Monday, December 9, 2013

December 7th, 2013 A Day of Remembrance

It has been 72 years since the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan. And since that time there have been many memorials, commemorations, and events to mark the remembrance of that tragic day so long ago. So when it was announced that the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino California had assembled a small fleet of rare Japanese warplanes, we just had to be there.

Earlier this year, we had a rather negative experience the last time we viewed a Japanese warplane in Pima Arizona. So when we decided we would go to the Inland Empire to a Pearl Harbor event, we expected to find the same anti-Japanese sentiments but to our surprise we did not. Rather, we had found just the opposite. The night prior we had attended the LA Eigafest at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood where upon mentioning where we would be the following morning we repeatedly heard “Oh no! We don’t want to go there,” from many Nikkei attending there. This of course was most understandable. But low and behold, a dozen or so people from Japan including Japanese media came to the event and were welcomed with as much respect as any other visitor. This of course was a big relief. But then again I was reminded by one of the speakers that "This was not Arizona."

So getting back to why we attended the commemoration, we had come to see the rare fleet of Japanese war planes outside of Japan parked outside in the rain which included:
The rare Mitsubishi JM2 Raiden aka “Jack” fighter.

The Yokusuka D4Y aka “Judy” Torpedo Bomber.

And the Aichi D3A2 “Val” Torpedo Bomber.

Each of these planes has stories of their own. But of these three planes, one of them was not an original. The “Val” was actually a conversion plane built in 1968 for the movie Tora Tora Tora and later used in the Jerry Bruckheimer film Pearl Harbor. I actually met this plane as a child in Oxnard during a filming of one of the many WWII dramas filmed in the late 1970’s. It was awesome to see this old childhood friend again.

As an added bonus, we were honored to have been present to both listen to and personally meet one of the last surviving Army Air Corps fighter Pilots who was based at Wheeler field that day. Retired U. S. Air Force Col. Norval Heath who delivered his accounts of what happened to him and his squadron that day. I was pleased to see how humble this gentle warrior who now at the age of 97 spoke with such dignity and without anger. It so happened when we went to personally thank him for his service he engaged us in conversation and was curious to know about our Japanese language skills and interest in wartime aviation. As we said to him it was truly an honor to meet and shake hands with him. It will likely be the last time we will ever have a chance to meet a pilot of his generation.

And while there was much more to see at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, we also enjoyed the presentation by the guest speaker, fellow author Dan King of The Last Zero Fighter (seen in the above photo with Col. Heath). Mr. King has interviewed more Japanese Pilots in Japan than anyone we are aware of and could speak for those pilots who were no longer with us. We have chatted with Mr. King on Facebook before so when we finally met him in person we conducted introductions in Japanese. He is a fine speaker who will be releasing another book in the New Year titled In the Shadow of Suribachi. 

It might have been a cold wet rainy day but we enjoyed this most respectful commemoration free of anti-Japanese sentiments or the usual refighting of WWII arguments. We give high praise to the Planes of Fame Air Museum for both their fine collection of warplanes and outstanding presentations. We at American Mishima highly recommend the drive out to Chino to visit. But in closing, we were struck by Dan King’s final words on behalf of the Japanese pilots who participated in the attack. “There are two things the Japanese Pilots wanted Americans to know. #1 For them, they knew this would be a one way ticket. They did not expect to return from their mission. #2 Upon discovering that the Declaration of War had been bungled by the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C., this made the men angry. This was not what they had trained for. For the rest of their lives they believed they would be considered villains the world over and that shame would be passed onto their children and grandchildren. This is not what they wanted nor wished to have happened. It was a sobering heartfelt sentiment that reminded us of a Buddhist scroll hanging on our wall written in the Showa era: “The Leaf falls without Anger.” 

To the men on both sides of that tragic day, 
We at American Mishima salute you both.
 May our countries continue to exist in harmony and never go to war again.

To find out more about Dan King's book The Last Zero Fighter please visit:

To learn more about The Planes of Fame Air Museum please visit:

1 comment:

  1. The D3A Val is actually built on the airframe of a BT-13 trainer. The Val is usually kept at the Chino facility at Valle AZ (Grand Canyon Airport), about 100 miles from my home.