NAHA -- With 70% of U.S. military facilities in Japan concentrated on the island prefecture of Okinawa, local residents still face the lasting effects of the Battle of Okinawa 76 years later.
Question: After the Battle of Okinawa ended in 1945, what happened to the island and its people?
Answer: After the close of World War II, Japan was occupied by the Allied powers' General Headquarters (GHQ). Under its indirect rule, the country began to democratize. However, the island groups of Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara were severed from the rest of Japan and fell directly under U.S. control. In September 1947, Emperor Hirohito (known posthumously as Emperor Showa) communicated to GHQ through an aide that he wished for U.S. forces to continue their occupation of Okinawa.
On April 28, 1952, the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect and the Allied occupation ended. While Japan regained its independence, Okinawa and the other island chains remained under U.S. rule. Due to this, April 28 is called the "day of disgrace" in Okinawa.
After Japan regained its sovereignty, protests against U.S. military bases on the Japanese mainland heated up, and many were closed. Around the same time, the U.S. military forcibly seized land from Okinawa residents and continued expanding its bases. This was called the "bayonet and bulldozer" method by residents. Following the expansion of military facilities, the U.S. Marines in mainland Japan transferred to Okinawa.
The islands of Okinawa were returned to Japanese rule on May 15, 1972, ending the U.S. occupation that had stretched 27 years from when the Battle of Okinawa ended. However, even today, 70% of U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture. The very origin of the U.S. base issues in the island prefecture today is the Battle of Okinawa 76 years ago, and it continues to affect Okinawa and its people.
(This is the final part of a 10-part series)
(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau. Hiroshi Higa, Kyushu News Department, assisted in the selection of photos used in this series.)