History of Camp Zama
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF SOBU-DAI
1. Transfer of School from Ichigaya.
The Military Academy of the Japanese Imperial Army located on Ichigaya Heights trained many cadets for about 60 years from the first year of the Meiji Era. With the rapid growth of Tokyo City, it was thought more suitable in terms of training to move Ube school to a suburban area. Thus in the 7th year of Showa, at the height of the Manchurian Incident, the motion to move gained impetus in the central government. However at this time the construction of a modern school building was already under way at Ichigaya Heights because the earthquake in 1923 had destroyed most of the school buildings. Most of the work on the new palatial sized building of reinforced concrete had actually been completed by that time. Under these circumstances it was a bold decision on the part of Army Headquarters when it decided to move the Regular Course Academy to Zama, and the Preparatory Course School to Asaka.
2. Commencement of Construction of Zama New School Building.
The Japanese Army purchased mulberry farms and forests on the heights of Zama village and a portion of Araiso village on the north of the village as site for the new Military Academy buildings. The construction was principally handled by the Fujita Construction company from November 1936 with the bulk of the first project completed in the fall of 1937. The area, located on high land similar to Ichigaya, was a beautiful place commanding a view of the Sagami River and in the distance Mt. Oyama and Tanzawa Mountains covered with snow.
The move from Ichigaya to Zama heights was commenced on 30 September 1937 and Zama village changed into a place where future officers of the Imperial Japanese Army were to be trained.
In December 1937, it was decided to construct a new concrete highway from Haramachida Station to Zama Heights to welcome the Emperor to Zama for the first commencement exercise. Based on the decision, the Ministry of Railways hurriedly constructed a new station platform exclusively for the Imperial train at Haramachida Station. The Civil Engineering Department, Kanagawa Prefecture constructed the Gyoko-Doro (TN: Highway for the Imperial visit) in about two months under the direct command of the department chief by working around-the-clock. This the best highway in the prefecture at the time was constructed to welcome His Majesty. Even now the local residents call the highway Gyoko-Doro, in recollection of the past event.
3. Imperial Visit.
The 50th graduation ceremony was held for the first time in the New Zama School December 20, 1937
His Majesty boarded the Imperial train at Harajuku Station for Haramachida Station. From Haramachida the Imperial motorcade proceeded along the newly finished highway through the wheat fields. The first stop was at the maneuvering ground (now the USARJ golf course) north of the Military Academy where he inspected the joint maneuvers by the graduates. His Majesty - riding on the Imperial horse, Shirayuki (White Snow)- inspected a military review held at the Sagamihara Plain. After the parade he rested at the newly built rest house. In the afternoon His Majesty honored the commencement exercise with his presence.
At the time Zama was a desolate village having nothing worth seeing. However, the flow of people increased suddenly due to the new Military Academy and the annual prospect of a visit by the Emperor. Thus it was suddenly decided to promote the village to the status of a town. The governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, Kiyoshi Nakarai (current mayor of Yokohama) began preparations to organize the village to become a town effective on National Foundation Day, 11 February. However, the Headman of Zama Village, Kyoshiro Inagaki, requested that the town status be made retroactive to the date of the Emperor's visit in commemoration of that event. The Ministry of Home Affairs accepted the request and made the date 20 December 1937, the date of the Imperial visit. According to the people who know the events of these days, Zama settlement celebrated joyfully all night, holding lantern processions and many festivities.
4. Name of Sobu-dai.
On the date of his visit, His Majesty had summoned the War Minister, General Sugiyama, to the rest house and honored him with an Imperial message to name this land Sobu-dai. Everyone was deeply moved and it became known far and wide that the name of Sobu-dai had been given by the Emperor to a section of Zama village. Since then the name of Sobu-dai has come to be widely used by the school and by the local residents. The Odakyu Railways has changed the station name from Zama to Sobu-dai-mae, Sagami Railways from Zama-shindo Station to Sobu-dai-shita. (Note: The present Zama Station on the Odakyu Line was called Zama-yuen Station. After being purchased by the National Railways, the Sagami Railways was amalgamated to the National Railways changing its name to Sagami Line.) On the other hand, authorities of the Military Academy decided to erect a monument to commemorate the Imperial gift of the name Sobu-dai. They lost no time in finding a rock in Shioyama, Koshu and transported it onto the campus by a trailer truck. The monument was inscribed carefully by a mason who was resident of Koshu. It took over one and a half years before its completion. Finally in August 1940, a grand monument 4 meters high was erected inside the main gate.
Three characters "SO BU DAI" on the stone are not the Emperor's autograph, but are the ones obtained by enlarging the characters in the Imperial script signed by His Majesty.
The inscriptions on the reverse side read as follows:
In 1937 (12th year of Showa) the Military Academy of the Japanese Imperial Army moved to this site from Ichigaya, Tokyo.
On December 20, the same year, a graduation ceremony was held at the school in the presence of the Emperor. After observing the graduation exercises, the Emperor ordered the War Minister to name this site on which the school was located.
The War Minister, deeply impressed by His Majesty's words, replied that every effort would be made to meet the Emperor's expectations in producing worthy soldiers through progressively superior training.
In the pages of the KOJIKI (oldest known history of Japan) it is said that the origin of Sobu-dai stems from Crown Prince Yamatotakeru-norikoto who proclaimed this entire province "Sobu" after his conquest of the Plains of Kanto.
The Prince also observed that this hill racing the Sagami Plains to the east had tactical advantages and was most suitable for the military training of the Samurai. Hence, the traditional military use of this area is carried forward to this day.
I, hereby, inscribe on this stone the three large characters, "SOBU DAI", as the name bestowed by His Majesty, the Emperor, and relate its historical significance on the reverse side.
20th of August in the 15th Year of Showa (1940 A.D.)
General Gen Sugiyama
Military Councilor to the Emperor
The Senior Grade or the Third Class Court Rank
The First Order of Merit
The Fifth Class
When the war was over it was a matter of concern to the Japanese that the US occupation forces might dispose of the monument. So the remaining troops removed the monument and buried it behind the foundation. But by the order of Lt. Gen. Eichelberger, Commanding General, 8th Army, the monument was re-erected on the former site. The US authorities have continuously paid special attention to preserve it as an historic Japanese monument. Thus it is still to be seen in its original shape by the people coming in through the main gate.
5. Expansion of the Military Academy.
When the Japanese Military Academy was transferred to Zama in 1937, it was intended to accommodate a maximum of eight companies for the first and second term classes (4 companies per class). At the time the school was deemed sufficient. The expansion of the China Incident into the Greater East Asia War, necessitated the increase of students and addition of educational equipment. Annually the equipment were added and new land space purchased for additional buildings. By 1940 both front and south sides of the school area had been purchased with additional students' billets constructed. At the end of the war, the billeting capacity increased to handle 20 companies of students.
After the move of the Military Academy to Zama, the Central Headquarters decided to change Sagamihara Area into a group of military bases and military industrial zones. Thus Sagami Arsenal (presently Sagami General Depot), The Communication School (presently Sagami Women's College and so forth), The First Telegraph Regiment (presently US dependent housing), Provisional Tokyo No. 9 Military Hospital (presently National Sagamihara Hospital), Armor Equipping School (presently Camp Fuchinobe) and so forth were established. The maneuvering ground located behind the military Academy combined with the adjacent maneuvering grounds of other units into a vast area for joint maneuvers. At present almost all of the lands have been transferred to private ownership. The maneuver grounds have been converted into housing areas, factories, golf links, farms and so forth. And now the change has been so great that it is hard to visualize past days.
6. The Status of Sobu-dai at the End of the War,
The Greater East Asia War and, the enemy's air raids growing intensive with the possibility of enemy landing on the mainland eminent, that it was decided to move the Military Academy to a safer location. In June 1945, the 'rain force moved to Honmoku Village, Kita-saku-gun, Nagano Prefecture, leaving behind a unit of technical students. Colonel Ikuo (a 33rd term graduate) was appointed as the caretaker commander for the remaining Military Academy at Sobu-dai. Also a portion of the 53rd Corps and the military headquarters which were stationed at Isohara under the command of Lt General Akashiba with mission to defend the beaches of Sagami-bay moved into the South School Building which had been emptied by the transfer. The war ended on the 15 August 1945.
We have heard many sad stories told in many different places following the end of the war and Sobu-dai was no exception. Several young men committed suicide in front of Otakebi Shrine. One of them was a mess sergeant who was stationed in Nagano Prefecture at the end of the war. He hurriedly returned to the school and committed harakiri. Four of the 5th term technical students remaining in Sobu-dai school died stabbing each other with their swords after shouting, "Long live the Emperor'."
If all the students had been stationed in Sobu-dai at the end of the war, we think there would have been more tragedies. It was fortunate that all soldiers were demobilized at the evacuation center in Nagano Prefecture. Several years after the war, it was discovered that a body and possessions of a student had been buried near the shrine in a wooden box. Searching the neighborhood utilizing a US Engineer pipeline sounder, the body was discovered and delivered to the bereaved. As for the Otakebi shrine, the remaining troops transferred the objects of warship to another place lest the US Occupation Forces should defile it. After the removal, the troops burnt down the shrine. At present we can still see two gates of the shrine and a part of the stone steps reminding one of the old days. At other places some weapons wore buried under the ground. The largest were two light tanks buried in an open space behind the supply depot. These also were delivered to the Finance Ministry through the Procurement Agency after being dug up in 1951.
7. Stationing of the Occupation Forces.
Approximately one battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division landed in Yokohama and finally entered Sobu-dai early in the morning on 5 September. In order to negotiate the requisition and disarmament, Major General King, Division Commander came to the school accompanied by his staff. As to why the divisional commander himself came to negotiate maybe in deference to the rank held by the Commandant (Lt General) and to the school which was the counterpart to the US Military Academy. Unfortunately, Lt General Kitano, the Commandant had been transferred as Commanding General of the Eastern Army after the end of the war, and the face-to-face meeting of the two generals was not realized on the plains of Sagamihara. Presumably, Major General King might have felt disappointed at the meeting that did not materialize. Military negotiations with the US forces were conducted satisfactorily by Major Kano (the 19th term class). Actually the cavalry division was an infantry division equipped with heavy vehicles. The occupation unit immediately employed a portion of the Japanese personnel who had worked for the Japanese Army to put the school grounds in order. Shortly after a care-taking unit replaced the occupation unit and hung the sign "4th Replacement Depot" on the gate. Later the name of the installation was changed to Camp Zama and the main mission of the camp along with Atsugi Camp (presently Atsugi Naval Air Station) also changed to a stop over base for soldiers from the Far East awaiting transportation by ships.
Later, the mission of the replacement depot came to an end and Camp Atsugi changed into a Marine Base and Naval Air-Station. In 1951, Camp Zama also changed into the occupation base for the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division and to Air Defense Communication Center. Soon after the Peace Treaty was signed.
8. Americanization of Sobu-dai,
Since its requisition by the US Forces, Sobu-dai has undergone changes in the American style. The first change was an introduction of flush toilets. The second was painting of the buildings. These portions of the barracks and warehouses were remodeled into bachelor's billets. From 1948 forests around and east of the Otakebi Shrine were designated as a US housing area and construction was started. The large auditorium was changed into a theater. A baseball field was constructed on the school ground. But there were practically no drastic changes in the occupation days, because the primary mission was to serve as a temporary barracks for the replacements.
Even after the war which ended in 1945, upon entering the old student's billets we could still see the door plates in Japanese characters reading "The 3rd Company" "Commander's Room" or 'Company Office" attached to the US soldier's billets. The great imperial chrysanthemum crest in front of the school headquarters had been removed immediately by the Japanese side, but the large star under the eaves of the auditorium remained there until a few years ago. As far as the maneuvering ground located north of the school was concerned, a portion of it was sold to private ownership. But rest was requisitioned by the US Forces and the area remained status quo for several years because the US Army did not hold maneuvers nor did they damage the area. But in 1950, the field where the Emperor had stood was converted to a golf course for the US Army. Soon after, Headquarters USARJ moved into Sobu-dai, and the landmarks of Sobu-dai changed completely.
9. Establishment of Headquarters USARJ.
The US Forces had preparations under way to reorganize itself from occupation forces status to that of security forces on signing of the peace treaty. However, in 1951 the Korean War broke out unexpectedly and it became an urgent necessity to organize the Japanese mainland as a US logistical base. Nevertheless it was still planned to move US installations gradually from the city to suburban areas. So according to the schedule the GHQ in Marunouchi, Tokyo was to be abolished and moved to Fuchu changing the name to Joint Headquarters, Tri Services. The Japan Logistical Command in Custom House Building, Yokohama serving as US Army Headquarters was also scheduled for move to a suburban area with its title changed to US Army Headquarters Far East. Thus, suitable sites for the relocation were surveyed. In February 1952, at south Camp Zama a fire broke out from a heating boiler due to the carelessness of a US soldier on duty as charge of quarters. Five buildings of the former Japanese students' school were reduced to ashes. Consequently it was decided that a new headquarters building would be erected on the fire-ravaged area. The design of the building was entrusted to Raymond Architectural Design Co. and the actual construction was done by several large construction firms including the Takenaka, Kashima, Nishimatsu construction Companies. Finally in the summer of 1953 a somewhat unique two-storied, reinforced concrete building named the "Little Pentagon", after the Department of Defense Pentagon in Washington D. C. was completed. After the changeover with the cavalry regiment it has become the hub of the US Amy in Japan. The name was changed to Headquarters USARJ and has remained so to date. Although it may be nominal the Headquarters, United Nations Command shares the same building.
Reprinted with permission of the United States Army, Japan and 9th TSC