The village of Ora in Japan is taking a huge step going the opposite way of the hurtful memories that many Japanese have about the Second World War. The small rural community is dredging up those memories not to accuse but to honor the crews of two U.S. B-29 bombers that crashed near their town.
The B-29s were part of a massive U.S. air raid that targeted and destroyed Nakajima Aircraft Co. factory in the nearby town of Ota on Feb. 10, 1945. Japanese fighters attacked the planes as the raid operation progressed, causing the two aircrafts to collide in mid-air and crash to the ground. “Once we were enemies and now we are friends,” Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Allen declared as he joined the ceremony on Wednesday at the Seiganji temple. A stone cenotaph engraved with the names of the 23 men of “Slick’s Chicks” and “Deaner Boy” was unveiled during the same ceremony.
After the planes went down, the remains of the crew were cremated by the Japanese and held in the now-abandoned temple near the crash site. After WWII, they were exhumed and returned to the U.S. Nobuo Kizaki, the temple’s 80-year-old chief priest, remembers the fiery crash well. “I felt sorry for them,” he said, giving voice to the fact that not all Japanese shared the same sympathy he had for their country’s enemies then. “The feelings [among the Japanese] varied back then,” Kizaki said. “But now we can share the same feelings of peace.”
Nancy Samp, daughter of a U.S. airman, attended the memorial dedication even though her father was not a member of either of the crews that were being commemorated. She doesn’t hold much hope that she’ll ever find the remains of her father, 2nd Lt. Robert Jeffries, who took part in the attack on the Nakajima plant. Jeffries’ plane never returned to base, going down somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. But Samp, 70, of Oceanside, California, found the ceremony comforting. “It meant something that (the Japanese) acknowledged it,” she concluded.
[via Stars & Stripes]