Archival papers suggests U.S. military carried out nuclear weapon drill in Okinawa during 1960s

August 18, 2011 by Kenyu Uchima and Wakako Oshiro of Ryukyu Shimpo

Papers of the United States National Archives recently revealed that during the 1960s, the period of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military carried out training with small nuclear weapons at Camp Hague, located in what was then Okinawa City and Gushikawa City (now Uruma City). The document is contained in monthly reports for the period from the mid to late 1960s, which were released by the 3rd Marine Division of the United States Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa. It states that “Special Weapons Training” (which in U.S. military terminology means nuclear weapons) had been conducted.

Shoji Niihara, a researcher on the history of relations between Japan and the United States, located official documents published by the National Archives on the Internet. In addition to the training, the documents contain reference to a “Nuclear Weapons Refresher” (re-education program for the nuclear weapons). With regard to the venue for the training, it clearly states “Camp Hague” and “Okinawa.” It also noted details of the number of officers and NCOs who participated in the training.

“Nuclear Safety Officers” suggests that they carried out training for safe handling of nuclear weapons and to protect themselves in the event of coming under nuclear attack. According to some reports, a soldier transferred to Okinawa from Vietnam testified that he was exposed to radiation during the training.

The same documents state that the training was held on an irregular basis, and was often conducted between 1966 and 1968. Niihara speculated that, “U.S. Forces would have worked on the assumption that they would find themselves in the situation in which they would use nuclear weapons. The period in question overlapped with the Battle of Khe Sanh in which the fighting intensified in Vietnam, so the operational unit underwent training for nuclear weapons in preparation for their possible use.”

Camp Hague for the U.S. Marine Corps was located in Noborikawa, Okinawa City (formerly Misato Village), and was land taken over by U.S. forces in 1945. The land used by the Camp was returned to the local authorities in the period from 1964 to 1977.

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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