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8. Constructing a Base, Building a Town (the case of Kin Village)

It will be recalled that USCAR announced its intention to secure 12,000-acres of new land in central and northern Okinawa in mid-1955. This plan was shelved while the gunyochi chaos was ongoing, but USCAR returned to Kin and eleven other municipalities on 18th June 1957 to acquire leasehold estate in 357,000-tsubo under CA Proclamation No. 164 that would become Nike, Hawk, or Mace-B missile sites.[1] The bulk of the III Marine Division had been relocated from Japan by this time, though it is difficult to pin down exactly when they arrived in Kin. According to a letter written in late-1956 by Kin Mayor Ginoza Tatsuo, the III Marine Division took control of the live-fire and manoeuvre area "from 1953."[2] When the Armed Services Subcommittee came to Okinawa in late-1955 it visited a central island Marine unit at Noborikawa. By mid-June 1956, Marines had begun to transform the Kin Airfield site into a makeshift home, soon after calling it Camp Hansen.[3] As previously mentioned, USCAR created a split in the gunyochi struggle by signing contracts with landowners in Kushi in 1956 and 1957. The construction of Camp Schwab there and the accompanying prosperity so visible by late-1957 proved to be the catalyst for Kin's voluntary acceptance of new land seizures. A statement issued by ex-Mayor Okuma Seitoku, along with a group of municipal assembly members and land committee members, advocated acceptance of a permanent Camp Hansen for economic reasons, albeit with a pronounced disaffection toward the lump-sum payment and more than a little trepidation about potential long-term side-effects, or "trouble," a base might bring.[4] Such was the progress in the US-Ryukyu genchi sessho, however, that the lump-sum payment issue was satisfactorily resolved by the end of 1958.

When the OED called on Kin in February 1959, to acquire long-term leasehold interest in the 6-million-tsubo necessary for Camp Hansen and an adjacent training area under the umbrella of newly-promulgated HiCOM Ordinance No. 20, 'Acquisition of Leasehold Interest (chinshakken no shutoku ni tsuite),'[5] the landowner had the choice of either a lump-sum or an annual payment.[6] A smoother process of negotiation was facilitated by HiCOM Ordinance No. 19, 'Establishment of the US Land Tribunal for the Ryukyu Islands,'[7] which resulted in Camp Hansen designated as a tokubetsu sogan chiiki, or 'special appeal region' for legal proceedings. Military land was henceforth divided into grades and types, similar to those in prewar, if not pre-Meiji times, according to residential, potential residential, wet and dry field agricultural, and so on. With land productivity taken into consideration a landowner received a far more realistic rental than before, even if it was not as high as he or she might wish. As such, the OED was able to obtain the required leases in a relatively short period, executing condemnation proceedings in the case of refusals. The construction of the main facility could begin in mid-1959. In the same month as building work began at Camp Hansen the OED acquired a area of coast at Hamadabaru and a beach in the southwesternmost part of Kin at Ufuganekubaru and Misachibaru, adding these smaller seizures to land in the Sachijabaru and Irisachjabaru subdistricts it had acquired a year earlier.[8] Once the Kin leases were signed, the OED was in possession of about 7.5-million-tsubo of land, which constituted 66.9% of Kin's total 11.2-million-tsubo.

The Camp Hansen construction contract was awarded to Kokuba Gumi, a large local building firm and one of the OED's main contractors. Prior to the Hansen project, Kokuba Gumi had worked on US bases in Naha, Machiminato, Kadena, and Henoko. The company went on to build much of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. According to company records competition for the Camp Hansen contract was severe, pitting the Kokuba Gumi against Filipino firm JHW, International Construction and Peterson Construction, both from the US, and six Japanese firms.[9] The OED began taking bids on 15th May 1959, receiving figures ranging from $17.7-million and $11.1-million.[10] The Kokuba Gumi won with a bid of $12-million and a promise to finish construction in 780-days. That it actually took 3 years and 3 months illustrates just how big the job was. Excluding the adjacent training area, Camp Hansen's core would be built in an 800,000-tsubo area in central Kin.[11] This had to be flattened in preparation for 130 barrack-type facilities for regular troops and officers, four mess halls (each capable of holding 1,000 people), a motorpool, a water supply dam, firing ranges, a cinema, and a bowling alley.[12] This involved a large number of bulldozers, graders, rollers, cranes, trucks, and other heavy equipment,[13] some 2,000 workers contracted in,[14] and the fact that this would be the first time an Okinawan firm made extensive use of pre-cast concrete.[15]

The kind of training possible at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Hansen, the adjacent Camp Hansen Training Area: these days known as the Central Training Area (CTA),[16] and other bases in Kin, has undergone many changes over the last 40 years, both in and out of war situations and after Okinawa's reversion, but in the main has stayed the same. The CTA is used for manoeuvre training for units to battalion size[17] and live weapon fire by the III Marine Division of the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).[18] Manoeuvres include squad size live fire and non-live fire tactical exercises, armoured manoeuvres, and water training.[19] In terms of live weapon firing there are small arms ranges and ranges for direct fire artillery weapons and mortars. At the time of reversion on 15th May 1972, a Japan-US document known as the '5.15 Memo'[20] allowed the continued use of weapons organic to the amphibious III Marine Division, along with demolition training, explosive ordnance disposal, and live firing from air to surface by helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. Heavy artillery live firing was relocated from Kin to mainland Japan in early-1997, as a result of a 25-year protest movement led by groups from the Kisenbaru subdistrict of Kin, and as a placatory measure after the September 1995 rape incident in Kin.[21]

Red Beach is used for embarkation training and small command post exercises (CPX). It can accommodate two tank landing ships (LST). Blue Beach is far and away the best amphibious landing area in Okinawa, allowing up to battalion size amphibious operations and amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) operations. It has a CPX site and facilities for raid school training. From 1961-1969, Ginbaru was home to one of four Mace-B intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) sites. After reversion Ginbaru was used for company size communication exercises, field exercises, and CPX. It now sits empty and unused, awaiting return to the community under an expanded Consolidation and Reduction of Okinawa Facilities (CROF) programme initiated by a Japan-US Special Action Committee in 1996.[22]

Prior to reversion, as now, the limitations of training in Kin are similar. The live fire ranges were never considered more than satisfactory since their smallness of size prevented artillery being fired at maximum range. US forces could get away with more before 1972 than now since bases in Okinawa are covered by the Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security which places stringent limits on military operations and weaponry. One should add a greater environmental sensitivity on the part of the military that has developed more recently in response to public opinion. There is no Marine Corps base on home US soil or abroad where military training has not been to some extent affected by environmental pressures. The relatively small size of the CTA limited close air support training with live ordnance, and while Blue Beach is excellent for amphibious landing, the lack of a direct access to the manoeuvre area[23] further conspires against Kin as an ideal training area. To provide some perspective, MCB Camp Hansen and the adjacent CTA consist of 12,600-acres in total, spread across four municipalities. The home base of the II MEF at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, in contrast, occupies 83,000-acres of land. Likewise, the home of the I MEF at Camp Pendleton, California, is closer to 125,000-acres in size. These latter bases offer a huge training advantage for a Marine Corps which, as an integrated marine-air-ground fighting force, needs fully-integrated training rather than stop-start training of the kind offered in Okinawa to remain at peak readiness. The Jungle Warfare Training Centre (JWTC), occupying about 20,000-acres of GOJ land in northern Okinawa, offers a unique environment that neither California nor North Carolina can, but as a protected area US Marines have to consider environmental factors almost ahead of military ones.



[1] Unbeknown to anyone at the time since the purpose for the land acquisition was not given in the notification of seizure. 'Notice of Intent to Acquire Property Number 13 (and attached map),' sent to Kin Mayor Ginoza Tatsuo by H. W. Fish, Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Deputy DE for Construction Planning, on 18th June 1957. FT: Niki kichi - zaisan shutoku kokuchi 13 go (Kin-son Yakusho). RG: Fukkimae shiryo: gunyochi kankei (Kikaku Kaihatsuka). Kin-cho Shihensan. On the US policy of introducing nuclear missiles see Gabe Masaaki, Nichibei kankei no naka no Okinawa (1996), 131-154.

[2] 'Letter to: Deputy Governor of the Ryukyu Islands, from: Tatsuo Ginoza, Mayor of Kin son, subj: Petition for Payment of Compensation for Damage of Trees Caused by Manoeuvre of US Troops,' Undated (but sometime in late-1956). FT: Gunyochi sanrin higai baisho ni kansuru kankei shorui (Kin-son Yakusho). RG: Fukkimae shiryo: gunyochi kankei (Kikaku Kaihatsuka). Kin-cho Shihensan.

[3] Named after Marine Private Second-Class Dale Marlin Hansen, born in Wizner, Nebraska, on 13th December 1922. On 7th May 1945, Hansen engaged Japanese forces as part of the 1st Marine Division, 1st Regiment, 2nd Battalion, E-Company. Hansen's company was involved in the savage battle to seize Hill 60 in Urasoe. Reaching the top of the hill the Marines were pinned down under severe enemy fire from small arms, grenade, mortar, and white phosphorus shells. Hansen shot four Japanese soldiers at close quarters, using his rifle-butt to kill another two. He was recognised for his bravery. Umebayashi Hiromichi, Joho kokaiho de toraeta Okinawa no Beigun (Tokyo: Kobunkyu, 1994), 148-149.

[4] Okinawa Taimusu, 9th October 1957.

[5]  This involved 4,376 tracts covering approximately 5,000-acres and affecting 34 subdistricts in Kin and Igei. The breakdown by subdistrict and number of tsubo is as follows: Kisenbaru 253,441.34, Nogamabaru 403,223, Hirakawabaru 1,043,388, Ishikawabaru 105,101, Tokeitobaru 77,371, Kawatabaru 28,899, Ihobaru 50,970, Inumoribaru 59,565.29, Nakakubobaru 22.002, Ufudobaru 34,759, Ikebaru 32,266, Kawarayakibaru 65,151, Warumibaru 36,225.27, Ikekubobaru 58,306, Nakabatakibaru 14,784, Okubaru 18,110, Inakabaru 62,443.74, Funadabaru 65,232.00, Sotobaru 91,206, Nagachibaru 299,532.77, Okukubibaru 4,060, Kitoyobaru 285,585, Kochibaru 71,592, Higabaru 7,152, Somoyamabaru 1,431,582, Shiobaru 2,700, Ueshimabaru 8,790, Kawatabaru 10,245, Kurashibaru 4,464, Kushibaru 22,622, Hiratabaru 26,019, Tomijabaru 26,803, Shicchibaru 24,471, Kamugawabaru. US Army Engineer District, Okinawa, 'Notice of Requirement to Acquire Property Number 21 (HiCOM Ordinance NR. 20),' dated 18th February 1959. RG: Fukki mae Shorui hozon (Somuka), Kin-cho Shihensan. In October 1958, USCAR acquired 2-million sq. metres of somayama in the Yaka district of Kin for a training area.

[6] HiCOM Ordinance No. 20, 'Acquisition of Leasehold Interest,' 12th February 1959. Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 660-668.

[7] HiCOM Ordinance No. 19, 'Establishment of the United States Land Tribunal for the Ryukyu Islands,' promulgated on 21st January 1959. Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 655-657.

[8] Becoming Red Beach Training Area (FAC 6019), Blue Beach Training Area (FAC 6020), and the Ginbaru Training Area (FAC 6017), respectively. For comprehensive and technical information on US military bases see the official, periodically revised: Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu. Okinawa no Beigun kichi (Naha: Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu, 1998). For an intriguing backdoor introduction see Umebayashi Hiromichi, Joho kokaiho de toraeta Okinawa no Beigun (Tokyo: Kobunkyu, 1994). Umebayashi teamed up with Greenpeace activists in Washington to extract information on US bases in Okinawa under the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He succeeded in accessing internal maps, the so-called 'Masterplans' for the main Marine Corps bases, and other interesting morsels.

[9] Kokuba Gumi, Kokuba Gumi shashi: soritsu 50 shunen kinen - dainibu Kokuba Gumi shashi (Naha: Kokuba Gumi Shashi Hensan Iinkai, 1984), 63-67.

[10] Ibid., 67.

[11] As Kin-choshi states, this core area of Camp Hansen (built on the former Kin Airfield site) includes much of the best arable land and fertile soil areas that were originally part of the Kin and Namisato districts of Kin before the war. Sugar grown in the area before the war is legendary for its plumpness. The Kin district sugar mill at Daidobaru, the Namisato district sugar mill located near to where Gate Two now is, along with a large area of land concentrated toward millet production, all lie inside the confines of Camp Hansen. Among the other crops that were grown in the same fertile regions include sweet potato (imo), soybeans (daizu), barley (mugi), and vegetables. Kin also lost the Kaatabaru, Ifubaru, Nagakububaru, Ufudobaru, Inmuibaru, Karayachibaru, Ichibaru, Ichikububaru, Warumibaru, Nakabatakibaru, Okubaru, Inakabaru, Okukubibaru, and Amakibaru subdistricts inside the kanaami, or chain-link fences, of Camp Hansen. Kin-choshi, 23.

[12] Kokuba Gumi shashi: soritsu 50 shunen kinen - dainibu Kokuba Gumi shashi, 63.

[13] Kokuba Gumi itself owned just 15 bulldozers. Given that 60 bulldozers would be required for the work, this meant that 45 had to be leased for an extended period. Whether it is padding the costs or not is unclear some 40 years further on, but the Kokuba Gumi claims that the cost of leasing 45 bulldozers for 6-months cost on average $53,000. Given the 3-year construction period this would add up to about $315,000. What happened in reality, of course, was that bulldozer owners hiked the lease costs up by a significant margin each year. Ibid., 70-72. It is estimated that 70% of Okinawa's civilian-owned bulldozers and heavy machinery was committed to Camp Hansen's construction. Kin-cho to kichi, 33.

[14] Kokuba Gumi records state that 2,000 people were contracted for construction-related activities at Camp Hansen. The average worker received 12-cents per hour in 1959, rising to 20-cents per hour in 1962, the final year of work. Kokuba Gumi shashi: soritsu 50 shunen kinen - dainibu Kokuba Gumi shashi, 72-73. Local records in Kin put the figure of those brought in for construction work as "rising beyond three-thousand." Kin-choshi, 24.

[15] Kokuba Gumi shashi: soritsu 50 shunen kinen - dainibu Kokuba Gumi shashi, 63.

[16] With that section of the CTA falling in the direction of Kin and Onna known as the South CTA.

[17] A battalion, or regiment, is an Army or Marine infantry command consisting of a headquarters and two or more companies. It is the smallest self-supporting battlefield command. A company is the lowest administrative unit of a battalion or regiment. Typically under the command of a captain, a company consists of two or more platoons and might contain a maximum of 100-persons.

[18] Although its history stretches back to the I and III Marine Amphibious Corps, activated in 1942, the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) was activated in Vietnam in May 1965, consisting of the III Marine Division and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The headquarters of the III MEF relocated to Okinawa in April 1971, where it has remained ever since. The function of the III MEF is planning, directing, and coordinating Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) for employment supporting contingency plans and operations in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. With its command at Camp Butler, the III MEF consists of the following main Okinawa-based units: III Marine Division (4th Marine Infantry Regiment and 12th Marine Artillery Regiment), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Air Wing, and 36th Marine Air Group. It is the only permanent overseas-based MEF, with the bulk of the US Marines located on home soil. The headquarters of the Marine Corps Forces, Pacific (I MEF) is Camp Pendleton, California, and Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic (II MEF) at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Either I MEF or II MEF would be the primary fighting forces deployed into a hot war situation. While III MEF certainly has enough power to pack a significant punch, it has fewer personnel than the I and II MEF, and far fewer aircraft. As is outlined in the text, Okinawa's primary value to the Marine Corps today is not training, but in the military and logistical infrastructure that has been developed over the course of 50 years and which allows the III MEF to more than adequately perform its supportive role. 

[19] Marines used to utilise the old Kin dam for water training.

[20] Declassified on 25th March 1998. Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu, Okinawa no Beigun kichi (1998), 150-152.

[21] On the anti-live fire protest movement in Kin see Keitokuho Hikoku o tsukaeru Shimin no Kai, Okinawa wa uttaeru: Kisenbaru no hi (Tokyo: Gendai Shokan, 1978).

[22] This report will be discussed in Chapter Three.

[23] There is one road stretching from Blue Beach to Camp Hansen built by the US military and which remains, technically, under US control. 

 


 


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