World War II Japanese Fighter and American Bomber Crew Commemorated in Isahaya
SASEBO, Japan (Nov. 23, 2015) Isahaya locals, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy Sailors participated in a commemoration ceremony at Isahaya, Nov. 21, 2015. Local citizens organized the commemoration for the crews of a B-29 heavy bomber and the Japanese fighter which rammed it, killing both parties, over Isahaya during World War II.
The commemoration was held to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and took place on the day the bomber and fighter collided 71 years ago.
On Nov. 21, 1944, B-29 Super Fortress heavy bombers of the 462nd Bombardment Group attacked targets in Omura City, Japan. They had begun their return flight to China when they were attacked by 67 Japanese fighters, one of which was flown by Imperial Japanese Navy Lt. j.g. Mikihiko Sakamoto.
Capt. Joseph Killebrew’s B-29, “Acid Test,” was rammed by Sakamoto over Isahaya, which resulted in both aircraft crashing. Sakamoto’s body was found in the mountains near Isahaya, the B-29 crashed into the waters just a few hundred yards off Isahaya.
Locals erected a memorial for Sakamoto in1992 and one for the B-29 crew followed in 1993, near their respective crash sites.
About 60 people came to the commemoration, including service members from Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo and JMSDF Fleet Air Wing 22. JMSDF buglers also performed at the ceremony.
“This year marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II. Since then, Japan and the United States have profoundly built a strong bond and common interest of achieving peace and prosperity,” said CFA Sasebo Command Master Chief Christopher Stone at the commemoration. “It is amazing to see where we are now, how we all have worked together in advancing and deepening our friendship.”
Flowers for the fallen were placed at a table flanked by American and Japanese flags where pictures of the aviators were displayed. Flowers were also placed at the B-29 crew memorial itself by Stone and JMSDF Commander, Fleet Air Wing 22 Rear Admiral Katsushi Omachi.
“Everybody wishes for peace in the same way,” Dr. Hiroji Inuo, head of the commemoration’s executive committee and witness to the bomber’s crash, has said. “The most important thing is how we should protect peace. The first step is to reveal the truth for future generations so that we can be objective about it.”
After the party performed the ceremony at the B-29 crew memorial they moved several miles away to Sakomoto’s memorial and laid flowers there as well.
Those remembered were Imperial Japanese Navy Lt. j.g. Mikihiko Sakamoto, U.S. Army Air Force Capt. Joseph Killebrew, 1st Lt. Paul Meeks, 1st Lt. Emsley Eggers, 1st Lt. Earl Heins, 2nd Lt. Spirito Ovial, Staff Sgt. John Normand Jr., Staff Sgt. Edward Morrow, Staff Sgt. Vincent Sheridan, Staff Sgt. Luther Young, Sgt. Gail Cornelius and Sgt. Gordon Chard.