Why a drunk traffic fatality was the last straw for US troops in Japan

Early in the morning of Nov. 19, 2017. an Okinawa-based Marine drove his truck while impaired – at three times Japan’s legal limit. The Marine ran a red light, driving into oncoming traffic and hitting another truck driven by 61-year old, Jun Tamanaha. Tamanaha was killed in the incident.

The Marine is identified as Pvt. First Class Nicholas James-McLean.

“I would like to convey my deepest regret and sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Okinawan man who died as a result of this accident. We are still gathering facts and working with the Japanese authorities who are investigating the accident and its causes,” Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of Marine Forces Japan and III Marine Expeditionary Force said in an official statement.

LTG Nicholson

Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, listens to questions from Japanese media at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nelson Duenas)

In response, U.S. Forces Japan commander Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez ordered all Japan-based troops banned from buying or consuming alcohol until further notice.

“Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen must return to quarters and cease consuming alcohol effective immediately,” says the order from III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Off base liberty is NOT permitted in Okinawa. Authorized leave is to be conducted outside Okinawa.”

This was not a knee jerk reaction. Over the years, there have been many incidents involving U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa under the influence of alcohol. This sparked many local Japanese protests against the troops stationed there.

In July 2017, some 25,000 protested after a Marine drunkenly broke into a house and molested a young girl. In June 2016, 65,000 protesters assembled after an American contractor raped and murdered another local woman. One of the largest to date was in 1995, after three service members abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl, causing 85,000 protesters to rally.

Okinawans protesting the 40,000 troops stationed on the island. (Image via YouTube)

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