GI Antiwar Movement and Okinawa II

GI Antiwar Movement and Okinawa II

On October 20, 2011, at the hotel in San Francisco, Shila Proctor (right) and her son, Eric Watson.


June 4, 2012 ChotaTakamine

The Los Angeles based filmmaker Eric Watson is well known to the American film industry. He worked alongside successful director Darren Aronofsky. Watson has been creating challenging films.

In his early childhood, Watson lived briefly in Okinawa when his mother Shila Proctor took a nursing position at the military hospital.

“I lived in Okinawa for a year since I was five years old. I remember that I went to two different schools.”

Proctor, who is now based in Fairfax, California, came to be involved in supporting Vietnam antiwar GIs while tending to military patients in Okinawa.

On October 19, in front of the cafe in San Francisco, Ed Kinchley (left) and Larry Hendel.

Since returning to the United States, Proctor has been teaching at the School of Nursing of the University of California, San Francisco as Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor. She has also been involved in the Woman’s Liberation Movement, and activities helping indigent people.

With regard to the September 11 attacks, the War in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Proctor said, “I have an extreme amount of sympathy for the people who have lost their family members due to 9.11. On the other hand, the government of this country totally distorted and used it as a way to ignore a lot of problems that we have, and as a way of unifying people by bringing racism and ethnocentrism, which made us hate people from Iran and Iraq, the religion they practice, just for no reason.”

Proctor’s son echoed her concerns about US citizens being poorly informed, “Our society is not really aware of the wars we are involved in. Major newspapers do not mention and discuss them. The U.S. government works for the power establishment, where the people in power stay in power.” He also expressed strong support for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In the early 1970s, in Iejima, Shoko Ahagon (left on the front row), the father of the Okinawan civil rights movement, and Ed Kinchley (right on the front row).

Proctor is no longer immersed in Okinawa’s anti-base movement, but a recent news article about the ongoing struggle brought back strong sentiments. “When I read the article about Okinawan people’s opposition to the U.S. military bases in Okinawa on the New York Times, I was outraged at what we are doing. I think the U.S. military bases should leave Okinawa.”

According to Watson, younger generations have a lot to learn from those who pioneered civil rights and anti-war movements. He said the sharing of knowledge and information between generations was important regardless of changing times.

“The organizational skills and a lot of knowledge gained in my mother’s generation during civil rights movements, and Vietnam War movements can be communicated to younger generation.”

Ed Kinchley and Larry Hendel, who live in San Francisco, came to Okinawa when it was still under US administration. Kinchley was shocked to see the sprawl of the bases on such a densely populated island, with non-military Okinawa wedged between miles of military land.

“I just remember when I was in Okinawa, one of the things that physically struck me was every place you go, you see the barbed wire fences. It was not clear if you were inside or outside of the bases in most of the times.”

Kinchley visited Japan as an exchange student of Waseda University, and belonged to Gaijin Beheiren, which was associated with Beheiren, the nationwide movement founded to support antiwar GIs. Kinchley visited Okinawa in 1970 and 1971. His first visit was in the aftermath of the Koza riot. By his second visit to Okinawa, the movement for reversion of Okinawa to Japan was gathering momentum.

After taking part in antiwar movements in Massachusetts and San Francisco, Hendel moved to Okinawa, and got involved in supporting antiwar GIs. Hendel has also been working for the labor union movement in Oakland, California since returning to the United States. While working as a social worker, Kinchley is also actively engaged in the union movement.

Asked about the issues of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa, Hendel said, “We do not hear about the presence of the U.S. Marines in the Pacific rim. It is just not in the news. But the article on the New York Times was an amazing piece. That idea that we still have the U.S. military bases in Okinawa is ridiculous.”
Kinchley was concerned about the social problems caused by hosting bases.

“The impact that so many bases have on local communities, and economies is crazy. It is also not safe to walk around at night when a bunch of drunk GIs are anywhere.”

(English translation by T&CT, Jane Barraclough)

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