70 years after a B-29 bomber crashed in Tanabe, Wakayama, leading to the deaths of the U.S. crew aboard it, locals in the area continue to pray for their repose in what has become an annual tradition for the town. Every May 5, residents of the town offer prayers for the seven crew members that passed away during the crash. This year, a memorial service was held, in which 150 locals attended, including 76-year old Ken Furukubo.
Furukubo, a former junior high teacher and a B-29 crash researcher, was in second grade when the crash happened. While the 7 were killed immediately, the Japanese troops captured 4 of the survivors and 2 of the prisoners were brought to the school where Furukubo was studying then. He recalled how some locals went to his school to supposedly attack the captured Americans but stopped short of striking them and instead offered food. Others attended to the ones who perished in the crash and buried the bodies on marked grave sites. Compassion and weariness of the war and its effects seemed to have moved the residents in being gentle with the prisoners.
A year after the Second World War ended, the residents commemorated the crash that happened and two years after, they set up a stone marker at the crash site to honor those who died. Inspired by the other locals, Furukubo decided to know more about the members aboard the B-29 aircraft. His research took him to Washington where he found other details about the ill-fated plane and its crew. Since then, he was able to find the sister of one of the members, 83-year old Elizabeth Croake and has been in constant communication with her via email, even visiting her last year in Florida. Furukubo, to this day, carries with him the honor of seeing his fellowmen help their fallen “enemies,” saying that it’s one of the wartime acts that should not be forgotten.
[via The Asahi Shimbun]
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