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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 April 24 - May 7  > April 28, ‘Day of insult’ for Okinawans
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2013 April 24 - May 7 TOP3 [OKINAWA]

April 28, ‘Day of insult’ for Okinawans

April 27, 2013
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo stated that April 28, when the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, “marked the first step toward Okinawa’s return to Japan”. This is contrary to Okinawans’ perception of that date, who have experienced tremendous suffering under and struggled against the heavy presence of U.S. bases on their land.

According to an opinion poll reported by the Okinawa Times on April 23, 70% of Okinawan residents are opposed to the event hosted by the Abe Cabinet to commemorate “Japan’s restoration of its sovereignty” on April 28.

Following the 1945 land battle in Okinawa, the islands came under U.S. control. In the 1950s, local voices increased calling for their land to be returned to Japan. Signatures in support of the call were signed at the time by 72% of all eligible voters in Okinawa.

On August 19 in 1951, Okinawa’s Miyako Island Assembly sent a telegram to the U.S. government, requesting the U.S. to give careful consideration to the assembly’s unanimous resolution calling for Okinawa to be returned to Japan. Okinawa’s three other local assemblies also adopted similar resolutions and notified the U.S. in telegrams.

However, on September 8, 20 days after the Miyako Island Assembly telegram was sent to the U.S., the Japanese government signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty which put Amami, Okinawa, and Ogasawara islands under U.S. administration.

The aim of the U.S. was to exclusively and permanently occupy Okinawa as its strategic forward military base in the Asia-Pacific region. In May 1949, the U.S. National Security Council decided to retain Okinawa on a long-term basis.

In addition to the U.S. bases they built on the land taken from residents after the land battle, the U.S. forces in November 1952 demanded expropriation of more land in order to expand their bases. In April 1953, the U.S. imposed a land expropriation law on Okinawa. The U.S. forces bulldozed rice fields, set fire to residents’ homes, and used violent means to beat up them and chase them off their land.

The so-called “bayonets and bulldozers” tactic was used in Mawashi Village (currently part of Naha City, April 1953), Oroku Village (currently part of Naha City, December 1953), Ie Village (March 1955), and Isahama district (currently part of Ginowan City, July 1955).

Residents continually struggled to defend their land throughout Okinawa. In Oroku Village, residents, including women and children, held a sit-in against about 500 armed U.S. soldiers. The late Senaga Kamejiro of the Okinawa People’s Party recalled the struggle by saying, “This will be remembered forever as residents’ first collective resistance in the history of Okinawa’s liberation.”

* * *

A testimony

“In Okinawa at that time, we had no human rights. In 1955, a 6-year-old girl was found dead after being raped and killed by a U.S. soldier. In 1959, a woman was shot to death but the suspect, a U.S. sergeant, was later found not guilty because he claimed he had ‘mistaken her for a wild boar’. There is no accurate count of how many Okinawans fell victims to U.S. crimes,” said an Okinawan man.

Takamiyagi Kiyoshi, a former teacher at an Okinawa elementary school, looked back on that time and said:

In the 1950s, I was an elementary school teacher. The U.S. military prohibited farmers in Isahama (currently part of Ginowan City) from planting rice because of a supposed outbreak of mosquitos. Local residents ignored this order and launched a struggle to get back their land.

On July 18 in 1955, the deadline of an ultimatum to hand over the Isahama land, thousands of people came to Isahama from all over Okinawa to stop the seizure, but the U.S. forces didn’t show up that day.

It was at around 4:00 a.m. the next morning when the U.S. began their surprise takeover. I ran looking for help. On the way, I saw a lot of armed soldiers on the Military Road One (currently Route 58).

Five hours later, I went back to Isahama and saw that the area was already enclosed and barbed-wired. The residents were dragged out of their homes. We had to watch as their houses were demolished and 42.9 hectares of their beautiful paddy fields were leveled and filled with sea gravel.

Even though Okinawa was not protected by the Japanese Constitution until 1972, I taught children at school the peaceful principles of the Constitution. We really wanted our islands to be protected by the pacifist Constitution. Our united struggles eventually led to success in 1972.

I can’t stand the recent moves by the national government towards changing the pacifist Constitution.
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