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Camp S D Butler

Perhaps the most unique characteristic about Okinawa is that unlike most duty stations, MCB Camp Butler is physically separated throughout the island into a number of different camps. For example, the distance between the northernmost camp, Camp Gonsalves, and the southernmost camp, Camp Kinser, is over 50 miles. On the winding roads of Okinawa, the distance is considerably longer. As with Camp Gonsalves and Camp Kinser, all the Marine Corps camps on the island and Camp Fuji on mainland Japan, fall under the one title, MCB Camp Butler.

Despite the camps' physical isolation from each other, convenient services and facilities make them all virtually a mini-base of their own. Except Camp Gonsalves, each has an exchange outlet, ample concessions, clubs, a USO facility, library, bowling alley, theater, gymnasium, chapel, bank, post office, dining facilities and cash sales outlet. While each camp certainly offers numerous conveniences, some Marines and their families may want to explore bases beyond their work or home. Perhaps the easiest way to get from camp to camp is through the free intra-base shuttle bus service, which runs Monday through Friday. On weekends a liberty bus is available. Although Marines here work in a foreign country, they'll soon find that the general arrangements and expectations aren't much different than any other duty station in the states. Annual training requirements such as physical fitness tests, rifle and pistol qualification, and gas chamber orientation are as familiar to the Okinawa Marines as they are to any other leatherneck. On the more unique aspect of working here, Okinawa encourages a strong blend of interservice harmony. Soldiers are assigned to several commands here, including Torii Station and Fort Buckner. In addition to 7th Fleet obligations, many Sailors work with Marine units at White Beach and Camp Shields; and thousands of airmen work at Kadena Air Base.

Most Marines stationed on Okinawa belong to the III Marine Expeditionary Force, III MEF, headquartered at Camp Courtney. The III MEF activated during World War II (1942), where it fought as the Marine Amphibious Force. It carried this name through Vietnam, after which it re-settled in Okinawa in 1971. Within the III MEF's four major elements are several major subordinate commands, including: the 3d Marine Division, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 3d Force Service Support Group, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the HQ & SVC BN, III MEF.

Marine Corps Bases, Japan, the senior Okinawa Marine Corps command, controls all Marine commands on Okinawa and mainland Japan, to include Camp Fuji and Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni. Marine Corps Base Camp Butler's history began in 1955, when it was located at Camp Tengan near Camp Courtney. Today, the Camp Butler headquarters is located at Building 1, Camp Butler.

Camp S D Butler
Geographically Separated or Satellite Locations

Satellite Command Distance
Camp Kinser 3rd FSSG 10 Miles north of Naha
Camp Fuji   On the Mainland Japan
MCAS Futenma 1st MAW 4.8 km south of Camp FOSTER
Camp Courtney III MEF 8 km North of Camp Foster
Camp Hansen 3rd Mar Div 20 Miles North of Camp Foster
Camp Schwab 4th Mar Regi 35 Miles North of Camp Foster
Camp Gonsalves MCB Northern Training Area  
Camp Shields Navy Sea Bees 5 Miles North of Camp Foster
NSGA Hanza Navy Security Group  
White Beach    

Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyu chain, is an exciting land, with vivid reminders of a proud,thousand-year-old history tightly woven in the modern-day existence it displays today. The island has been a favorite training area for the Marine Corps since post-war units were based here more than 40 years ago. Today, the Corps has eight different facilities on Okinawa to call home: Camps Gonsalves, Schwab, Hansen, Courtney, Lester, Foster, Kinser, and Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma. Beside a significant Marine Corps presence here, Okinawa is also home to a number of major Navy, Army and Air Force units and facilities.

A combination of oriental and occidental customs and cultures, the first written records of Okinawa's ancient ancestry have been traced to about 603 A.D. At this time,the Chinese were sending missions to Okinawa to demand tribute and submission. The proud Okinawan people refused the demands, however, and seven years later the Chinese returned with greater forces to invade and rule the island for about 500 years.

The island's first kingdom was established by Shunten, the lord of Urasoe in the 12th century. This monarchy system lasted until the 14th century when Okinawa split into three different kingdoms: Hokuzan, Nanzan and Chuzan. For the next 200 years Okinawa enjoyed a flourishing trade with China, Japan, Korea and the East Indies. In 1609, however, this golden era came to an abrupt halt when Samuri warriors from Satsuma, an area in southern Japan, invaded Okinawa. For the next 270 years, the Satsuma would demand taxes from Okinawans and manipulate their trading market as payment for protecting their island.

In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry visited the Royal palace at Shuri. About this same time, a number of Western nations, including the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia were attempting to open treaty relations with Okinawa. In 1868, during the Meiji Restoration, Japan tightened its grip on Okinawa by sending a military detachment there.

In 1879, weary of Okinawan objections to its military forces, the Japanese government dissolved the royal government and formally annexed the island kingdom. Okinawa was organized as the 47th district of Japan, supervised by a governor, very similar to an American state. Although America was acquainted with Okinawa in the early 1800s, for most Americans the small island nation went completely unobserved until the abrupt advent of World War II.

Situated on the southern approaches to Japan, the Ryukyu Island chain was geographically situated as to be virtually unavoidable in any American offensive strategy against mainland Japan. The inevitable soon became history when Okinawa became the arena for one of the most ferocious battles of the war. By June, 1944, the Japanese army arrived in force. Casualties mounted quickly as US forces saturated military targets with bombs four months later.

In March, 1945, the first American troops landed on the Kerama Islands as the springboard for America's island leapfrogging strategy. Okinawa was next in line and, on April 1, 1945, the invasion began. After 11 weeks of fierce fighting, the battle of Okinawa was over June 20, 1945. Two months later Japan surrendered. Okinawa was one of the longest and hardest fought campaigns in the history of World War II. Total American battle casualties were estimated at 49,151, including 12,500 killed or missing. Japanese soldiers killed were about 60,000 while one-third of the Okinawan population, about 150,000 died in the "Typhoon of Steel."

Because it was considered the key to the invasion of Japan, and because it is also considered a key geographical factor to the defense of the free world in the Pacific area, Okinawa now owns the nickname, "Keystone of the Pacific." As relief funds, appropriated by the US Congress, began to get pumped into Okinawa in 1946, the island began traveling the steady path to economic recovery. That same year, Okinawa set up its first general hospital, civilian newspaper, bank and courts. By 1950, the country had resumed its foreign trade lines and established a civil government system throughout the Ryukyu islands.

In 1951, a US -Japanese peace treaty gave Americans complete administrative control of the Ryukyus for an indefinite period. By referring to the island as a "residual sovereignty," however, the United States still suggested recognition of Japan's basic ownership of the islands. In addition, the United States promised that, when international circumstances warranted, it would return administrative control of the chain to Japan. Administrative authority of the Ryukyu Islands was transferred back to Japan May 15, 1972, and Okinawa became a prefectural district of Japan once again.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:43:54 ZULU