Typhoon of Steel: Survivors Faced Hardship in U.S. Camps and Returned Home (Part 9)


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Residents were taken to internment camps on April 4, 1945 in the Sobe District of Yomitan Village of Okinawa Prefecture after the US landing. (Courtesy photo of Okinawa Prefecture Archives)

NAHA – After the Battle of Okinawa, residents who had lived in harsh conditions in US internment camps were gradually released. However, upon their return, some Okinawans found US military bases where their towns and homes once stood.

Question: What happened to the surviving residents after the Battle of Okinawa?

Answer: After landing on the main island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, US forces divided the island into north and south and expanded the invasion in both directions. Not long after, in early April, residents trapped en route to the conflict were transferred to US-established civil detention centers. Most of these internment camps were in the northern part of the main island.

By the end of the organized resistance of the Japanese Imperial Army in late June, around 280,000 Okinawans were living in the camps. Large groups lived there in buildings and thatched-roof houses that had survived the fierce firefight, as well as in tents and other structures. Many died of malaria, malnutrition, and other diseases. There have also been cases of women being attacked by US military personnel.

Japanese soldiers who surrendered were sent to separate POW camps. Some of the soldiers from Okinawa Prefecture were even sent to Hawaii at times. Those from mainland Japan began repatriation in October 1946.

During the Battle of Okinawa, US forces established military bases one after another on occupied land. From October 1945, Okinawa residents were gradually allowed to return to their homes, but where bases had been built they had no choice but to settle in the surrounding areas. One example is the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. It covers 1/4 of the area of ​​the city of Ginowan and is located in the center of the city.

(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)

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