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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Camp Asaka, Japan -- No Longer A Good Dumping Ground For Dissident GIs
“The military has been able to use Asia as a dumping ground for GIs it considers a problem, because it's more difficult for them to find civilian support here. But we're planning to change that,” the young American civilian told me. We were speaking in the Tokyo office of Beheiren: “Citizens' Committee for Peace in Vietnam.”
And, in truth, the situation is already beginning to change. Japan, at least has become much less of a “dumping ground” than it once was. There are -- so far -- three GI papers: HAIR (Human Activities In Retrospect), a Black Power paper produced at Masawa Air Force Base; Kill for Peace, put out by GIs at Camp Drake in Asaka; and an Asian edition of WE GOT THE brASS. In the case of HAIR, the “dumping ground” procedure has worked in reverse: this fall, four GIs suspected of being connected with the paper were hastily returned to the United States. (If anyone stationed in Asia is homesick, this could indicate an opportunity.)
But the three GI papers are only a part of the problem which the brass is facing in Japan these days. The Japanese antiwar movement has been making approaches to American GIs and has met with a good response. At the Beheiren office, I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Haruki Wada, a leader of a group which the commander of Camp Drake (Camp Asaka) likes to call the “Oizumi Citizens Council.” The correct name of the group is “Oizumi Citizens for a Just Peace in Vietnam and the Removal of Camp Asaka.”
The people of Oizumi have been fighting for several years for the removal of the U.S. base, but it was only in September of 1968, Professor Wada said, that they hit upon the idea of bringing their message to the GIs. They began by distributing leaflets to the GIs on the base, often by passing them through the fence.
In June of this year, the Oizumi citizens added an additional tactic: broadcasting through loudspeakers to the GIs within the base. The messages broadcast in this manner included news of the antiwar movement in the U.S. and Japan, speeches by Bertrand Russell, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. King, and Dr. Benjamin Spock; and the text of an article by a Japanese journalist describing the destruction of villages in Vietnam.
At first, there was little open response by the GIs at Camp Drake, but gradually this changed. A popular program broadcast in August was titled “The Voice of Japanese Citizens,” and consisted of translations of remarks by the Japanese man–in–the–street in response to questions about the Vietnam war and the presence of American bases in Japan.
In October, “Radio Camp Must Go” increased its activities, partly because the brass had stopped the distribution of leaflets by declaring a six-foot strip just inside the fence off limits, and partly to inform GIs about the plans for the October `15 Moratorium Day demonstrations. Messages broadcast included statements of solidarity with the American antiwar movement, letters received from the papers the Bond and Head-On, and a statement by a member of the Black Panther Party who was visiting Japan. Many GIs came to get the copies of WE GOT THE brASS which the broadcasts offered, and several who were near their ETS said they intended to join the Black Liberation or antiwar movements when they returned to the U.S.
On October 15, the broadcast consisted of a musical program. Two GIs later approached the Oizumi Citizens and said in some amazement: “You were telling the truth' (about the Moratorium Day in the U.S.) the brass apparently had been engaged in their usual practice of spreading lies within Camp Drake.
Recently Camp Drake's brass has succeeded in making itself look even more foolish. On December 14, a GI within the base responded to the broadcasts -- as many GIs do these days -- by making the pace sign. Two MPs who happened to be going by told him to stop. He didn't. So the MPs arrested him, put him in their car, and drove off, with the determined GI still flashing the pace sign through the rear window. Unfortunately for the brass, a Japanese TV cameraman happened to be on the scene, and that night the entire nation was treated to a view of American democracy in action.
The broadcasting at Camp Drake has now been expanded to include Army hospitals at Kishini and Zama and the navy base at Koda. The example certainly deserves to be imitated if it spreads it could result in the brass losing their last “dumping ground.”
GI Press Service, vol. 2, no. 1