The United States is returning 9,900 acres of land in Okinawa back to Japan, the largest release of land since the island reverted to Japanese control in 1972.
Okinawa is one of the most vital bases in the pacific and hosts 50,000 military personnel for jungle warfare training.
In a statement from the Department of Defense, officials say the land is no longer needed.
“As part of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States of America and Japan, the U.S. is granted the right to certain exclusive-use facilities for the purpose of the defense of Japan and maintenance of peace and security in the Far East,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, United States Forces, Japan Deputy Commander. “Under the treaty, once facilities or areas are no longer necessary to meet those ends, they will be returned to Japanese government. In this case, the construction of several replacement helicopter landing zones to consolidate training within other existing areas will allow the return of almost 4,000 hectares.”
This comes just weeks after strict liberty restrictions and a midnight curfew took effect for all service members on Okinawa. Fireworks and concerts on the Fourth of July were also canceled for American forces in Japan this year.
Over 20,000 Americans consisting of the 10th Army combined with three U.S. Marine divisions were killed in the Battle of Okinawa, which proved to be the bloodiest of the Pacific War.