Okinawa

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Okinawa

Okinawa (ō´kĬnä´wä), island (1990 pop. 1,222,458), 454 sq mi (1,176 sq km), W Pacific Ocean, SW of Kyushu; a part of Okinawa prefecture, Japan. It is the largest of the Okinawa Islands in the Ryukyu Islands archipelago. Naha is the largest city and chief port. Okinawa is a long, narrow, irregularly shaped island of volcanic origin with coral formations in the southern part. The northern part is mountainous, rising to 1,657 ft (505 m), and has dense vegetation. Most of the island's population is in the south. Okinawa has a humid subtropical climate. Sugarcane, sweet potatoes, and rice are grown, sugar is refined, cattle are raised, and fishing and tourism are important. There is some light industry in Naha.

Okinawa was the scene of the last great U.S. amphibious campaign in World War II. U.S. army and marine forces landed there on Apr. 1, 1945, and fought one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, while the navy offshore suffered heavy damage in resisting attacks by suicide planes (see kamikaze). The Japanese garrison, having lost 103,000 of its 120,000 men, ended organized resistance on June 21, 1945. U.S. casualties were 48,000, one fourth listed as dead. Okinawa was placed in Aug., 1945, under a U.S. military governor and remained under U.S. control until May, 1972, when it was returned to Japan. U.S. military bases were allowed to remain on the island; about three quarters of the American forces based in Japan are in Okinawa. Opposition to the bases from local residents grew in the mid-1990s, and in 2006 the United States and Japan agreed to redeploy 8,000 U.S. marines to Guam and relocate other U.S. forces from the greater Naha area to another part of Okinawa. In 2009 a new Japanese government reconsidered the plan but ultimately accepted (2010) it, and a revised agreement was reached in 2012. Progress on the relocation agreement was slow, however, due to local opposition.

See J. Belote and W. Belote, Typhoon of Steel: The Battle for Okinawa (1970).

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