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About 40 members of the Gen. MacArthur Honor Guard Association visiting Tokyo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his departure from Japan paid respects to Japan’s war dead Sunday at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery for the War Dead in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

“We respect Japanese war dead. There were over 2 million men who lost their lives in the war, and we pray for them today,” said David Valley, one of the honor guard and the organizer of the visit. “Those people were, with few exceptions, not responsible for the war and were innocent victims.”

The unit was established in 1945 to perform the formal honor guard functions for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander Allied Powers, and his family, staff and visiting dignitaries during the Allied Occupation. After implementing several reforms that remodeled Japanese society, MacArthur left Japan on April 16, 1951.

“We feel it is our obligation to maintain his legacy,” Valley said. “It is unfortunate that the young generations of Japan and the United States don’t know about Gen. MacArthur. I don’t think any man had as much impact on Japan as him.”

As members of the honor guard and their families watched, Valley and Joyce Lightner, the wife of another honor guard member, laid a wreath on a tomb representing Japan’s unknown war dead. The whole group then sang a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

On Monday, the association will attend a ceremony at MacArthur Memorial Park at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, where MacArthur first set foot on Japanese soil in August 1945. On Tuesday, the group will hold another ceremony in Tokyo’s Minato Ward that is expected to be attended by around 150 people, including U.S. military and Self-Defense Forces officers and people who supported the association’s visit to Japan.

Valley, who is also the author of “Gaijin Shogun, Gen. Douglas, Stepfather of Postwar Japan,” emphasized MacArthur’s contributions to Japan, including the establishment of a democratic constitution, implementation of land reform, and women’s suffrage.

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