A former U.S. seaman who deserted during the Vietnam War with the help of a Japanese pacifist group and fled to Sweden is visiting Japan for the first time in 50 years to deliver speeches nationwide.
During a recent lecture at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Craig Anderson expressed concerns over what he called Japan’s “remilitarization” as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes to revise the war-renouncing clause of the Constitution to establish the legality of the Self-Defense Forces.
In Kyoto, Anderson, 70, also told the audience of around 50 to take actions in accordance with their consciences to secure peace.
Anderson deserted from the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid with three young seamen when it docked at Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, in October 1967. They eventually smuggled themselves out of Japan to reach Stockholm via Moscow with help from the Japanese Peace for Vietnam! Committee, also known as Beheiren.
The four deserters, who became known as the “Intrepid Four,” considered themselves “patriotic deserters” acting on their belief that the Vietnam War was against the interests of their country, according to Anderson.
Anderson was arrested after returning to the United States in 1971 and was detained for several months before being released with a bad conduct discharge.
Around 200 people gathered for his speech at Rikkyo, including Shinobu Yoshioka, chairman of the Japan P.E.N. Club.
Yoshioka was actively involved in Beheiren’s activities from the late 1960s to the 1970s sheltering U.S. deserters.
“I was around 20 years old at that time, and the deserters were young people of my age,” Yoshioka said. “I left college without a diploma, but I learned a lot in establishing a relationship with the deserters, who opened my eyes to the outside world. The experiences gave me the opportunity to receive the best ‘college education’ I could.”
Conscientious objectors from South Korea, where military service is mandatory, joined the Rikkyo session with their supporters.
Anderson will stay in Japan until early November.
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