Removal of Cold War-era US nuclear base almost complete

Removal of Cold War-era US nuclear base almost complete

The underground part of the launch pads for Mace B surface-launched missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads was made of thick reinforced concrete. The buildings above ground have been removed. The curved part facing upwards is the exhaust port. (Photograph taken on May 23, at the former Gimbaru Training Area in Kin.)


May 24, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 23, the Okinawa Defense Bureau showed the media a vacant lot in the Gimbaru Training Area where Mace B surface-launched missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads were based. The Gimbaru Training Area was returned to the Kin Municipal Office in 2011. The thick concrete shelters and large reinforcing bars of the launch pad and the exhaust port appeared from under the ground is testimony that this was once a robust nuclear missile site. All the launch pads faced towards China, the imagined enemy of the United States during the Cold War. The pads had slopes inside them to launch missiles into the sky.

According to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the base was built with eight missile launch pads in 1957. The 498th Tactical Missile Group, 313th Division, Kadena Air Base, operated the Mace B sites. At that time, the site had two chambers connected by a corridor 11 meters underground. The U.S. military removed the missiles and the above-ground parts of the site in 1970. Since 2012, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has been working to remove all buildings to restore the site to its original state to handover to the landowner. Seven launch pads and one basement had been removed when reporters visited the site.

The total cost of dismantling this nuclear missile site will be about 150 million yen. By the end of September this year, the site will be handed over to the local authorities as planned and with that, the process of returning the Gimbaru Training Area, including the former missile site, will come to an end. The site will become an open area in a park.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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