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U.S. Sinking of Japanese Boat Raises History of US Military Abuse of Japanese Civilians

StoryFebruary 13, 2001
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The U.S. Navy spurned three official recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board aimed at preventingsubmarine mishaps like the one that sank a Japanese fishing boat off Hawaii on Friday, leaving nine people missing,feared drowned.

When the Navy rejected the advice, the independent five-member board shut its books on the case, terming the Navy’sresponse: "Closed — Unacceptable Action," documents made available on Monday showed.

Even before this latest revelation, Japanese politicians and media were leveling criticism at the crew of a U.S.submarine for not doing more to help survivors.

This sinking of the fishing boat is only one of a long string of incidents in which the U.S. military has cause deathand mayhem to Japanese civilians. More than half a century after its defeat, Japan still hosts numerous U.S. militarybases and 47,000 American troops, mostly on the small island of Okinawa.

There, on a daily basis, Okinawans are traumatized by the sonic booms of low-altitude flights and noise pollution fromnight landing exercises. Live-fire exercises and unexploded ordnance have killed and wounded many. And after coveringit up for a year, the U.S. finally admitted using depleted uranium ammunition near Okinawa. Possibly more disturbingto the people of Japan has been litany of abuses by US soldiers, mostly on Japanese girls and women. Since 1972,there have been more than 4,700 GI criminal incidents and accidents.

Also in violation of its treaty and Japan’s nuclear-free status, the U.S. docked warships carrying nuclear weapons inJapanese harbors. Five years after some 92 percent of Okinawan voters called for the withdrawal of U.S. bases, thesinking of the fishing boat is sparking a new outpouring of anger toward U.S. military presence.


  • Chalmers Johnson, President Japan Policy Research Institute.
  • Suzuyo Takazato, founder, Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence.
  • Carolyn Francis, Protestant missionary who helped organize grassroots opposition in Okinawa to U.S.military violence against people and the environment.

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