Leaders gather to temper the bonds made after the bombing of Pearl Harbor
Official observances of the “day of infamy” now recognizes not only the 2,390 American casualties, but also the death of 65 Japanese service members.
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For many decades, official observances around the “day of infamy” when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, only recognized the 2,390 American and civilian casualties on Oahu — and not the Japanese losses.
That has changed with the shift in relations from Japan as wartime enemy to staunch Pacific ally — but only gradually — in a reflection of the deep wartime wounds that for some World War II veterans were slow to heal.
On Monday on Ford Island, within close proximity to the USS Arizona Memorial, the closeness that now joins the United States and Japan as much as it separated the nations 78 years ago was once again recognized in a remembrance of not only the 2,390 American casualties, but also the death of 65 Japanese service members.
>> Photo Gallery: “Lives Remembered: A Tribute to the Fallen of Pearl Harbor” ceremony
The Japanese losses included 56 aviators and nine submariners who were part of the attack force.
The ceremony held by Navy Region Hawaii and the Consulate General of Japan titled “Lives Remembered: A Tribute to the Fallen of Pearl Harbor” was first held in 2016 shortly after the main Pearl Harbor ceremony. Since then it’s the shared loss of humanity that both sides recognize at what has become an annual post-Pearl Harbor Day event.
The 2,390 Americans and 65 Japanese all “had their futures, their dreams and their hopes brought to a sudden and most tragic end,” said Koichi Ito, consul general of Japan in Honolulu.
“For the U.S. Navy, one can only begin to imagine the magnitude of the challenges and personal obstacles to be overcome to be able to co-host an event such as this that memorializes and recognizes both Japanese and American casualties,” Ito said.
More than 100 people — including Gov. David Ige and former Gov. George Ariyoshi — attended the event, held adjacent to a huge old banyan tree on Ford Island near a ground monument with a plaque commemorating the loss of the Arizona.
Addressing the “men and women of the U.S. Navy” and the “American people as a whole,” Ito said, “Words cannot begin to express my gratitude for your benevolence, your compassion and for the respect you have shown to the people of Japan. I, as consul general of Japan in Honolulu, humbly offer you my deepest, most heartfelt condolences for the souls of the fallen, here at Pearl Harbor.”
Ito added, “In this quiet harbor we honor those we lost, and we give thanks for all that our nations have built together.”
Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, noted that “since the end of World War II, nearly 75 years ago, the Pacific has evolved.”
Deep-rooted mutual trust, friendship, support and cooperation between the two countries now define the U.S.-Japanese relationship, he said.
“And because of those close bonds of friendship, the U.S.-Japanese alliance is stronger than ever,” Whitesell said.
After the ceremony, Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, recalled efforts spurred by historian John Di Virgilio to bring Japanese and American veterans together in 1991 — the 50th anniversary of the attack.
“We found out that a lot of our veterans were still beset with grief and anger of the war — but not all,” Martinez said.
Small dinners and gathering were held at first.
“And as we did so, we had handshake ceremonies at the end — and that was very, very emotional — in which these former enemies shook hands,” he said.
Martinez compared the increasing reconciliation at Pearl Harbor with that following the American Civil War when former Confederate troops were not welcome at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
“But eventually that changed, and handshakes across the wall were an everlasting image of the reconciliation between the North and the South,” he said.
Speaker Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, said lessons of compassion began aboard the battleship Missouri, the site of Japan’s formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, with words by Gen. Douglas MacArthur seeking a “world dedicated to the dignity of man.”
“In the first words the world would hear with global peace having been restored, Gen. MacArthur recognized this was not an occasion to gloat or revel in victory,” Carr said. “Instead, Gen. MacArthur recognized this was an opportunity to initiate a narrative advocating compassion by and for everyone.”