Mourning our past, celebrating the future
By Airman 1st Class Juan Torres
/ Published July 07, 2017
Yokota Air Base, Japan -- On the night of June 20, 1945, while on a bombing raid over Shizuoka City, Japan, two U.S. Army Air Forces’ B-29s from the 314th Bomb Wing collided and crashed killing 23 crewmen. In the same raid, over 2,000 Shizuoka citizens also died.
The next morning, Mr. Fukumatsu Itoh pulled two American Airmen from the wreckage who survived the crash but died shortly thereafter. Itoh gave the American crewmen and local residents a proper burial. He later began conducting an annual ceremony to those who had paid the price of war until his death in the early 1970s.
Since 1972, Yokota’s Airmen have volunteered to attend the US-Japan joint memorial ceremony and pay respects to those who lost their lives on this day.
“Today was extremely significant for me,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher M. Yevchak, 374th Airlift Wing command chief. “It’s a great symbol of today’s alliance that continues to grow stronger each year. It was absolutely an honor and a privilege being here representing 374 AW.”
The Blackened Canteen, which Itoh recovered from the wreckage and is believed to have the handprint of its former owner, is filled with bourbon whiskey and poured onto the crash site memorial symbolizing a final goodbye to the spirits of the fallen, both Japanese and American. It has since become a symbol of hope, inspiration and peace.
Through understanding the painful truths of war, promoting reconciliation and cooperation, some are able to appreciate opportunities for peace and prosperity.
“Without these ceremonies to pay respect to the victims of war, world peace cannot be accomplished,” said Dr. Hiroya Sugano, B-29 Memorial Ceremony host.