12. Letter From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Ambassador to Japan (Reischauer)1

Dear Ed:

With further reference to the Ryukyus,2 you should know that during the past few weeks we have been seeking to obtain Defense agreement to separating the military and civil functions on Okinawa by the [Page 11] appointment of a civilian High Commissioner responsible directly to the Secretary of Defense.3

I privately discussed the matter on a number of occasions with Cy Vance and Steve Ailes against the background of the developments in Panama, pointing out that we should now be looking to perhaps the next twenty years in Okinawa. We had managed to get by these past eighteen years under the present arrangement but I feared that the concept of an American military officer ruling over an alien population of almost one million would not continue to be viable with U.S., Ryukyuan, Japanese or world opinion, and we should adjust our arrangements before the pressures begin to grow. In view of its past record and the problem of appropriations, I dismissed the possibility of seeking to give Interior responsibility for the civil aspects of Okinawa. I also thought the responsibility remaining in the Department of Defense was consistent with our position that the occupation of Okinawa was based upon military necessity and was in principle temporary in nature. However, to obtain the type of person that would be required as a civilian High Commissioner (I had in mind an ex-governor, mayor of a large city or some similar background), I thought it essential he be responsible directly to the Secretary of Defense rather than to the Secretary of the Army.

Cy Vance was responsive to the concept. Understandably, Steve Ailes was somewhat resistant. The Secretary also discussed it directly with Bob McNamara who, while not rejecting it, was understandably concerned at arousing in an election year some of those on the Hill, particularly in the Armed Services Committees, who could be expected to be very resistant to any change. In order to move the issue from one of abstract principle to concrete terms we sought quietly to locate someone who might be considered for the position. However, we were not successful.

Therefore, we have now concurred in the appointment of General Albert Watson, General Caraway’s replacement. It had been hoped and expected that Tic Bonesteel, who would of course be absolutely first class, would be appointed but this turned out to be impossible because Tic has been having very grave difficulties with his sight which require his remaining close to the specialist in Philadelphia who has been treating him. All of us who know of his work feel that Watson, who has been Commandant in Berlin, is by far the best second choice. His record in Berlin was excellent and he is accustomed to working very closely with State in a complicated and complex military milieu. He [Page 12] will also be briefed thoroughly here on the importance of doing much better than we have in the past in taking account of our problems vis-à-vis Japan with respect to the Ryukyus, and I think that you will find him willing to work effectively with you.

This does not mean we have abandoned the concept of the civilian High Commissioner, but only that we have set it aside for the time being. In the meanwhile, I feel confident that General Watson will serve to eliminate some of the problems we have been facing, especially with respect to Japan.

I know that you will keep the foregoing very much to yourself, but wanted you and John Emmerson to have the full story as it now stands.


U. Alexis Johnson 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 19 RYU IS. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. In telegram 2751 from Tokyo, March 23, Reischauer informed the Department of State of growing dissatisfaction with and criticism of the lack of local autonomy on the Ryukyus as reflected in the Japanese press and in comments by members of the OLDP, which was considered the most conservative and pro-U.S. party on the islands. (Ibid.)
  3. U. Alexis Johnson had previously informed Rusk of his efforts to achieve that objective. (Memoranda to Rusk, March 19 and 25; ibid.)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.