In Okinawa, where US military bases exist adjacent to densely populated areas, incidents and accidents derived from military bases occur on a daily basis. These include disturbances from US military airplanes, crimes committed by military personnel, army employees and their families, and traffic accidents. Residents have repeatedly reported their unease over such ongoing incidents and accidents.
Accidents During Training
There have been 1,434 incidents and accidents related to military exercises from 1972, when Okinawa returned to Japanese administration, until the end of December 2008, including 487 airplane-related accidents.
Many residents will recall an accident that occurred in May 1965, when a trailer killed an 11-year old girl by landing outside of the target area during a parachute drop training exercise. In recent years, in August 2004, a US military helicopter crashed into Okinawa International University, located next to Futenma Air Station, and then burst into flames. Luckily, there were no civilian casualties from this incident, but it caused a great degree of concern among local residents.
Criminal Cases involving US Military Personnel
There were 5,584 criminal cases involving US military personnel during the same period, including 559 atrocious cases of murder, burglary and rape. In Japan, sexual and violent cases such as rape or indecent assault are often not made public, so the number of actual cases is considered much higher. The most recent examples of criminal activity in Okinawa are as follow:
- In September 1995, three marines raped an elementary school girl. This led to a huge gathering of prefectural residents in October 1995, with 85,000 residents participating.
- In October 1998, a high school girl was run down and killed by a drunken US marine.
- In June 2001, there was rape case by a US airman.
- In November 2002, there was an attempted rape case by a US lieutenant.
- In May 2003, a US marine in Okinawa raped a woman, resulting in extensive injuries.
- In July 2005, a US airman in Okinawa indecently assaulted an elementary school girl.
- In February 2008, a US marine was suspected in the assault a junior high school girl.
Furthermore, in 2008, the number of US military personnel in Okinawa apprehended totaled 52, including for two burglaries and three rape cases. Major incidents in 2008 included: burglary resulting in injuries by US military personnel (January 7), a US marine suspected in the assault of a junior high school girl (February 10), rape resulting in injuries by US military personnel (February 18), robbery resulting in injury by US military personnel (March 16), a US plane mistakenly dropping an object outside of the target area during training (April 9), a fatal traffic accident caused by US military personnel (August 11), and the crashing of a Cessna plane belonging to the Kadena Aero Club (October 24).
The residents in Okinawa have protested vigorously to both the Japanese and American governments each time these incidents or accidents have occurred, and demanded the consolidation and reduction of US military bases in Okinawa and a review of the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement. However, fundamental improvements have yet to be made.