Osprey crash reignites anti-base furor on Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A storm is brewing on Okinawa after a controversial American aircraft crashed into the sea Tuesday night.
The Marine Corps sees the pilot — who ditched in shallow water rather than risk flying over Okinawan homes after a nighttime refueling with a C-130 severed a heavy hose and damaged the MV-22 Osprey — as a hero. But Okinawa’s anti-base activists, including Gov. Takeshi Onaga, see the incident as yet another reason to reduce the U.S. military presence on the tiny southern Japanese island.
The difference of opinion in the days following the crash of the helicopter-plane hybrid has spilled into public view, with Okinawa Vice Gov. Mitsuo Ageta accusing Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, III Marine Expeditionary Force commander, of having a “colonialist mentality,” according to Japan’s Mainichi newspaper.
Local media reports have also accused Nicholson of lying about the apparent cause of the crash, which is still under investigation, and seized upon Ageta’s comments claiming Nicholson said Japan should be “thankful” the Osprey did no damage to nearby homes or residents.
Nicholson apologized to the Okinawan people for the incident at a Wednesday news conference.
“It is blindingly obvious that residents will be constantly exposed to danger [if the Ospreys are relocated from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Camp Schwab], which makes impossible for them to lead normal daily life,” said Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine.
He pointed out that the crash site was less than 100 feet from the shore.
“A few seconds difference and it could have crashed into a residential area,” he said. “It was fortunate that no one on the ground was involved in the crash. The accident proved that the Ospreys are defective aircraft.”
Read a related article: Marines ground Ospreys on Okinawa, blame crash on severed hose