Tuesday, October 23, 2012

American Crime Continues on Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of my friends on Okinawa mentioned in an email yesterday that all members of the U.S. military on the small island are under a nightly curfew.  The reason, it seems, is that a couple of drunken sailors sexually assaulted an Okinawan woman.   Those guys have been arrested by the Japanese authorities, but apparently our government has seen fit to keep its military on base in the evenings in order to let things cool down.

When I first arrived on Okinawa in 1971, the island was under control of the United States government, as it had been since the close of World War II.  Our country gave Okinawa back to the Japanese government (though many of the locals would have preferred independence to being handed over to another government) on May 15, 1972 - a date referred to locally as "Reversion Day."

Since that time there have been reports of over 5,000 crimes being committed by Americans on Okinawa, including twelve murders.  One of the more horrific crimes was the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old school girl by two U.S. Marines and a sailor.  That outrage spurred an Okinawan "community meeting" with over 85,000 locals in attendance.

The very first capital crime committed by an American against an Okinawan after "reversion" occurred late in the evening of August 4, 1972.  A 37-year-old Okinawan female bar worker invited an eighteen-year-old soldier home with her after the bar closed.    The young soldier was drunk and became angry when the woman, whom he considered to be a friend from the bar, asked for money.  He wound up choking her to death and then laying a knife, ritualistically, across her chest.   The following year he was tried in an Okinawan courtroom and sentenced to life in prison on mainland Japan.

I know quite a bit about that case.  I was transferred to a new unit while stationed on the island in the seventies.  One of my first duties was to be the escort officer who accompanied the young man from the American brig where he was housed to his trial appearances in Naha.  He was from Florida, and one day as we left by trial, we pulled in at my place - also in Naha - where I took a couple of pictures of him.  He mailed those photos to his mother back in Florida, and he told me later that she said they meant a great deal to her.

On the day that the young man was convicted and received his sentence, the judge admonished him for failing to apologize to the victim's family.  He told me later that no one had told him that he should do that.    It was apparently a serious cultural mistake.

I looked that crime up on the Internet, but could only find the date and the ages of the soldier and his victim.  Sadly, I cannot remember the young man's name.  If he is still alive, he would be in his late fifties now and probably still in that Japanese prison.

If there is a good researcher reading this, I would be most interested in trying to fill in some of my mental gaps - and maybe even checking in on the man who was little more than a sad, stupid kid four decades ago.

Meanwhile, many young people living away from home in foreign settings still drink and make bad decisions - sometimes with deadly consequences.  That has not changed.

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