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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 June 26 - July 2  > Okinawans commemorate 60th anniversary of US military jet crash at elementary school
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2019 June 26 - July 2 [US FORCES]

Okinawans commemorate 60th anniversary of US military jet crash at elementary school

June 30 and July 1, 2019
On June 30, the day marking the 60th anniversary of the deadly U.S. military aircraft crash at Miyamori Elementary School in Oknawa’s Uruma City, a memorial ceremony was held at the school to commemorate the victims.

The tragedy occurred on June 30, 1959, when the island was still under U.S. military occupation. A U.S. military jet crashed into the Miyamori Elementary School and nearby houses in Uruma City (formerly Ishikawa City), killing 12 pupils and six residents and injuring more than 200 others. This is still the worst accident involving U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa’s postwar history.

In the ceremony in front of the memorial monument which stands within the school grounds, bereaved families, the Uruma City mayor, and Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny gave speeches. Tamaki said that in Okinawa, U.S. military aircraft-related accidents, such as part-drop accidents at an elementary school and a childcare center, continue to occur. He stressed, “I will urge the Japanese and U.S. governments not to allow U.S. military aircraft to fly directly over schools and facilities for children.”

Kudaka Masaharu, who also delivered a speech at the ceremony, heads a nonprofit organization working to preserve the memories associated with the 1959 U.S. military jet crash tragedy. The NPO recently translated U.S. documents regarding the crash into Japanese and published them. It also compiled a collection of testimonies taken from survivors and witnesses of the accident.

Kudaka in an Akahata interview on June 30 said that detailed information regarding the fatal accident had long been unavailable to Okinawans, but the recently declassified U.S. documents reveal a lot about the tragedy.

The excerpts of his interview are as follows:

Concerning the issue of the 1959 accident compensation, the U.S. military, which occupied Okinawa after the war from 1950 until 1972, unilaterally assessed the damage and proposed to pay $2,525 (about 900,000 yen under the fixed exchange rate of 360 yen per U.S. dollar at that time) a head, only one-tenth of the victims’ demand. The U.S. side maintained that it took a sympathetic attitude toward the victims and that the payment of $2,525 was enough. During the negotiations over the compensation payment, the Okinawa side brought up the issue of children’s post-traumatic stress disorder, but the U.S. refused to increase the payment for damages.

Okinawa media at that time obtained a part of the U.S. military’s investigation reports on the 1959 U.S. jet fighter crash and reported that the cause of the accident was insufficient maintenance. Today, our NPO read all the U.S. reports and found that the aircraft crashed because a clamp on a fuel duct was not properly tightened. The important lesson that should be gained from the Miyamori Elementary School tragedy is that a simple human error can cause a deadly accident.

Past related articles:
> Local Okinawa city remembers 18 citizens killed in 1959 US military jet crash [July 1, 2016]
> Okinawans commemorate 54th anniversary of US plane crash at primary school [July 1, 2013]
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