Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Okinawa: A Victim of the U.S. Military

The Role of the U.S. Military in the Perpetuation of Sexual Violence and its Significance

Published onDec 06, 2022
Okinawa: A Victim of the U.S. Military

One thousand three hundred thirty six thousand. In the first ten days of the U.S. occupation of Japan, there were 1,336 reported rapes of Japanese women in the Kanagawa prefecture just south of Tokyo.1 On Okinawa, however, the numbers would be much worse. An Okinawan historian estimates there were at least 10,000 rapes on the island during the occupation, though the numbers are most likely higher due to many Okinawans being too afraid to come forward.2

Okinawa was doomed from the beginning after World War II ended and the United States took control. It was poorly governed by the United States military, leading to the rampant rates of poverty across the island, which inevitably increased the rates of sexual violence on the island.

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed “Operation Iceberg,” began on April 1st, 1945 and didn’t lead to a victorious win for the U.S. until June 22nd of that same year. During that time, an estimated 150,000 Okinawans perished at both the hands of the United States and Japan.3

After winning, the United States Army would be in charge of managing Okinawa, as Japan wanted nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, the Army received little to no information on the civil affairs of the island, aka, they had no idea on how to govern the island.

It wouldn’t be till 1950 did the United States government establish the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, otherwise known as USCAR. USCAR would be in charge of establishing not only laws for the island, but also rebuilding the economy of the island.

This had little benefit for Okinawans however.

To stimulate the economy, USCAR gave jobs to the Okinawans to construct bases, new roads, harbors, airfields, and even ammunition dumps. Now, USCAR does deserve some credit here, as it was successful for a time. However, to construct this new infrastructure, land needed to be taken. So, USCAR began to seize farmland from the indigenous population, instantly destroying the already vulnerable economy of the island.4 This damaged economy would lead to much worse.

The Americans inhabiting the island were seeing a loss of morale due to the state of the island. The servicemen and their families lived in run down communities with the rest of the garrison living in poor hotels. One way to boost this morale was through sexual relief. This only meant terrible things for the Okinawans.

Sexual violence increased, and the crime would essentially happen anywhere and everywhere, even resulting in the rape of a nine-month-old baby girl.5 Red-light districts began to increase in high population centers on the island, and the military police made little to no efforts to close them down as they “recognized the prurient needs of the male population.”6

To curb sexual violence, USCAR legalized prostitution. Of course, USCAR’s endorsement of prostitution only led to more harm.  In U.S. veteran David Hackworth’s 1989 monograph, he referred to R&R as “Rape and Run,” and recalled how the 120 hours or R&R were precious and paid for in advance, and that “little girls” were always readily available.”7

Furthermore, Okinawan girls had no choice to start prostituting themselves as well, as they needed a source of income to feed their starving families. Unfortunately that was all these girls could afford, as there was no medical availability for these girls to be able to afford, so many girls suffered from widespread venereal disease.8

Like many other rapists, the United States military needed a way to defend their terrible actions against Okinawans. Many servicemen began to employ this rhetoric that the native population actually enjoyed the “sexual relief” they were providing. David Hackworth went on to write further that the girls used for the servicemen’s R&R as “proud” because they were such regulars for these men.9 Moron Dan Morris, a researcher staying with the United States Army at the time, made the claim that Okinawan girls were “willing” to provide R&R for these servicemen, and explained that if girls were more like their “willing sisters,” then they wouldn’t fall victim to the inevitable violence that occurred.10

Okinawa didn’t just accept its fate as a victim, however. Many protests were held on the island. In the 1950s, Okinawans began to protest their land being stolen from USCAR. In the 60s, they began to protest against the sexual violence occurring on the island. This soon led to a movement where Okinawans began to call for their return back to Japanese sovereignty.

In 1972, Japan and the United States and Japan signed the Okinawan Reversion Agreement, where Okinawa was finally returned back to Japan’s sovereignty.11 According to the agreement, however, the United States still had oversight on the island, but it was a win for the Okinawans nonetheless. Still, the United States’ unforgiveable imperialistic actions led to a horrific rape of Okinawa.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?