The Human Right of Children and Women Under the US Military Administration: Raped Lives
The Human Right of Children and Women Under the US Military Administration: Raped Lives
Following the 1995 incident in which US soldiers raped an elementary school girl, women in Okinawa began to investigate incidents of rape, which had occurred after the World War II. First, they collected newspaper clippings and cases on which they had already acquired testimonies. Although this was not a full-scale interview survey, a picture of the post-war rape incidents began to be revealed. According to a report entitled "Post-War Crimes against Women of Okinawa by US Soldiers" by the Association of Women in Action Against Military and Military Bases, the number of rape cases between 1945 and 1997 was about 180, of which 22 were committed against young women less than 20 years of age. A nine-month-old baby was even included.
However, this figure is only the tip of the iceberg. Many of the crimes committed by soldiers have not been disclosed. The problems of raped of women in Okinawa during and after the war remain to be revealed.
One thing that was revealed was that there were frequent group rapes by beastly soldiers. It is also said that even during the war when the situation became very tense, US soldiers attacked village women in groups. There were women who were raped in front of their husbands. It can be said that in Okinawa both during and after the war, anybody could be subjected to rape.
Even after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, more than 4,700 incidents and accidents involving the US military has ignored the human rights of people of Okinawa. It was not that they did not file complaints but rather that they were placed under a system where they were not allowed to do so. Given the reality that US military is still present, Okinawa is still under a war state.
The Yumiko Incident
I was seven years old when Yumiko, who was six years old at the time, was raped and murdered by a 31-year-old American solider. It happened on September 3, 1955, ten years after the war ended. The incident occurred in Ishikawa City in the central part of the Main Island of Okinawa. Yumiko went to kindergarten that day. She went missing at about 8 p.m. after she went to see a movie alone. It is hard to understand at present that a six year old girl would go to see a movie, but reading newspapers from those days, one sees that people used to live in one or two-room houses, and most children played outside until the sun set. It is still bright until eight in the evening during summer in Okinawa.
Ishikawa City was originally a quiet rural area with a population of about 2,000, but after the war, detention camps were built and the population grew to over 30,000. The Okinawa Council, Okinawa's post-war administrative organization, was established in the city, making the city a temporary political center. However, there were incessant crimes committed by US soldiers in the area around Ishikawa City, which was rapidly urbanized.
Meanwhile, following the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 the US military forcibly confiscated the land, and around this period the struggle of the Okinawans involving the whole islanders, against the land confiscation emerged.
In spite of the fact that this struggle was a big historical event after the war, I know little about it due to the lack of well-organised documentation. After the incident of rape of an elementary school girl by three American soldiers, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the incidents in the past.
The Okinawa Times of September 4, 1955, the day after the Yumiko incident, reported as follows: "An unidentified girl, raped and murdered, was found in a military garbage dump near the Kadena seaside. At about 8:15 a.m. on the 4th, two US soldiers on patrol found the body of a girl who seemed to be eight to 10 years old discarded the case to Kadena police box through the MP unit. There is a evidence that girl was raped, as her slip was pulled down to the left arm and her teeth were clenched."
Yumiko's body was brutally harmed as if "having been cut up with a sharp knife from the abdominal region to the bowel."
The offenders were arrested a week after the incident The Raikamu Intelligence Department made the first official announcement at 8 p.m. on the 9th on the murder of Yumiko through the Civilian Government Press Section as follows: "An indictment was submitted against Sergeant Isaac J. Hart of B Battalion, 32nd Artillery Division, on charges of murder, rape and kidnapping of a girl. The military authorities highly appreciate the excellent collaboration and cooperation extended by the civilian police. With regard to the court martial for Hart, preliminary investigations are being conducted at present" (The Okinawa Times, Sept 10, 1955).
Meanwhile, people raised angry voices in various parts of Okinawa, and a Rally for Protection of Children was held. The Association for Protection of Children was formed with this incident. The association held an emergency meeting in Naha, and discussed the policy and goals of the movement to prevent anymore such incidents. The Residents' Rally was held in Ishikawa City on September 16 and was participated in by 1,000 people. It adopted a statement calling for a fair trial, which "Punish offenders of this kind of case with the death penalty without leniency regardless of nationality or ethnicity. Eliminate the extraterritorial rights and put the offense of foreigners against Ryukyuans outside of the military base into a civilian court. Have an officer(s) of judicial affairs of the Okinawa side present at trials, and the proceedings of the trial shall be recorded and broadcast so that all Okinawa residents can listen to it."
The newspapers asked people in the judicial circle and police for comments. A certain public prosecutor stated: "There is no room for us to get involved. Even if the proceedings of the military court are made public, we have no means to know whether the ruling is carried out as it is decided. Once the offender is sent off, that is the end". With regard to the treatment of crimes committed by foreigners, a detective sergeant at the time [section chief of criminal affairs] said: "If the offender is an American, then the case is left completely in the hands of the military. As the civilian police have no authority to conduct investigations, all we can do is to cooperate with the military's investigation organ". It is like, for example, the fact that CID does not have the right to conduct investigations in residential districts; the civilian police do the investigation. Generally, the results of treatment of cases of foreigners whom the civilian police arrested were not informed.
I looked through newspapers of those days in order to find out more about the Yumiko incident. I was surprised when I skimmed through the papers of about two weeks from September 4 to 19. One week after the Yumiko incident, an American soldier raped another 9-year-old girl. In those days incidents and accidents involving American soldiers were happening almost everyday. I will just list the cases, which occurred during the period between September 4 and 19.
The rule and occupation of the US military continued afterwards, and there was a constant stream of incidents, with residents and children as victims.
Another big disaster occurred in Ishikawa City, where people had not completely recovered from the shock of the Yumiko incident.
The Crash of a Jet Fighter Plane on Miyamori Elementary School
The accident occurred at 10:30 a.m. on June 30, 1959. A jet fighter plane crashed into Miyamori Elementary School in Ishikawa City in the central part of Okinawa Main Island. It was a major disaster; 17 people were killed, 121 people were injured, 17 private houses, one public hall and three classrooms were completely burned, and eight private houses and two classrooms were partially burned. Teachers who witnessed it said: "It all happened in an instant. Children, covered in jet fuel and in flames, rushed to water taps to throw water over their bodies, screaming for help to teachers and shouting "Daddy, Mommy, it's a war!" More than 1,200 school children were running around the schoolyard, asking for help. As the black smoke covered the whole city of Ishikawa, the citizens became half-crazed, fearing that the city would be all burned down. The fire was put out two hours later.
Though the US army publicized that it would compensate for the incident completely, but the case dragged on for almost three years before settlement despite efforts made by the Ryukyu government and the Special Committee for Ishikawa Incident set up by the Legislative Assembly of the Ryukyus. The compensation paid was 4,500 dollars for the killed and 23,000-5,900 for the seriously injured.
No integrated records of this incident are available. To get details of this incident, you must go to the Prefectural Archives and pick up facts from official records of the Ryukyus government and legislative assembly proceedings. As I am of the same generation as the children victimised in this incident, I feel it is my duty to conduct interviews with the survivors and other witness to get at the whole truth.
Asato Eiko, Okinawa Women's Act against Military Violence