Americans on Okinawa report assaults, vandalism
Stars and Stripes March 2, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A small group of Okinawans is using the U.S. military-imposed “period of reflection” as an excuse to attack Americans, military officials said Friday.
Several incidents of vandalism and minor assaults have been reported since Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer placed all American personnel, family members and civilian workers under restriction to the bases or their off-base homes, forbidding most activity in the local community, according to 18th Wing spokeswoman Beth Gosselin.
“We are aware of the incidents and the base is cooperating with the local authorities,” she said. “We believe these are the actions of a small group of individuals that do not reflect the Okinawa community as a whole.”
According to an e-mail obtained by Stars and Stripes that was sent to senior noncommissioned officers on Kadena Air Base on Wednesday, several incidents against Americans have been reported.
Okinawan spouses of American servicemembers reported to base police that paint had been thrown at cars bearing the “Y” license plates. The special plates identify the cars as owned by a person in the country under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
Other reported incidents involved people running “Y” plate cars off the road.
“Another one of our NCO’s were picking up students for our last silver flag class and reported that he was harassed on (Highway) 58 by some locals,” the e-mail stated. “They were tailgating him flashing their lights, then passed and motioned for him to pull over.
“When he didn’t pull over, they got in front and hit the brakes a few times. Eventually they went away,” the e-mail read.
In another case, a DODDS teacher reported that two cars forced a friend to stop and bump up on a curb to avoid an accident.
“Three Japanese men surrounded her car and began tapping on the windows,” the e-mail stated. “She grabbed her phone and took a picture of one guy and they ran away. She reported it to [military authorities] and was told the men were trying to instigate a fight.”
Okinawa police at stations near the bases said they had not confirmed the reports. But they encouraged Americans to immediately report any such occurrences.
“If there is a time lag, it will make it hard for us to secure evidence,” said a police spokesman in Ginowan.
He said the nationalities of the suspect or victims did not matter.
“What is wrong is wrong,” he said.
The Air Force e-mail advised personnel to “always remain professional on/off duty and to not be provoked into any altercations. Sadly, there ‘may’ have been recent incidents where Americans ‘may’ have been targeted. If this happened to our personnel, they need to do their best to avoid an altercation and notify authorities.”
The incidents reported in the e-mail are not the only stories being circulated about Okinawans targeting Americans.
“A friend told me the bosozoku (young people on motorbikes and small motorcycles) are surrounding ‘Y’ plate vehicles and beating them with sticks,” said a person who identified himself only as “Chris,” a civilian contractor and former soldier. “I’ve been here 14 years and I’ve never seen this kind of thing happening.”
Responding to such accounts in an Internet chat room (www.japanupdate.com/forum), another longtime American resident of Okinawa found the reports hard to believe.
“Have you ever known the Okinawans to be aggressive or confrontational?” the person wrote. “In my eight years here, that is one trait they don’t possess.”