Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Targeted Village, A Documentary by Chie Mikami April 4 @ 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm, Santa Cruz, CA

In Okinawa, the people of Takae village are convicted by the Japanese government for obstructing traffic in the struggle for the recognition of their human rights, property rights, dignity, and desire for the preservation of Yanbaru, the subtropical rainforest in northern Okinawa.

The obstruction was part of their struggle against the construction of new helipads for low-level flight training of MV-Osprey transport aircraft in the rainforest, a World Natural Heritage site candidate. The story of the people of Takae embodies U.S. military seizures of private and public property dating back to the 1950s; use of villagers for mock target practice during the Vietnam War; and the blocking of gates to the Futenma base during a historic protest in the fall of 2012, against hazardous V-22 Osprey low-level flight training in Okinawa.

The film will be followed by a Q and A and Discussion with UCSC Professor Alan Christy and Doctoral Student Yoko Fukumura.

Suggested Donation: $5-$10, no one is turned away.

Sponsors: The Targeted Village Showing Steering Committee in California, the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and the UCSC Department of History


Thursday, March 26, 2015

70th Anniversary of the U.S. assault on the Kerama Islands • Remembering the Kerama victims of Japanese military forced group suicide

Memorial service at Zemami this morning. (Photo: Ryukyu Shimpo)

Today is the 70th anniversary of the U.S. assault on the Kerama Islands, the first invasion of "Operation Iceberg", the last US land campaign of the Pacific War.  The Battle of Okinawa was not really a battle; it was an annihilation.  An armada of 1,500 US ships, carrying 548,000 Americans, faced the last dregs of the Japanese Army and gentle Okinawans who had no chance to resist the war into which Imperial Japan forced them. Poorly trained student Corp child soldiers, "Home Guard" militia, and student nurses made up the local conscripts in the Japanese 32nd Army's 110,000 members in Okinawa. The 32nd Army had no naval support: the Japanese Imperial super battleship Yamato, and five of nine small ships capsized after exploding from nonstop bombing by 300 U.S. planes before the Japanese fleet reached Okinawa, their one-way suicide destination. The four surviving ships retreated to the Japanese mainland.

"Mobilized" only a few weeks before the U.S. invasion, the conscripted Okinawan children and teenagers received no weapons training, only short-pants uniforms. The student soldiers and student nurses were told Japan would win the battle in a few days; so the girls and their teachers brought their books with them to keep up their studies. They had no idea that, in months, they would receive orders to give cyanide to wounded Japanese soldiers covered with maggots in the dark, hot cave battlefield hospitals, and, that, at the end of the Battle of Okinawa in three months, they would be pushed into the battlefield to fend for themselves.

Okinawans were not protected by the Japanese military during the Battle of Okinawa. 
They were used as laborers, conscripts, nurses,"comfort women," and human shields.

Caught in between the US forces and the pathetic, ragtag army: 450,000 Okinawan civilians whom the Japanese government did not evacuate or protect.  100,000 had been evacuated earlier, not to protect them, but to ensure a food supply for the 32nd Army which also numbered around 100,000. Many of the Okinawan civilian evacuees, including children, were killed en route to Japan when US warships torpedoed cargo ships carrying these civilian passengers.  The three-month battle sacrificed 150,000 Okinawan civilians, 77,166 of the Japanese soldiers and military conscripts, many whom were murdered by their compatriots upon being wounded or committed suicide, and 14,009 Americans.

70th Anniversary of the March 26, 1945 U.S. assault on the Kerama Islands.

The U.S. bombed the tiny islands southwest of the Okinawan mainland for several days before the March 26 and March 27 invasions.  The 300 Japanese "Sea Raiding" suicide torpedo boat pilots stationed at the Keramas were supposed to slow the U.S. "typhoon of steel and bombs", but they failed to carry out a single suicide attack on the American battleships bombarding the shore.  Instead, the soldiers joined civilians in hiding, where Japanese officers began implementing their only successful mission: terrorizing and killing the islands' civilians.

The tiny Kerama Islands are situated to the southwest of the Okinawa mainland.

By March 29th, the U.S. had seized nearly the entire Keramas, including the 4 tiny inhabited islands: Tokashiki Island, Zamami Island, Aka Island, and Geruma Island. During these battles, Japanese officers ordered the mass suicide (shudan jiketsu) of Okinawans on these Islands. The people were forced to commit suicide by the coercion (kyosei) and inducement (yudo). Handing out grenades and cyanide, the 32nd Army ordered the group deaths of the people who had lived in the Keramas peacefully for centuries until the Japanese military arrival. Only a few managed to escape and survive.

Some civilians on Toshiaki Island escaped the mass suicide order and surrendered to the US military.

The death toll from the forced group suicides was 330 people for Tokashiki-jima Island, 177 persons on Zamami-jima Island, and on Geruma-jima Island it was 53 people. 2 families are said to have killed themselves on tiny Yakabi Island. In addition to the Japanese military murdering residents whom they called "spies," 600 Korean laborers and "comfort women" (military sexual slaves) also lost their lives.

Exhibition of photographs of Toshiaki Island survivors of the forced mass suicide and their wounds. 
Courtesy of Mr. Hiroshi Yamashiro, Via Okinawa Peace Research Institute.

In February, Prince Konoe Fumimaro had advised the Japanese emperor to surrender and stop the continuation of deaths, suffering, and destruction of the Pacific War. The navy and  air force were practically wiped out.  Most of Japan's major cities had been destroyed by firebombing before the Battle of Okinawa. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were dead, or wounded and starving. The Japanese government knew the Battle of Okinawa was lost in advance, that it would be a bloodbath; however the Ryukyuan people and their garden-like islands were cast as a last "sacrifice stone" simply to extend a war without mercy.  Okinawan civilians were used as laborers, and eventually human shields,  before the final sacrifices by forced group suicide. Korean military slave laborers and Korean and Taiwanese "comfort women" (military sexual slaves at the 145 "comfort stations" in Okinawa), erased from from the media and history books, as if they never existed, were also sacrificed.

Memorial service for the 600 people forced to commit suicide. 

The Japanese government has never apologized to Okinawans for the willful disregard of life in the planning of the Battle of Okinawa; the near-genocidal civilian death toll; the group suicide orders; the loss of homes, farms, means of livelihood, and near-total destruction of the culture of ancient Ryukyuan kingdom.

Okinawans had no part in formulating the Japanese military government decisions that led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War. Yet Okinawans are still being punished, and have never been allowed to live freely and peacefully.  Under the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, the Japanese government gave control of the islands to the U.S. military which continued the Japanese wartime pattern of property and human rights violations against Okinawans.  Okinawa Prefecture only makes up 0.6 percent of Japan's land mass, but has been forced to accommodate two thirds of the 47,000 US troops in Japan. Why? Because no other prefecture will take them, according to Minister of Defence, General Nakatani.

From 1945 to 1970 (especially during the notorious 1950s era of "Bayonets and Bulldozers"), the US military forcibly seized tens of thousands of acres of private property—entire villages, including cemeteries, tombs, sacred sites, and cultural properties— from over 230,000 Okinawans, to make way for the construction of massive military complexes that are now training bases for the US wars in Central Asia. People who resisted were pulled from their homes, assaulted, arrested and imprisoned.  The US allowed soldiers to engage in crimes against Okinawans with impunity and contaminated the islands with Agent Orange, depleted uranium, white phosphorus, and other radioactive and chemical weapons.

After the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the U.S. did not leave Okinawa, as expected. In 1996, the US and Japan announced their plan to landfill the coral reef and dugong habitat at  Henoko, a beloved natural cultural heritage site and most important eco-tourism destination in Okinawa, to make way for another base. The critically endangered Okinawa dugong is a sacred icon and protected natural historical monument. The healthy coral reef is the last fully intact coral reef in all of Okinawa and Japan, and the most biodiverse in the Pacific Ocean, surpassing the number of species that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Okinawans, supported by global environmental and democracy activists, have been protesting the plan since that day.

For 70 years, Okinawans have struggled for Japanese and U.S. military recognition and respect for their human rights, property rights, cultural heritage, and right to self-determinacy. In 1950, the U.S. said it would make Okinawa a "showcase of democracy". However U.S. military rule remained authoritarian: implementing unacceptable policies with brute force, then, as now.  As Okinawans remember and pay their respects to those who died during the Battle of Okinawa 70 years ago, they are also engaged in a historic battle for Japanese and U.S. recognition of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga's efforts to stop the destruction of the coral and dugong habitat, an ecoregion that is the living manifestation of what little remains of tangible Okinawan cultural heritage.


"Seventy years since U.S. landings on Kerama Islands – Memorial service to be held on Zamami on 26 March" (What's Going On in Okinawa, March 26, 2015)

"Remembering the Konoe Memorial: the Battle of Okinawa and Its Aftermath" (Herbert Bix, APJ, Feb. 23, 2015)

"Descent Into Hell: The Battle of Okinawa" (The Ryukyu Shimpo, Ota Masahide, Mark Ealey and Alastair McLauchlan, APJ, Dec. 1, 2014)

"Compulsory Mass Suicide, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japan's Textbook Controversy" (Aniya Masaaki, The Okinawa Times, and Asahi Shinbun, translation by Kyoko Selden, APJ, Jan. 6, 2008)


Monday, March 9, 2015

Tokyo fire bombing survivor: "Japan starting down road to war again" • Remembering the victims & survivors of the bombings of 67 Japanese & Okinawan cities from 1942 through 1945, & all bombing victims worldwide from 1911 to 2015

Katsumoto Saotome, a survivor of Great Tokyo Air Raids, wears a headband 
with words reading 'Kamikaze' on it, which he carried during an evacuation in the bombing.
(Photo: Reuters)

Reuters journalist Elaine Lies's article on the commemoration of the firebombing of Tokyo, "Tokyo fire bombing survivor fears Japan starting down road to war again," gives voice to one of the many Pacific War survivors warning us about the Japanese government's remilitarization.
Katsumoto Saotome was 12 the night he ran for his life through a sea of flames, jumping over smoldering railroad ties along a train track as U.S. B-29 bombers rained incendiary bombs down around him...

Now, as memories fade of how civilians suffered during World War Two - suffering Saotome blames on Japan's wartime leaders who thought of their citizens as "weeds" - the 82-year-old author fears Japan may be marching toward war again.

"I think we're turning backwards, down that road," said Saotome, citing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to change Japan's war-renouncing constitution, his more muscular security stance and a state secrets act passed last year.

"Everyone thinks at first that it's nothing, but more and more things accumulate, and then it's repression. I worry about what happens to women and children in this situation. We have to talk about it, maybe that will put a brake on things."

For Saotome and others of his age, the war stole their childhood. In school, before being conscripted to work in factories, they learned that the "kamikaze" divine wind would annihilate Japan's enemies. Should Japan lose, they would have to choose death over dishonor and kill themselves...

With more than 80 percent of Japanese, including Abe, born after the war, Saotome worries that reluctance to discuss painful issues may mean repeating past mistakes. Political apathy is also a worry, he says...

"Those of us who survived have a duty to become a voice for the voiceless," Saotome said. "If I'm quiet, it means I've accepted the situation. If we don't speak up, the past will be made to disappear."
As we remember the 70th anniversary of the March 9-10 all-night US firebombing of Tokyo, we also remember the largely forgotten firebombings of over 66 other cities in Japan and Okinawa. Historian Mark Selden has noted  that the scale of civilian casualties in Japanese cities "had no parallel in the history of bombing."

The US bombed Kobe, then the sixth largest city, with a population of one million, in 84 air raids, between April 18, 1942 to August 15, 1945. On July 24, 1945, a US B29 dropped 4 experimental "mock" atomic bombs ("pumpkin bombs") , with the same scale and weight as the "Little Boy" nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, on Kobe. With a total death toll of more than 8,000, the death rate of civilians par square mile in Kobe was worse than that of Hiroshima and Tokyo.  Studio Ghibli's 1988 Grave of the Fireflies, an acclaimed animation about 2 child survivors of firebombings, was set in Kobe.

Before Tokyo and Kobe, on October 10, 1944,  US bombers began "softening up" assaults on Naha, the capital of Okinawa, destroying 80 to 90 percent  of the city. A thousand Okinawan civilians, twice as many as Japanese military personnel, were killed during the 10/10 raid. Colonel Yahara, the only surviving senior staff officer of Japan’s 32nd Army, wrote in The Battle for Okinawa (1972) that that the 10/10 destruction of Naha was “a sad foretaste of the tragedy to come” to Okinawa and mainland Japan. Yahara said Imperial Japan should have surrendered earlier to stem the loss of civilian life.  Most of the civilians who died during the Battle of Okinawa were killed by American bombardments.

The US bombings of Tokyo began in December 1944 and continued through August 13, 1945. March 9-10 was the worst of more than 60 air raids on Tokyo: over a hundred thousand civilians were killed and most of old capital was destroyed in one night.

In March 2007, 112 survivors and family members announced they would sue Japanese government for an apology and damages. The the plaintiffs, the oldest of whom was eighty-six and whose average age was seventy-four at the time, filed the suit with the Tokyo District Court in April. As expected, in 2013, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit.

However, the plaintiffs were able to tell their story, in their voices. Following this action, other lawsuits brought by Pacific War victims against the Japanese government, also raising the issue of war responsibility and accountability, followed, including actions by survivors of the Battle of Okinawa and the survivors of the Japanese fire bombings of Chongqing from 1938 to 1943 which killed 10,000 civilians.

Other Japanese cities the US bombed include Sendai (March 10 and July 19, 1945);  Osaka (March 13-14, 1945); Kagoshima (June 17, 1945); Moji, Nobeoka, Okayama and Sasebo (June 28); Takamatsu (July 4, 1945); Kofu (July 6, 1945); Gifu, Sakai, Sendai and Wakayama (July 9, 1945), Toyama (total destruction on Aug. 1-2, 1945).

According to the Shock and Awe Conference on Aerial Bombing held at the London School of Economics in November, 2011, the "development of aerial bombardment was more than just a military revolution.' [Aerial bombardment] "redrew the legal and moral boundaries between civilians and combatants, spread the theatre of war into new environments and expanded the battlefield, making cities into places of mass death and taking warfare into private, domestic spaces." This era began in 1911 when an Italian pilot, Guilio Cavotti, dropped the first bombs from a plane to the oasis of Tagiura outside Tripoli in north Africa during the Italian-Turkish War f ought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912 over the colonial control of Libya.

In the seventy years since the end of Pacific War, war memories and growing awareness of suffering of victims and survivors throughout the Asia-Pacific has continue to fuel peace building efforts by survivors and their descendants. Last June, 1,760,000 supporters of the Japanese Peace Constitution delivered a petition to Prime Minister Abe asking him not to change Article 9.


Film critic Roger Ebert - Grave of The Fireflies (video talk on Youtube)

"Tokyo fire bombing 70th anniversary: Survivors beg Japan to remember the forgotten 100,000" (David McNeill, The Independent, March 10, 2015)

"Saotome Katsumoto and the Firebombing of Tokyo: Introducing The Great Tokyo Air Raid" (Translation and Intro by Richard Sams, APJ, March 9, 2015)

"The Firebombing of Tokyo: Views from the Ground" (Brett Fisk and Cary Karakas, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Jan. 17, 2011)

"China and Japan at War: Suffering and Survival, 1937-1945" (Diana Lary, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Nov. 29, 2010)

"The Great Tokyo Air Raid and the Bombing of Civilians in World War II", The Asahi Shimbun, reposted at The Asia-Pacific Journal, March 11, 2010)