Friendship memorial noticeiClick on the picture on the right to see the description (Itfs in English as well!!)
2010, while it is already nearly over, serves to mark not only the end of the war, but also the 10th year since I have created this website. Good fortune has allowed some of the family members and relatives of those onboard the gLeading Ladyh to discover my site. I believe this is a form of gelectronic destinyh* afforded by the internet, and it has allowed me to convey the stories, thoughts and feelings of the bereaved to our local community. Our commitment to preserving the legacy of both men and machine was sealed when District Head Nakane announced that a friendship memorial would be built at the crash site earlier this year, just as the plum trees that have shaded our grassroots signboard for years began to blossom.
*Translation note from Brian: The Japanese isd gden-enh and could also be interpreted as gelectronic luckh or perhaps ge-Karmah depending on how loose and catchy you like your translations.
Upon hearing the news, I immediately informed my friend and mutual airplane/military history fanatic, Brian Cody (27, now lives in Tokyo), who was in contact with the family of one of the Leading Ladyfs crew. Plans were set in place for the family to come out for the ceremony, but unfortunately not realized due to unforeseen complications. As an alternative, Brian was given a message to deliver on their behalf.
The following is a compilation of our observations from the day, with my report in Japanese and Brianfs in English. Most of these pictures are courtesy of Rosie, Brianfs longtime girlfriend who has continuously supported and endured his and my propeller-driven shenanigans with the patience of a saint
2. Unveiling Ceremony (Refer to topic #6 at the bottom of this page from Asahi Shimbun)
The unveiling (Video courtesy of NHK TV News. Screen shot courtesy of Okada-sanfs quick reactions)
District Head Hiroki Nakane started the ceremony, introducing the guests of honor: Jonas D. Stewart from the US Consulate in Nagoya, members of the Japan Self Defense Force and leaders of the Toyota City council.
The weather was perfect. We were quietly observed by towering cedar trees, perhaps some witness to that fateful day some 65 years ago. The monument was flanked by the flags of Japan, the United States Air Force, and the United States
The following four gentlemen gave the audience their respective wishes for this memorial (left to right in the photo):
* Hiroyuki Hoshino - JSDF-Aichi Joint Deputy General Manager
* Jonas D. Stewart - Principal Officer of the US Consulate in Nagoya
* Takeo Kato - Head of the Toyota City local affairs department representing the Mayor
* Dai Nakane - Toyota City Councilman and chairman of the monument committee
* Hiroki Nakane - Sakaue-cho District Head and general administrator of the Leading Lady memorial
Jonasf speech Video courtesy of NHK. Screen shot courtesy of Okada-sanfs quick camera draw and steady hand)
Jonas delivered well-articulated speech in honorific Japanese (which is extremely difficult to master). He was gracious enough to provide us with this English version after the event
Remarks by Principal Officer Jonas Stewart, US Consulate, Nagoya
Good morning everyone. My name is Jonas Stewart. I am from the US Consulate in Nagoya
Thank you for inviting me today. It is an honor to be a part of this event commemorating those who gave their lives in service to their country during the darkest days of US-Japan relations.
It is hard for us today to believe that the US and Japan were mortal enemies only 65 years ago.
Since the end of World Wars 2, the US-Japan relationship has blossomed into one of the strongest bilateral relationships in the world. In addition to sharing one of the worldfs deepest trade relationships, our cooperation in international security and scientific research is unprecedented in human history.
American and Japanese statesmen and diplomats like me would like to take credit for the current success of the US-Japan bilateral relationship, but we cannot do that.
Government and other high level connections that we work on are very important, but the foundation of our current bilateral relationship is based on the grass roots level connections forged between the American and Japanese people.
I am moved to see how the people of Sodame village have worked together to commemorate the crew of the B-29 gLeading Ladyh who perished here during the final year of the war. Your efforts to honor the dead are a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives on both sides.
Your work to make this memorial possible shows us that human dignity, above all else, is what it truly important. The American and Japanese peoplesf shared respect for human dignity, peace and freedom eventually defined the relationship between our two countries after the end of the war. Despite the horrors of the war that our two nations experienced, our humanity prevailed, and we are now closer than ever.
Ifd like to thank Hiroki Nakane and all others who have been involved in building this B-29 Commemorative Monument for making this event possible today.
Thank you very much
I started with a brief personal statement thanking everyone for making today possible and that I was deeply moved, even though I have no direct relation to any of the crew. However, my mission was to serve as a remote microphone Paulette Dreyer, daughter of Radar Operator SSgt Paul Dreyer. Okada-san and I had translated her message the day before and I almost had an aneurysm recalibrating my existing Japanese (learned in a junkyard tearing apart Subarus) vocabulary to suit such a dignified occasion.
Citizens, Americans, City Councilmen, Mr. Mayor: Although I cannot be in attendance today I wish to convey my very special thanks to the city and especially the Mayor for making this place a memorial between our two nations.
We cannot bring back those brave souls who gave their lives here, we can only remember with reverence, thanksgiving and respect the sacrifice they made. Their bravery goes beyond measure.
As a descendent of one of those men I am indebted to those people of Japan for memorializing all of these soldiers. This memorial somehow eases the pain we feel and gives us some semblance of closure.
I offer my heartfelt thankfulness to you and also especially to Kunio Okada for bringing this to the world.
I remain very sincerely yours, Paulette Dreyer Webster, daughter of Staff Sergeant Paul E. Dreyer
Buddhist priests from the Kougetsuin temple in Matsudaira prayed for the crew while the attendees lined up to offer prayers of their own in front of incense and a photo of the crew taken Dec. 1944 provided by Kenneth Fine.
Attendance(Video screenshot from NHK TV)
About 100 participants queued to offer prayers,
Burning of incense(Video courtesy of Toyota local news)
Okada-san brought a framed picture of the Leading Lady crew taken Dec. 1944 to use for prayers.
Upon finding that there was no suitable place to hang aforementioned portrait, a solution was presented.
Cut down a piece of young bamboo from the adjacent thicket, stick one end into the ground and notch the top of the other half to hang the picture from. Total time from recognition of problem to solution in place: Under 3 minutes.
Mitsue Nakane(Video screenshot from NHK TV)
Was 20 years old when she witnessed the crash from her house 200 meters away
3. Japan-USA interaction
<- Photos of the crew and reunion ceremony (Photos on display courtesy of Kenneth Fine)
Okada-san describing the stories of the crew to Jonas
The B-29 enthusiasts ->
From right to left: Me (Brian Cody), Yaso Niwa, Hidesaburo Kusama, Kunio Okada (author of this website)
We had a nice lunch consisting of mixed rice, miso and tea made by the locals. After the lectures, we were treated to mitarashidango mochi (pounded rice balls dipped in sweet sauce) prepared by the local kids. Really nice gesture,
<- Hiroki Nakane
Responsible for building the memorial. Devoted years to collecting the opinion of his townsfolk, establishing a budget and ultimately building the memorial to help bring the town together to provide a proper tribute.
Sakaue-cho town logo ->
Nestled in the peaceful Ootake valley between Mount Houroku (684m) and Tenkamine (360m) (About 13 miles east of Nagoya and 180 miles southwest of Tokyo)
<- Lecture venue
We were allowed to use the local town hall. About 60 people attended the afternoon lectures.
Mitsue Nakane (Sakaue-cho) ->
The first of the afternoon speakers, Mrs. Nakane was 20 years old when Leading Lady was downed. She saw the incident from her house about 200 m from the crash site.
She remembers it being a clear day, with nothing more than wisps of clouds in the sky. She was indoors and had just finished lunch when she heard a massive torrent of noise seemingly bearing down on her own house.
The ground shook and she went outside to see a gigantic cloud of black smoke coming from down the street. She walked the 2-3 minutes to the scene of the crash, mouth agape, and was immediately grateful the aircraft didnft strike her house. Villagers and authorities surrounded the aircraft and began recovery operations.
Takashi Kawai (Sekinan-choj
The next speaker was Kawai-san, who was in 5th grade at the time of the incident. He was on the school exercise grounds when he saw the Ki-61 clip Leading Lady from above, in between the fuselage and the number 3 engine. Post-impact, the Ki-61 dropped like a rock, engulfed in flames and trailing black smoke. Leading Lady caught fire and overturned, trailing smoke. He reported that it impacted the ground at inverted at a steep nose-down angle.
What followed was a huge amount of smoke from both burning aviation fuel and bamboo. He went to the crash site and began to see the authorities collect ammunition and rations thrown from the wreckage, but was told by the kempeitai to leave. Back at school, word spread quickly that a Kamikaze attack took down the B-29.
r TanakaiMatsudaira Townj
We then heard from a Buddhist priest named Tanaka-san, who gave a history of Sodame. He talked about the origin of the name (the original characters are shown above), rice harvests, population etc. It was later indicated to me that events like these are cherished by the governing council because it provides an opportunity to get the village together.
Yaso Niwa (Homigaoka, Toyota City)
Next up was Niwa-san, an accredited aviation journalist, artist and historian. He had brought his scale drawing of Leading Lady and the Ki-61 flown by First Lieutenant Makoto Shirota.
After provided the audience with an idea of how big a B-29 was using scaled models of a B-29 and C-130, he went on to describe how gFifih is the only flying B-29 left in the world. Niwa-san also exhibited a wood carving of a B-29 he was in the process of making that was elegantly packaged in a Johnny Walker Blue Label box.
<- Kunio Okada (Proprietor of this humble site from Togari-cho, Toyota City)
Okada-san stood by the screen and spoke to the audience while I ran the PC. He went through each chapter of his website, explaining how a seemingly random series of correspondences between himself and Hap Halloran, Ken Fine, Paulette Webster and countless others have allowed this site to blossom beyond his wildest expectations. He calls this the aforementioned gelectronic destinyh phenomenon.
Hidesaburo Kusama (Nisshin City) ->
Okada-san yielded the stage to Emeritus Professor Kusama of Aichi Prefectural University. Having written a book on the subject of downed allied aircraft in Japan and personally funding a similar B-29 memorial in Tsukuba (Near Tokyo), he explained his connection to allied memorials and how he first heard about Leading Lady.
Professor Kusama has put over 20 years of research into this subject. During a break, I inquired as to why the Japanese people perform these acts of honoring their enemy (at the time). He explained that a strong factor is the Buddhist religion. Whether you are a friend or foe, once you have passed your soul needs to be tended to. When asked why he devoted so much of his own time to this aspect of Japanese culture, he responded that it is his way of giving back to the US for his education at the University of North Carolina after WWII.
Toyota City listed this event on their website and brought in people from all walks of life. The local media also dropped by and ran stories in both print and television.
5. Okadafs closing thoughts
We stopped by the monument on our way home. It was simply beautiful. The formalities of the morning were whisked away to leave the memorial gently basking in the setting sun. In front of the signboard stood an elder brother telling his sisters of a great war that happened a long time ago. I thought, gHere I am, seeing the monument already serving its purpose of promoting world peace in the 21st century and the paint hasnft even dried!h What a wonderful day.
I cannot give enough thanks to the local community for putting this day together. From creating a one-off parking lot to providing the microphones and chairs and everything in between,
thank you so much!
Here is a quick picture we took before heading home
(Left: Author 175 cm / 72 years old, Right: Brian 200 cm / 27 years old)
I believe that all of those in attendance went home that day with a greater appreciation of the need for world peace.
Ifm glad that Brian and Rosie endured the six hours of weekend traffic each way to make it out here. They said they had a great time. I donft think this is a day they will ever forget. And to think that they managed to sort through their pictures and compose a detailed report to Paulette right after getting back
I too, as a 72-year-old grassroots purveyor of Japan-US relations for the last 10 years, had a great time. It was an honor to be a part of such a momentous occasion. I have asked Brian to translate this chapter into English, so that the world knows what happened on this wonderful day.
I recently received a message from Akira Tsurukame, a friend of mine who has been living the US for the past 35 years after telling him about the memorial ceremony:
gWhat a great event! It looks like you finally had your moment after all of that hard work! I appreciate all of the pictures; they were moving to say the least. For what gain did Japan and the United States sacrifice the lives of so many? This is the bewildering question that has followed me for as long as I can remember, even today, nearly 69 years after blows were first exchanged.h
Tsurukame-sanfs father was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy assigned as a chief engineer on a submarine. He was killed in action in the Strait of Malacca after his boat engaged and sank a Dutch submarine but was subsequently attacked and sunk by a British submarine. Tsurukame-san has been around the world researching this event and has documented it in his book "In Search of My Father Beneath the Blue Sea - Three families, three nations, and a journey of reconciliation" published by Gakken (Japanese only).
I consider him a gB-29 friendh.
I believe that world peace is a truly universal desire and that the B-29 Friendship Memorial is a precious gift that will communicate this message to future generations.
U. Newspaper, TV News coverage (Article that appeared the following day)
Article from the local newspaper
Having held out all day was journalist Haruko Koshibu of the Asahi Shimbun Toyota City bureau
NHK local evening news was there for the morning
Local Sunflower Net TV gave an account of the event in their weekly broadcast gNOWh
The president of New Mikawa Times was there all day, having previously invested a significant amount of interest in Leading Lady
A journalist from the Yahagi News was also in attendance
Thank you for your visit.
Disclosing the "B-29 Photo Museum" in the next page.
Please visit it by all means.
Returns to top page of B-29.