SHIZUOKA CITY, Japan–Representatives from Yokota Air Base, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Shizuoka City attended a U.S.-Japan Joint Memorial Service June 11, 2022, at Mt. Shizuhata, Shizuoka city, Japan, to honor the fallen and reflect on acts of heroism showcased in the aftermath of a raid of Shizuoka City during World War II.
During the early morning of June 20, 1945, two U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 Superfortresses collided mid-air during an air raid over Shizuoka City. The two aircraft crashed into farmland, resulting in the death of 23 Airmen on board the aircraft.
Dr. Hiroya Sugano, the ceremony’s host, works every year to ensure U.S. forces are able to participate in the annual ceremony, to remember the lives lost as a result of the crash and the sacrifices made during the aftermath of the tragedy.
Fukumatsu Itoh, a Shizuoka City resident, searched the crash site for any signs of life, and found two American Airmen survivors in the debris who later died from their injuries. Despite the wartime environment, Itoh gave the two Airmen proper burials alongside the fallen Japanese citizens he was able to recover.
“As I reflect on the tragedy that occurred more than 75 years ago, I am reminded of the courage shown by Japan to help U.S. Airmen those following days,” said Col. Julie Gaulin, 374th Airlift Wing vice commander. “Mr. Itoh did not differentiate between the dead and wounded by background or nationality. His selfless actions and compassion for humanity give us this immense opportunity to stand together today as allies and friends. Today we reflect on the profound example demonstrated through his heroism.”
U.S. and Japanese representatives payed their respects together by sharing remarks, laying down flowers, and performing an incense offering. As a tradition, participants poured ceremonial bourbon on the shrine’s B-29 monument as Japanese attendees poured Sake on the shrine’s Japanese monument.
“I personally feel that consoling and paying respect to the souls of all the fallen, regardless of who they are, is the first step toward international reconciliation and world peace,” said Sugano. “Every year, I pray that this ceremony will bring us one more step closer toward world peace.”
The joint ceremony is an opportunity for the U.S. and Japan to honor sacrifices made during World War II, and fortify and reflect on the strong alliance and bond the U.S. and Japan share today.