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Atsugi Naval Air Facility

douglas macarthur garden atsugi japan

As previously mentioned I ride the Odakyu Line a couple times a week down to the Atsugi area to teach a course for the University of Maryland University College Asia on a military base. The Atsugi Naval Air Facility (厚木海軍飛行場) has an interesting history. The first time Douglas MacArthur set foot in Japan was here.

The history is far more intriguing than just that though. This was a kamikaze training center. 33 of the pilots refused to give up with the rest of the country and went on a final mission rather than hang around for MacArthur’s entrance. Where they went was never known. Nor have their planes ever been found.

The Japanese expected this area to be bombed by American B-52s, so extensive underground caves were built. I haven’t seen them, but I guess that was the point.

Lee Harvey Oswald was stationed at Atsugi, as was the infamous U2 spy plane.

日本の民主々義の生みの親マッカーサー statue of general douglas macarthur atsugi naval air station

This statue of MacArthur in the MacArthur Garden is a fairly new addition (1990s I think). Under the statue it says 日本の民主々義の生みの親マッカーサー which translates to something like “MacArthur parented the birth of Japan’s democracy.”

atsugi japan buddhist catholic protestant church

Another strange thing about this facility is the church. It looks Buddhist from most angles but is not. Four congregations meet here–all different and none Buddhist. One is Catholic; another is “Traditional Protestant”; the others are “Contemporary Protestant” and “Word of Victory Protestant”. I’d be interested to know the history of this building if anyone knows.

5 Responses to “Atsugi Naval Air Facility”

  1. 1
    Ron Cabral:

    I was stationed at Atsugi 1959-1961… I saw U-2’s flying out of Atsugi in 1959-60. The building you show was the base chapel when I was there and seems to be the same today. Used by the Japanese as a Shinto shrine during those KAMAKAZI day. Putting up a statue of MacArthur makes great sense. He thought he was going to be assasinated soon as he landed at Atsugi in 1945.

  2. 2
    Robin Stout:

    I was a kid living in base housing from 1965 – 1969 and have a soft spot in my heart for Atsugi. My dad was with VRC 50 I think. We also lived in Minami Rincon for about 3 years. Thank you all for the pictures that you have posted.

    Also i never heard of the under ground areas, that would have been a great time for the kids on base. Probably why no one ever mentioned it!

  3. 3

    the church was originally a dojo that MacArthur later turned into a church.

  4. 4
    Tom Howarth:

    I was stationed at MAG-11, NAS Atsugi, Japan, from 1961-1963. Across the street from the Marine mess hall there was an entrance to the underground tunnels. I remember sneaking out to town (Yamato)through the dark, damp, caves. It was obvious that these tunnels were all dug by hand because you could see the shovel marks. They were wired for electricity, had drainage trenches and rooms cut into the sides. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures. Just memories. I wish there was more information available on them.

  5. 5
    Bill North:

    I was at Atsugi 1956 -1960 as a dependent, it was a great time. Tunnel entances were all over the base they were blocked off with a chain link fence but I could look down into them. During a typhoon some base personnel used them as cover I heard they were very muddy. I was an altar boy at the church. We had a big dedication service for thr Virgin Mary statue that is shown in the photo.