50 Years On: U.S. Fighter Crash Continues to Fuel Antibase Protester


Naha, Okinawa Pref., April 4 (Jiji Press)--Nearly a half century after the 1972 return of Okinawa to Japan, an 84-year-old former teacher is continuing to demonstrate against U.S. military presence in the southernmost Japan prefecture, spurred by his memories of a girl killed in a U.S. fighter crash.

Norio Iha witnessed firsthand the aftermath of a U.S. fighter jet crashing into Miyamori Elementary School in an Okinawa city now called Uruma on June 30, 1959, when Okinawa was under U.S. occupation. The incident killed 18 people, including 12 children.

Among the schoolchildren killed in the crash was the girl, who was a second-grade student at the school.

Iha was at a local education office when he heard a loud explosion. He rushed to the crash site, full of black smoke and the smell of burning gasoline and timber.

An acquaintance handed Iha her daughter, whose body was pale and almost fully without clothes as they were burned. As the girl complained of pain in a faint voice with no expression, he knew instinctively that she would not survive. She died shortly afterward at a hospital.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press