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Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station

The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is now one of the largest air bases in the Far East, much to the chagrin of residents here who have long complained about military noise. The Defense Ministrys Chugoku-Shikoku Defense Bureau notified the Iwakuni city government 31 March 2018 about the relocation of around 60 aircraft from the U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture. The U.S. military informed the ministry that the relocation of the aircraft from a U.S. Navy carrier air wing based at Atsugi was completed on 30 March 2018. That completion caps a 12-year relocation process based on a 2006 agreement between Tokyo and Washington over the U.S. militarys realignment plan in Japan. Five of the seven squadrons of the carrier air wing were relocated between August and December 2017. The remaining 24 or so aircraft began moving to Iwakuni on March 26. Atsugi will remain a vital base for the US military and will be used occasionally for training, refueling or maintenance.

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni is situated approximately 292 miles South of Osaka. It is located at the southern end of Honshu, the main island, in Yamaguchi prefecture, in the Nishiki River Delta. MCAS Iwakuni is home to approximately half of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing [headquartered on Okinawa], elements of the 3rd Force Service Support Group, and Fleet Air Wing 31 of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and other units of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. At present the station has about 10,000 personnel, including Japanese national employees. The city is backed by mountains and is fronted by the Seto Inland Sea. Running from east to west, the Nishiki River is vital to over 110,000 residents and the large number of factories in the city.

Iwakuni lies at the eastern end of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Its southeastern part faces the Inland Sea and its northern part adjoins Otake City in Hiroshima Prefecture. The city is backed by the mountains and its front borders on the Seto Inland Sea for a distance of some 1.3 kilometers. Iwakuni is located 300 miles West of Osaka and 30 miles from Hiroshima. Tokyo is 600 miles East of Iwakuni.

Three hundred fifty years ago the waters of the Inland Sea rolled over the area where aircraft wheels now screech across Iwakuni's airstrip. Fish swam nonchalantly over the spot where the main gate now stands. The land here has been wrestle from the ocean's grasp through hundreds of years of effort on the part of generations of "Japanese Dutchmen." It's all part of Iwakuni's "ancient history," the seldom told story of how the present Air Station came to be.

It was back at the beginning of the 1600's that the feudal lord Kikkawa, a supporter of the defeated Shogun, was banished to remote Iwakuni for having made the error of supporting the losing side. After building himself a castle on Shiroyama, the mountain west of Kintai Bridge, Kikkawa looked around and found that he was a very poor lord indeed. His land was officially valued (and taxable) at 60,000 koku of rice (one koku equals 4.96 bushels), but the land yielded 35,000 koku. In order to improve the situation, Kikkawa ordered his subjects to cultivate the hillsides and reclaim land along the sea front. The reclamation program has gone on ever since, with the largest area of reclaimed land being the Kawashimo delta on which MCAS Iwakuni is built. Nearly 2,000 acres of the delta have been taken back from the sea.

The reclaimed area was all farmland and village until the Japanese government bought a large portion of it in 1938, with the view of establishing a Naval Air Station. The new base was commissioned July 8, 1940. When World War II started, the Iwakuni air station was used as a training and defense base. Ninety six trainers and 150 Zero fighter planes were stationed on the airstrip, but, contrary to popular belief, no Kamikazes were based at Iwakuni. In September 1943 a branch of the Etajima Naval Academy was established here, with approximately 1,000 cadets undergoing training in the Basic, Junior and Senior Officer's schools at any one time. American B-29's bombed Iwakuni in May and August of 1945, concentrating on the oil refinery and RTO (train station) areas. The last air raid took place just a day before the war was brought to a close.

The first Allies to reach Iwakuni at war's end were a group of US Marines who had the papers signed ending the conflict for the Japanese air base. After the end of World War II, various military forces from the United States, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand occupied the base, and it was designated a Royal Australian Air Force Base in 1948.

When the Korean Conflict started in 1950, units from the Royal Navy and US Air Force arrived at Iwakuni as United Nations forces. Jets flew daily to support front line troops in Korea, returning each evening to refuel and rearm. The troop processing center located here throughout the war gained Iwakuni the title "Gateway to Korea."

The US Air Force took command of the station April 1, 1952. During its period of command the Air Force did much to improve the base's facilities. The US Navy took over the station October 1, 1954. NAS Iwakuni was greatly enlarged in July 1956 when the First Marine Aircraft Wing moved its headquarters here from Korea. A whole new area was procured on the north side of the station to make room for approximately 2,500 incoming Marines.

The station, which is approximately 1400 acres, was officially designated as USMC Air Station Iwakuni in 1962. Its mission includes support of operations, maintenance and supply of tenant units and ships.

During the last few years a continuous construction and renovation program has been underway, providing such improvements as a new Main Gym, Cross Roads Mall, Hockey Rink, and new family housing units.

Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station relocated a runaway 1,000 meters off shore by reclaiming a 1/2 mile the Seto Island Sea in a 10 year project. Barge loads of land reclamation fill material for the Iwakuni Runway Relocation Project were excavated from Atago Mountain in Iwakuni City and conveyed by three miles of conveyor to the barge for transport.

Iwakuni is an historical city nestled on the shore of the peaceful Seto Inland sea. Iwakuni is a city of many faces. It has a connection with the feudal past with its 5 arched Kintai Bridge and Iwakuni Castle. Between the busy city streets, are farm plots. Iwakuni Lotus Root is famous throughout Japan. Although its population is less than 110,000, the population in the city is very dense. The homes are built very close together. The driving lanes are narrow and congested with traffic. Cars are generally smaller than American vehicles. The rest of Japan considers Iwakuni to be a rural city.

Modern Iwakuni is represented by several major industries such as petroleum refining, paper manufacturing, and textiles to form a part of the Seto inland seaside industrial area. Iwakuni is also known as host to the US Marine Corps Air Station on mainland Japan and the presence of Americans coming and going throughout the city create an international atmosphere.

Iwakuni is located in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, approximately 55 kilometers south of Hiroshima. Yamaguchi, which means mountain country, aptly describes the magnificent scenery that gives Iwakuni its charm and beauty. There are endless opportunities to explore the many cultural and historical sights as well as parks and recreation areas. The people of Iwakuni, although shy and reserved, welcome the opportunity to get to know members of the Marine Corps Air Station community.

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Page last modified: 02-06-2018 19:09:01 ZULU