19. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green) to the Acting Secretary of State (Richardson)1


  • Removal of gas weapons from Okinawa—ACTION MEMORANDUM

We are concerned that continued delay in beginning the removal of lethal gas weapons from Okinawa could be damaging in Japan and Okinawa, and perhaps here in the U.S. Adverse impact of the July gas incident on Okinawa was minimized by prompt announcement of our [Page 66] intention to remove the weapons.2 Although we informed the GOJ that we could not then determine when the removal would begin or how long it would take, the GOJ undoubtedly expected that we would move with reasonable speed.

We believe that the Japanese will raise this issue with us before too long, and that we should, at least, be in position to say the removal has begun. In addition to the impact in Japan and Okinawa, further delay also runs the risk of criticism in the U.S. There would, of course, be grievous international and domestic repercussions should a second incident occur before removal has even begun.

We understand that DOD has not yet adopted a plan for removal of these weapons, and that even after a plan is adopted, there may be considerable delay before the removal operation begins. DOD/ISA seems to recognize the urgency of the problem, but this recognition is apparently not shared on the military side which is responsible for implementing the removal decision. In view of this situation and the importance of the problem, we believe that you should emphasize the matter by informing Secretary Laird of our views.


That you sign the attached letter to Secretary Laird.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 RYU IS–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Howard M. McElroy, cleared in draft by EA/J and J/PM. Also initiated by Eliot.
  2. On July 8, a 500-pound GB (nerve agent) bomb began leaking during routine maintenance (paint removal) on Okinawa. Twenty-three U.S. military personnel and one U.S. civilian were affected, none of them seriously. Ten days later, on July 18, a front page story in the Wall Street Journal reported that there had been a chemical weapons leak on Okinawa. This story produced a public uproar in Japan. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dennis J. Doolin provided background information to Colonel Alexander Haig of the NSC Staff in a July 17 letter. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 554, Country Files, Far East, Okinawa Gas Incident, July 8, 1969) On July 22 the Department sent a Department of Defense public statement to the Embassy in Tokyo, providing details about the accident. The text was sent in telegram 120704 to Tokyo; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 RYU IS–US.
  3. Richardson signed an attached October 1 letter to Secretary Laird, which concluded, “I believe it is very important to move ahead quickly in removing these weapons from Okinawa, and I hope that you can keep me abreast of progress in this operation.”