Memorial event dedicated to American POWs held in Tokyo air raid

Memorial event dedicated to American POWs held in Tokyo air raid

TOKYO -- Sixty-two American prisoners of war killed in 1945 air raids by the U.S. military while being held in a Tokyo military prison were among the names read out at a memorial event held on March 10, 1945 by the Japanese capital.

It was the first time that American POWs were included in the names to be read aloud during the event held in the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage in the capital's Koto Ward on March 9. Participants took turns to read the names of 1,928 people -- a record since the memorial started in 2021 -- killed in the bombings during the Pacific War.

A committee consisting of families of victims and others is tasked with hosting the memorial event where the names of Tokyo air raid casualties are read aloud. This year, about 40 people participated online and in person.

One of the lists newly added this year was one containing 62 American POWs killed in an air raid on May 25, 1945, which devastated areas including Shibuya Ward. They were among the prisoners detained in the Tokyo military prison in Shibuya who had come flying near the Kanto region on military planes and crashed.

According to the POW Research Network Japan that provided the list of American POW casualties, while some 400 Japanese prisoners were rescued in the Shibuya prison, Americans were left to die. The prison wardens and others who were put on trial for war crimes after the end of World War II were handed death sentences, though they were later reduced.

Burton Blume, 72, a POW research group member, lives in Chiba Prefecture, was tasked with reading the names of the American POWs. He had studied about an American soldier a relative of a friend who had crashed near the prefectural city of Sakura where he now lives and was killed in the air raid. Blume was one of the presenters at the event, saying it was a privilege to take part in an event dedicated to war casualties of all nationalities. After reading those names, Blume said he believed that it's important to share a determination to rebuild from a tragedy and pass it down to next generations.

Five students and graduates of today's Nakamura Senior Girls' High School in Koto Ward, 31 workers at the Sumida telephone office, including switchboard operators, were told to never let go of their transceivers, and 199 residents of the 3 chome area in Sumida Ward's Midori district.

Participants took turns reading aloud the names of the air raid casualties in front of a camera for about three hours. Akari Umeda, a second year student at St. Hilda's School in Shinagawa Ward who joined the event after hearing about it from a teacher, said "The war was something foreign to me, but unlike reading about it in textbooks or seeing it on TV, I felt strongly that people really did die." I feel outraged that life is mistreated and destroyed in wars, regardless of friend or foe, said Michiko Suzuki, 77, who was in her mother's womb at the time of the Tokyo bombings. She said that the same things are happening in Ukraine today. Setsuko Kawai, 83, is a member of the organizing committee who lost her mother and two younger brothers in the Tokyo air raid. Like the Cornerstone of Peace in Okinawa, I want a place where I can trace the names of the victims with my hand. I want to remember them at least by reading their names.