S. bombed Tokyo, 100,000 citizens were killed in less than two hours! Many people had resorted to suicide. By May 1945, the entire Japanese military had been reduced by 70% of its previous capacity.
In Okinawa, weary troops and local people – women and children – were ordered to “hold out until the last drop of blood” as 200,000 tons of ordnance was dropped on them: in some places at a density of three tons per square meter. This “typhoon of steel” indiscriminately killed over 150,000 Japanese (30% of the total population). The Allies suffered about 50,000 casualties – many from sheer exhaustion.
In the end, Okinawan survivors recognized the cruelty of war and also the perverse face of the Imperial army. Rather than protect civilians, surviving soldiers forced civilians to kill one another. Soldiers killed one another for scraps of food.
In hindsight, Okinawans believe that the perverse militarism of mainland Japan had served them to the wolves to buy time. Today they use the term “discrimination.”
At the same time there remains in Okinawa an undeniable gratitude to the Allies for providing succor rather than death to POWs in the U.S. internment camps.
In 2000, what was a war museum in southern Okinawa, became the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. It is the legacy of Ota Masahide (Governor of Okinawa from 1990-98). The new installations focus on how common citizens inevitably became victims of militarization from BOTH sides of the Asia-Pacific conflict. The citizens of Okinawa were crushed by the mortar of the Allies in the Japanese pestle of the mainland Japanese.
Installations repeatedly depict the cruelty of Japanese soldiers threatening Okinawan families. While serving as an indictment of the Japanese army, and their involvement is multiple mass atrocities on mainland Asia (just as an example, 20 million Chinese were slaughtered in Mancuria alone), unfortunately the museum somehow serves as an apology for the allied invasion (American planners were probably correct in thinking that if this is the kind of resistance that Japan could muster, before attacking mainland Japan they needed to display a massive show of force in Okinawa).
A sign at the Museum reads:
"Whenever we look at the truth about the Battle of Okinawa, we think there is nothing as brutal, nothing more dishonorable than war. In face of this traumatic experience, no one will be able to speak out for or idealize war. To be sure it’s human being who start wars, but more than that, isn’t it it we human beings who must also prevent wars? Since the end of the war we have abhorred all wars long yearning to create a peaceful island. To acquire this our unwavering principle we have paid dearly."
The U.S. had chosen to take Okinawa for its strategic geographic location. Even when the rest of Japan regained sovereignty in 1954 (in 1954 the rest of Japan regained sovereignty – be it under the “proxy” CIA molded LDP government), Okinawa was left to its own fate.
Nuclear weapons were brought in as early as 1957when several bases served on Nike Hercules. In the mid to late 60’s, Okinawan bases, in particular the Kadena base, served B52 bombing missions into Vietnam.
Okinawa remained under U.S. administration until 1972 (in Okinawa, 1972 is remembered as “the year of insult” and the humiliation remains). But even after 1972, land taken by the U.S. for military purposes after the war was not returned. In the face of Art. 46 of The Hague Convention (Article 46 of the Hague Convention forbids an occupying force from confiscating private property), Okinawans consider the land stolen, and their territory occupied. Seventy years after the war, Okinawa remains a virtual U.S. colony housing 74% of the 50,000-strong U.S. military forces in Japan.
As tensions rise between U.S./Japan and North Korea/China, Okinawans see their island could again become a potential target. According to 1995 statistics, 32 U.S. bases in Okinawa (80% marine corps) occupy 20% of the territory – at Japanese expense. Their objections to the presence of U.S. military bases on the island falls on deaf ears in Tokyo ...
One poster in the museum links the whole base/war issue to poverty:
"Children who die of starvation . . . without homes . . . who have to work to
support their families. They are not just the problem of some distant country.
Our lives depend on what happens in the world as a whole. We will create the
future together with children around the world."