Two U.S. war veterans who were at Pearl Harbor during Japan’s surprise attack in December 1941 were united in Tokyo on Tuesday with Japanese veterans who took part in the mission.

Visiting Yasukuni Shrine together, they prayed for the souls of the war dead.

“We fought for the freedom of our country and they fought for theirs,” said Denver Gray, 82, who was at Hickam Field when planes from the Imperial Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. “At one time we were on different sides, but now we are on one side.”

The gathering is part of a movement that sprouted up in the early ’90s to promote reconciliation between Japanese and U.S. war veterans.

Though a reconciliation event was first scheduled in 1991 to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack, it did not take place as senior members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association did not approve.

But with much effort from their supporters, the event was held in October 1992 with 25 veterans of both countries shaking hands in reconciliation and paying their respects at the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.

Shizundo Ushijima, 78, who was aboard a dive bomber targeting Hickam Field, said Tuesday’s gathering was like meeting an old friend.

Richard Fiske, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, said, “I will continue to bring the two sides together as long as I live.”

The veterans and their supporters said they are planning another meeting in Hawaii, possibly in December 2000, with the veterans’ children and grandchildren present to, as Gray put it, “Pick up the torch and carry it on to the next generation.”

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