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Campaign for Ishigaki Memorial for Three U.S. Airmen

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2001-02-02

A small but tragic chapter in the bloodiest World War II battle of the Pacific never had a satisfactory conclusion, believe three men who are campaigning to put up a monument on Ishigaki Island.

This may be the last such memorial for the victims of the Battle of Okinawa. It would be in memory of three American Navy airmen whose aircraft was shot down near the island, 265 miles south of Okinawa, during a bombing run. The three parachuted into the sea and were quickly captured. They were then taken to Japanese Naval headquarters on the island and executed the same day.

The airmen who died on the evening of April 15 1945 were the 28 year old pilot, Lieutenant Vernon Tebo from Chicago, who had been a high school teacher before the war. His crew were 24 year old Sergeant Warren Lloyd of Long Island, New York and Sergeant Warren Taggle of Ranger, Texas.

The idea for the monument came from Professor Takeo Shinohara of the University of the Ryukus, who was four years old at the time of the incident. He is a veteran of a previous campaign to win compensation for 3,647 Ishigaki islanders who died of malaria after their forced relocation to swamp infested jungle, by the Japanese Imperial Army. Shinohara’s mother and two sisters were among the dead. As a result of Shinohara’s campaign the Tokyo government gave the islanders ¥300 million, much of which went towards a museum and a monument.

Shinohara’s new campaign is supported by Ishigaki mayor Nagateru Ohama who says the monument would comfort the spirits of the airmen and bring healing to his native island.

The third man involved in the campaign to put up the monument is Tim Wilson, an Kadena airman, who believes the monument would stand as a symbol of long lasting friendship between two peoples.

He has visited the grass covered field at the foot of Mount Banna where the executions took place and near where the monument would be put up. After he had visited the site, left flowers there and meditated for some minutes, he said he felt motivated to make sure the monument was built.

The campaign to erect the memorial is far enough advanced to make it a near certainty that the project will be completed. But the prospect was not always so sure. Its projected cost is $50,000 and the reaction first encountered by Shinohara among some American military he met was that it was a lot of money to spend on the memory of only three people.

However Wilson contacted veterans and military social groups about the idea and found enough support to go ahead with the idea. The campaign gained enough momentum that now Wilson is not worried about not being able to raise enough money to build the

commemorative structure.

Mayor Ohama has promised that Ishigaki City will provide land near the execution site and stone for the monument itself.

Pressing for closure after 56 years, Shinohara said it had been far too long that nothing had been done about remembering the three airmen, whose bodies were cremated. The manner of their deaths and the fact that their ashes were scattered, leads Shinohara to believe that their souls are still not resting peacefully.

The area at the foot of the mountain near where the three airmen died, has been designated a memorial park and it is planned to gather together there all the war monuments which are now scattered all over the island.

For more information contact Tim Wilson 633-6008 or e-mail kim@kda.attmil.ne.jp

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