US Marine Training on Okinawa & Its Global Mission: A Bird’s-Eye View of Bases From the Air

posted by Martha Duenas Baum

The online Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus has recently posted several articles piecing together the larger context of the shuffling by Japan, China and the US in the past months. These dance steps have taken us through numerous proposals by the Japanese government to appease the communities in Okinawa who have suffered the abusive presence of US soldiers “training” for war; threatening and intimidating statements and visits by various US government and military officials to Japan warning of security threats, and the overwhelming response of the Okinawan  people coming together on 25 April with the force of an estimated 93,000 people to claim, “NO MORE US BASES IN OKINAWA. PEACE TO THE WORLD.”

The video footage of the bases on the island of Okinawa included in this post are rare scenes of the training areas occupied by the US military on the island.

The story of Okinawa is the story of the people of Guåhan. We are to the United States what Okinawa is to Japan: a strategic posession that carries enormous importance in the political, economic and military dominance of the United States in their quest for global control, that carries NO consideration of the culture, the islands or the people of our beloved islands.

The work of Japan Focus’ reporting can inform us in ways that can help us to understand this many-headed monster we face in standing up to the hypermilitarization of our islands. The information can help us to see the process and pattern of the United States in its relationship and treatment of its hosts in their land. We the people of Guåhan and the Mariana are mere possessions of the United States. When have they ever listened to us?  Consulted with us? Collaborated with us? Acted in good faith in the democracy that peoples across the earth yearn to experience under the governance of the United States of America?

What we have as the people of Guåhan (we have) are resources to inform and educate ourselves to our own colonized history under the United States, about the movements across the globe resisting such aggressive militarism that brings harm and destruction to our culture and our environment and we have the will to claim our place in the world amongst the numerous peace-loving communities who say “NO” to militarism and war and join the voices who say, “YES” to peace and prosperity for our world and mother earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

from The Asia-Pacific Journal::Japan Focus:

http://www.japanfocus.org/-Furutachi-Ichiro/3363

 

Furutachi Ichiro (video) and Norimatsu Satoko (text)


On May 20, 2010, TV Asahi’s nightly news program “Hodo Station” broadcast a 20-minute special by anchor Furutachi Ichiro on the US Marine Corps bases in Okinawa.  The previous day Furutachi and his staff flew around those bases by helicopter, from the south to the north of Okinawa Island, then to Iejima and Torishima, two islands west of the main island.  They provide rare bird’s-eye views of the bases, despite restrictions on how close civilian aircraft can fly. This is supplemented by rare footage of Marine training and action from Okinawa and Japan to Vietnam and Iraq.

Map of US military bases in Okinawa.  Red: Marine Corps; Dark Blue: Air Force (Kadena); Green: Army; Bright Blue: Navy; Light Blue: Water Space and Airspace for Training

About 20% of Okinawa Island is occupied by bases exclusively for U.S. military use, 77% (15 bases and facilities) of which are managed by the Marines.  Furutachi flew from Makiminato Service Area (Camp Kinser) just north of Naha, a logistic service base that supplied everything “from toilet paper to missiles” during the Vietnam War, then to Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City and Camp Schwab in the northern city of Nago, the two bases that have been the centre of media attention, with a replacement facility of the former planned to be built near the latter.  Furutachi guides viewers beyond the often-reported Cape Henoko, proposed site of the new base jutting into the bay, to the mountainous inland area of Camp Schwab, where Marines conduct jungle training, drawing attention to several rectangular buildings described as ammunition depots.

Map from the website of Okinawa Prefecture.  Torishima, which is not shown on this map, is about 60 miles west of the Okinawa Island.

Furutachi’s guided tour reminds viewers that Marines are really in Okinawa for training, a global mission that has little to do with “protecting Japan”, as many Japanese have been led to believe by the notion of “deterrence” incessantly cited by politicians. Particularly striking is the scale and nature of the drills conducted within Camp Hansen in central Okinawa, which is ten times the size of Futenma and occupyies more than half of the towns of Kin and Ginoza, and significant portions of Onna and Nago.  The camera reveals several “simulated cities” among the thick forests of the base where live-fire training prepares Marines for urban combat. 2,200 troops were dispatched from this base for the attack on Fallujah, Iraq, in November and December, 2004, in which thousands of civilians were killed and the city virtually destroyed.  Furutachi discloses that “Three months prior to the Battle of Fallujah, a USMC helicopter crashed into the campus of Okinawa International University adjacent to Futenma Air Station.  That helicopter was scheduled to go to Iraq after being joined by battle units of Camp Hansen.”

Camp Gonsalves, the largest of all Okinawa bases, is set in the rich “Yanbaru Forest” of northern Okinawa. Home to the Jungle Warfare Training Center, it is the only US jungle training facility in the world.  Furutachi moves onto Camp Kuwae (Camp Lester), where the largest military hospital in the Far East is located, Camp Zukeran (Camp Foster), where spacious suburban-style family houses “built with the ‘sympathy budget’ of Japan” are shown, and then on to Camp Courtney, headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and 3rd Marine Division.  Furutachi points out that “These facilities are command centers of US global wars from Hawaii to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.”

The last two stops of Furutachi’s helicopter tour are the islands of Iejima and Torishima.  Iejima’s Marine air station is used for parachute drop training and take-off and landing training.  Torishima serves as an aircraft firing range for both Air Force and Marines.  The island, once covered with rich forests, is now completely disfigured.  After testing depleted uranium weapons on Torishima in the mid-90’s, the Marines have recently assaulted it with cluster bombs.

The significance of Furutachi’s report is in the detailed visual exposure of the training fields and live-fire ranges that have rarely been subject to scrutiny in Japan, the United States or internationally, in contrast to such visible emblems of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa as air stations and beaches.  Furutachi and other commentators were stunned to encounter the reality of simulated battlefields, beyond the dry statistics of bases that comprise “20% of the island”, a figure that the media repeat ad infinitum.

On May 23, Prime Minister Hatoyama announced the government’s plan to build a Marine runway over the Cape of Henoko, betraying his pre-election pledge not to build a Futenma replacement facility within Okinawa, an island already saturated with military bases. Okinawan people have expressed overwhelming opposition to base expansion on the island.  Footage like that provided below can not only strengthen the deep Okinawan resistance to expansion of the military base footprint on their island, but also could help to awaken Japanese who have found it easy to look the other way so long as the bases were largely confined to Okinawa. 

Norimatsu Satoko prepared this introduction for The Asia-Pacific Journal and for the Peace Philosophy Centre. She leads various peace initiatives in Vancouver and beyond, including, Peace Philosophy Centre and Vancouver Save Article 9.

U.S. Marine Corps Bases in Okinawa (1)

U.S. Marine Corps Bases in Okinawa (2)

 Recommended citation: Furutachi Ichiro and Norimatsu Satoko, “US Marine Training on Okinawa and Its Global Mission: a Birds-Eye View of Bases From the Air,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22-1-10, May 31, 2010.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia - Pacific, Military/Military Build-up

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s