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American University students learn about Battle of Okinawa

Date Posted: 2011-01-07

It was billed as a two-week study tour by 14 students at American University in Washington D.C., but it wound up being an emotional history lesson.

The students found themselves straddling the lines from World War II to current day problems of military units being stationed on Okinawa, and for some, it was more than an eye-opener. Studies of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa were foremost on the tour, but then it extended to learning about the problems of American GI's being in Okinawa more than six decades after the war.

Those problems centered around Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, and the plan for moving it to Henoko, and the objections and sit-down demonstrations designed to block the relocation. The students heard from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and heard stories from a member of the House of Representatives, Hiroshi Kawauchi, and from Yuriko Koike, former Deputy Prime Minister.

It was the battle, though, that evoked tears and emotions. When the American University students entered the trench at Todoroki at Ishiki in Itoman City, they learned about what happened, and how people were weak and suffering form hunger in the pitch dark trench. As the students exited the trench, one said "even though we were there only one hour, it was cold and scary. When I got out of the trench, I felt a ray of sunshine filtering through." Other students showed sadness, and others relief on their faces.

A fourth-generation Okinawan born in Hawaii, 20-year-old Tolly Miyagi, was making her first visit to Okinawa. "I felt I must come here as Uchinanchu," she said, "and I felt it is better to hear the Battle of Okinawa experience, and so I could offer an incense stick."

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