Okinawa school remembers victims of US fighter jet crash 65 years ago

Sunday marked 65 years since the deadly crash of a US fighter jet into an elementary school in the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, which was then under US rule.

More than 200 people, including relatives of the victims, attended a memorial service at Miyamori Elementary School in what is now Uruma City.

The plane took off from Kadena Air Base on June 30, 1959. The pilot ejected from the craft, which struck the school before bursting into flames. The crash killed 18 people, including 11 students, and injured more than 200.

Participants at the ceremony laid flowers and offered prayers in front of the monument bearing the names of the victims.

After the service, 80-year-old musician Umisedo Yutaka sang his original song to memorialize the tragedy and highlight the importance of peace. At the time of the accident, Umisedo was attending a high school only seven kilometers from the elementary school.

Representing the bereaved families, 81-year-old Uema Yoshimori told participants that the accident occurred because of the US bases and that he hopes such a tragedy will never be repeated. Uema lost his younger brother, who was then a third-grader.

Yamamoto Keiko, 71, who suffered a broken skull in the disaster and now lives in Saga Prefecture, said she is aware that the US base issue is sensitive as many local people work there. She added that people should speak up whenever something evil occurs.