On a mild December night in the city of Okinawa, Bruce Lieber, a 61-year-old Ohio native, found himself surrounded by a cluster of Japanese journalists. Photographers and TV crew jostled for position while reporters asked him how it felt to be back on the island.

Lieber had been answering their questions for over an hour, when he suddenly fell silent. Gazing at the weather-worn buildings, he rubbed his eyes and broke into a bemused smile as though remembering the last time he was standing on this very same corner in the city then called Koza.

That was 40 years ago — almost to the day — and he was encircled by a mob then, too. But on Dec. 20, 1970, people were bombarding Lieber with bricks rather than questions — and Lieber was fighting to escape from the midst of the Koza Riot, the most violent anti-American uprising Okinawa ever witnessed.