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Typhoon of Steel: Survivors faced hardships in US camps, returning home (Pt. 9)

Residents are sent to internment camps after the U.S. landing, in the Sobe district of the Okinawa Prefecture village of Yomitan, on April 4, 1945. (Photo courtesy of the Okinawa Prefectural Archives)

NAHA -- After the Battle of Okinawa, residents who had lived under harsh conditions in U.S. internment camps were gradually released. However, upon returning, some Okinawans found U.S. military bases where their towns and homes once stood.

    Question: What happened to surviving residents after the Battle of Okinawa?

    Answer: After making landfall on the main island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, U.S forces divided the island into north and south, expanding the invasion in both directions. Not long after in early April, residents caught in the path of the conflict were sent to civilian holding facilities built by the U.S. Most of these internment camps were located around the northern part of the main island.

    By the end of the organized resistance of the Japanese Imperial Army in late June, roughly 280,000 Okinawans lived in the camps. There, large groups lived in buildings and thatched-roof houses that had survived the fierce firefight, as well as tents and other structures. Many died from malaria, malnutrition and other conditions. There were also cases of women being assaulted by U.S. military personnel.

    Japanese soldiers who surrendered were sent to separate prisoner-of-war camps. Some of the soldiers who hailed from Okinawa Prefecture were even sent to Hawaii for a time. Those who were from the Japanese mainland began to be repatriated around October 1946.

    During the Battle of Okinawa, U.S. forces built one military base after another on occupied land. From October 1945, Okinawa residents were gradually allowed to return to their homes, but where bases had been built, they had no choice but to settle in surrounding areas. One example is the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. It covers 1/4 of the area of the city of Ginowan, and is located in the very center of the city.

    (Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)

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