(Ginowan City Newsletter: July 10, 2015 – p. 9)
The city of Ginowan is organizing various events this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Its citizens witnessed many things over the course of rebuilding from the devastation of the war.
The U.S. military issued a land acquisition order in 1953 and forcibly requisitioned land across the prefecture. In 1955, U.S. forces deprived 136 Isahama residents of their land and 32 houses by force. In March of that year, about 30,000 tsubo [1 tsubo = 3.3 square meters] of land in Isahama was seized. Property on Ie Island was condemned around the same time.
In July 1955, U.S. forces issued an additional acquisition order for 100,000 tsubo of land. Isahama residents launched a protest, hoisting banners reading “Protect land, famers’ lives” and “Money is temporary but land forever.”
In the early morning of July 19, U.S. forces closed off Isahama, smashing house to pieces with bulldozers and cranes. Paddy fields were quickly buried beneath earth and sand scooped up by a U.S. military salvage ship off the coast of Chatan.
This happened so quickly that residents were left in a state of shock and confusion. They took shelter inside Oyama Elementary School. Some of them later moved to Takahara, where they built tin-roofed houses and eked out a living by tilling the pebbled soil. They were forced to make a fresh start on barren land. But they continued to meet with misfortune. A typhoon struck Takahara, and they were cut off from welfare assistance. Finding little hope there, some migrated to South America.
It has been 60 years since the violent seizure of Isahama’s land. Isahama, which was located inside present-day Camp Zukeran, was rife with paddy fields and the most scenic place in Okinawa. Today every physical feature of Isahama has been obliterated by base facilities.
But Isahama’s scenic beauty is etched deeply in the memories of its former residents. We must pay heed to those memories, archive them, and pass them down to the next generation.
[The Isa/Isahama neighborhood includes parts of the Camp Foster industrial corridor. – Editor]