The response to the FTA (Free the Army) and Bob Hope shows evidenced the increasing polarization between GIs and the military machine. The highly political FTA show, performed to support servicewomen and men struggling against the military and its oppressive policies, was given an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Bob Hope struggled to maintain dignity.
The FTA troupe could hold only one of its three shows as scheduled. 2000 GIs jammed the Okinawan auditorium, and at least another 1000 crowded around windows, jammed in the back stage area, and sat on wall, across the street. The positive response was tremendous. At least 250 GIs rapped until late in the night in a lot across the street from the auditorium.
FTA shows for the second and third nights were cancelled because the military imposed condition green, a regulation that makes it illegal to be off base. This was done because of a Zengunro (All-Okinawa Base Workers Union) strike, High Commissioner of the Ryukyus, General Lampert, told FTA representatives personally that he had specific orders from Washington not to grant the facilities on base which are regularly given to other entertainers despite the fact that his own aide, a colonel, had seen the show and witnessed the overwhelming positive response of GIs.
FTA held a matinee on the afternoon before condition green came into effect. Over 1000 GIs slid off work to see the show which was held in a bullring in solidarity with Okinawans struggling against the take-over of an Okinawan hotel for brass marine housing.
During the Base Workers strike the FTA troupe joined the picketers and appealed to GIs to acknowledge why the Okinawan base workers are fighting and to join their struggle.
The Bob Hope extravaganza was held two days after the FTA group was safely off the island, Many troops were give direct orders to attend the show. Members of the 3rd Medical Batalion at Camp Hansen challenged the order in regimental office hours. The order was rescinded, but liberty was secured until after 11:30. While GIs were sent to the show in conveys and marched in, generals sat in a special section reserved for them. Throughout the show GIs threw oranges from their packed lunches back and forth in the audience, making Hope repeatedly beg them to stop.
Hope proclaimed that he is of the real anti-war contingent and that those shouting for peace are prolonging the war by aiding the enemy. Movement GIs were not fooled. The show started with a GI band scheduled to play for an hour. They started by saying, "We'd like to dedicate this to our childhood idol, Mr. Bob Hope" and went into their first song - War Pig. They were forced to leave after the first song.
When High Commissioner Lampert appeared to introduce Hope there were loud jeers. The only applause he evoked was when he said, "I'll make it short." There was no laughter at any of his political jokes. Jim Nabors put on an officer's hat and was booed until he took it off. Typical of the attitude of the show, the same attitude that the GI movement is struggling against, was a Hope joke about GIs and Asian women, He said he hoped GIs had developed meaningful relationships while in Asia--maybe they could sneak a prostitute home in a duffle bag.
OTHER NEWS FROM OKINAWA
With the help of the FTA show as a send off, new activities at Okinawa have begun. A new GI center, the Omega House, has been set up and will provide a meeting and rapping place, as well as a place where projects and papers can be organized. Before, people had to work out of various apartments. Since Omega House opened a few weeks ago, plans for an Omega House Press have gotten underway and there is legal counseling and rapping every night.
We have finally gotten some news on the general strike in Okinawa, although we have no details. It was, according to the project there, "strong and beautiful--but not effective. " Reversion has been approved by both America and Japan and is scheduled to take place May 15. The principal emphases of Zengunro and other Okinawan groups are to keep the SDF (Japan's Self Defense Forces) off the island and to get a 360 yen to the dollar exchange rate. Zengunro has had one general strike, when the FTA show was at Okinawa, and a rash of divisional striking, protesting dismissals and the reduction of the work week. All the unions on the island are going through a period of flux as they adjust to to reality of reversion and the effects it will have on their struggle.
Camp News, vol. 3, no. 1