Okinawa remembers deadly U.S. fighter crash 56 years on

JIJI

A memorial service was held Tuesday at an elementary school in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, to remember the crash of a U.S. jet that killed 18 schoolchildren and other people.

The accident occurred at about 10:40 a.m. June 30, 1959, when the F-100 fighter based at the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena base plunged into a residential area in the former city of Ishikawa, now Uruma, and then, after bouncing on impact, crashed into Miyamori Elementary School, some 150 meters away.

About 100 people, including family members of the victims, attended Tuesday’s memorial service and offered a silent prayer. The service was organized by a group of the victims’ families as well as a nonprofit organization comprising mainly people who attended the school at the time of the accident.

“The U.S. military has stayed in Okinawa even after (World War II) and has continued to expand its bases,” Masaharu Kudaka, the 67-year-old head of the NPO, said in a speech. “The crash occurred as a result of a concentration of U.S. bases (in Okinawa).”

Kudaka was in the fifth grade at Miyamori Elementary School at the time of the accident.

“The U.S. bases are to blame for the tragic accident,” Yoshimori Uema, head of the group of the victims’ families, said. “I pray that similar incidents never occur again.”

Uema, 72, lost his younger brother, who was in the third grade, in the accident.

As part of its activities to prevent the crash from being forgotten, the NPO began gathering testimony in 2010 from people who witnessed it.