On September 4, 1995, 2 U.S. marines and a sailor kidnapped, duct-taped, beat, and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl "just for fun." On September 29, 1995, the three U.S. servicemen were indicted and handed over to Japanese custody.
The rape precipitated a temporary crisis in the US-Japan Security Alliance and catalyzed participatory democracy in Okinawa, spurring previously politically inactive people, especially housewives and elders, to challenge U.S. military presence on their small island. Local activism led by the Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence resulted in the historic Oct. 22, 1995 mass demonstration against U.S. bases in Okinawa.
In November of the same year, Adm. Richard C. Macke, a four-star admiral and 35-year Navy veteran who was commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, resigned after making this comment at a press conference: "I think it was absolutely stupid, I've said several times. For the price they paid to rent the car, they could have had a girl." But both sexual assaults and prostitution are methods of subjugation, according to Suzuyo Takazato, director of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, who stated in 1995: "Prostitution and rape are the military system’s outlets for pent up aggression and methods of maintaining control and discipline – the target being local community women.”
Despite the admiral's resignation and expressions of remorse by the White House, rapes of Okinawan women by U.S. troops have continued: In 2001, an Air Force sergeant was arrested for publicly raping a 20-year-old Okinawan woman on the hood of a car. In 2002, Okinawan authorities took into custody a Marine major for sexually assaulting a Filipina server outside an officer's club. In 2003, military police handed over to Okinawan police a marine who broke a 19-year-old woman's nose and raped her. In 2005, a drunken Air Force sergeant molested a 10-year-old Okinawan girl on her way to Sunday school. He claimed to be innocent, but police found a photo of the girl's naked body on his cell phone.
This 1995 report from L.A. Times staff writer Teresa Watanabe graphically reminds us of the violence and emotional trauma the U.S. military presence has brought to Okinawa for almost seven decades:
Okinawa Rape Suspect's Lawyer Gives Dark Account: Japan: Attorney of accused Marine says co-defendant admitted assaulting 12-year-old girl "just for fun."Read the entire 1995 article here.
October 28, 1995
Los Angeles Times
Three young men sit confined in an Okinawa jail, an ocean away from their hometowns in Texas and Georgia, possibly unaware that the brutal rape they are charged with committing against a Japanese girl has ignited a political firestorm between Japan and the United States.
To the folks back home, the two Marines, Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 21, and Pfc. Kendrick M. Ledet, 20, and Navy Seaman Marcus D. Gill, 22, are well-mannered young men...
But in Japan, where the rape has provoked the largest demonstrations against U.S. military bases in Okinawan history, the men were excoriated as "animals" by no less than U.S. Ambassador Walter Mondale in a meeting with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono.
Pictures of Ledet and Harp have been splashed on the front page of a sports tabloid with the banner headline "U.S. Military Devils."
And in an interview this week, Harp's attorney, Mitsunobu Matsunaga, related a disturbing account of three men out to buy sex and deciding on rape instead, because one of them did not have enough money.
"[Gill] said, 'It was just for fun,' " Matsunaga said...
Rape convictions under Japanese law normally result in sentences of three to four years, but U.S. courts-martial for rape in Okinawa have typically carried a minimum sentence of 10 years, said Matsunaga, a Japanese attorney who has represented more than 300 U.S. servicemen on the southern island over the past 29 years.
"We want to try our [own] people so we can hold our people up as a model," said Col. A.J. Cunningham, top legal counsel for the U.S. forces in Japan.
Even so, the military justice system in general--under which a suspect's commander decides whether to bring charges and ultimately approves any penalty--has come under recent attack for being soft on sexual-assault crimes.
Critics say the military's closed proceedings encourage that trend.
Matsunaga's account of the Sept. 4 events are based on interviews with his client and on statements the three men gave to Japanese police after they were indicted and handed over to Japanese custody on Sept. 29...
Matsunaga said that Gill, driving a rented white car, picked up Harp, Ledet and another serviceman about noon at the Camp Hansen Marine base for lunch. They drove around all afternoon, and when Gill began talking about rape, the fourth man asked to be dropped off, because he did not want to participate.
Matsunaga said Harp and Ledet had about $30 and wanted to pay for sex, but Gill vetoed the plan because he was broke. He said paid sex was "no fun" and proposed rape instead, Matsunaga continued.
The two Marines "didn't take it seriously, and they didn't agree to it," Matsunaga said, but they realized Gill was serious after he showed them he was prepared with duct tape and condoms.
About 8 p.m., the men saw a Japanese girl wearing a school uniform and carrying a bag of books walking along the street, the attorney said. They stopped the car, and Ledet pulled her inside, putting her into the back seat while Harp taped her mouth and eyes and hit her once. Matsunaga said Gill bound her hands and legs.
The three men drove to a secluded field about 20 minutes away, parked the car and got out. Gill--described by one acquaintance as a "tank," 6 feet tall and weighing 260 to 270 pounds--got into the back seat.
Matsunaga said Gill "violently" beat the struggling child, telling her to "let me do what I want to do."
Ledet and Harp went into the back seat afterward but, seeing how young she was, pulled back, Matsunaga said. The three threw her out of the car and left. They were arrested by U.S. military police two days later...
Rapes of Okinawans by U.S. military servicemen have gone unabated, with another U.S. Marine arrested for a violent sexual assault this past August.