The Battle of Okinawa, in which both Japanese and American forces suffered enormous casualties, marked its fiftieth anniversary on June 23, 1995.In commemoration of this important date, the Cornerstone of Peace was erected and unveiled that day to, as Okinawa Governor Ota Masahide put it, “convey the peace-cherishing heart of Okinawa and its yearning to live in peace with all.”.These noble sentiments were shattered less than three months later, however.on September 4, when a 12-year-old Okinawan girl was abducted, beaten and raped by three US servicemen.
The three were part of the 28,000 US troops stationed in the prefecture.Although Okinawa makes up just 0.6% of the total land area of Japan — almost exactly the size of Los Angeles — it hosts 75% of all US military forces stationed in Japan. Okinawa prefecture is composed of the Ryukyu Islands, with the main island being Okinawa island. US bases occupy 11% of the total land area of the prefecture, including 20% of the main island and 40% of six Okinawan cities.
The 1995 rape case exacerbated long-standing resentment against the US military presence in Okinawa. Outraged local people held numerous demonstrations, and calls increased for the reduction of US military presence on the islands. The case proved to be a turning point for the so-called “Okinawa problem,” and a series of events attempting to remedy the situation followed. As Okinawa is a strategically vital point for US Forces in the Far East, the Okinawa problem and its consequences have grave implications for both the US and Japan.
Crimes committed by US military personnel against the local people of Okinawa were in fact nothing new. According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, between 1972 and 1995, US military personnel were implicated in 4,716 crimes, or nearly one per day. Local authorities stated that 22 murders, 354 robberies, and 110 rapes were committed by US military members during the same period.