URUMA, OKINAWA PREF. – A memorial service was held Sunday for 18 civilians killed 60 years ago when a U.S. fighter jet crashed into an elementary school in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture.
The ceremony took place at Miyamori Elementary School, where the fighter from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa crashed on June 30, 1959. Relatives and friends of the victims and others offered silent prayers for those who died, including students of the municipal school.
“The tragic incident happened” due to the existence of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, said Yoshimori Uema, 76, whose younger brother, then a third-grader, was killed in the crash. Uema represented the victims’ relatives at the ceremony.
Referring to the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to Henoko, a coastal district in Nago in the prefecture, Uema warned that a serious accident “could happen again if the new U.S. base is constructed” in the district.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, a staunch opponent of the relocation plan, said, “I’ll make utmost efforts to achieve the consolidation of U.S. bases in Okinawa at an early time so that an incident as tragic as the fighter crash 60 years ago will never happen again.”
Takemi Ishikawa, 70, who was a fifth grader at the time, was unharmed in the incident but lost a friend, a girl in the sixth grade.
“I attend the memorial ceremony every year, but I don’t want to remember the incident,” Ishikawa said. “I want to forget about it.”