Futenma Daini Elementary sports field evacuated 242 times over 39 days for U.S. military flights

Futenma Daini Elementary sports field evacuated 242 times over 39 days for U.S. military flights

April 6, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo


In December last year a window from a large U.S. military helicopter fell on the sports field of Futenma Daini Elementary School in Ginowan City, Okinawa.

The sports field was reopened for use on February 13 and remained open until the end of the school’s third term on March 23.

Futenma Daini Elementary concluded that over these 39 days of the field being open for use, pupils had to evacuate the field and take shelter inside 242 times due to the approach of U.S. aircraft.

The highest number of times in a day that pupils had to take shelter was 29 times.

Evacuations took place more that 20 times a day on three separate occasions during this 39-day period.

Taking shelter from the approach of U.S. aircraft has interrupted the children’s physical education lessons.

The U.S. military has not suspended flights in the vicinity of schools, so children’s right to receive education is being constantly infringed upon.

On January 19 in Ginowan City, a large U.S. military CH-53E helicopter approaches Futenma Daini Elementary from the air.


From 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. while school is in session at Futenma Daini Elementary School, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) monitors U.S. military aircraft flights from Kakazu Hill.

When notification is received from the ODB confirming that a U.S. military aircraft has taken off in the direction of the school, an evacuation instruction is issued.

When an instruction is issued, students who are in the sports field or other outdoor areas take shelter indoors.



Most of the class work that takes place on the sports field is physical education.

Sometimes multiple evacuation instructions were announced during one class session.

The school principal said, “If there are two evacuations, a lesson comes to naught.”

Also, the principal voiced the concern that it seems likely some lessons could not be completed over the class period and that, “The curriculum that should have been learned could not be completed.”

The only days during the 39-day period that no evacuation instructions were issued were February 19 and 20 which are U.S. military holidays, March 22 when the children were indoors for their graduation ceremony, and March 23 when they were indoors for their completion ceremony.

Futenma Daini Elementary faces a dilemma; it wants to quickly return to a regular routine, but it cannot afford to reduce evacuations and put its pupils in danger.

The principal said, “Upon seeing how the pupils fare in the upcoming school term, we want to discuss with the parents, guardians, and the city Board of Education regarding how to handle the situation.”


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