In December 2016, I made the trip to the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii and participated in the Seventy-Fifth Commemoration of the Attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.
While in Hawaii, I met a group of scouts and leaders from Placer County, California Boy Scout Troop 13 who were in Hawaii to honor USS Arizona survivor, Louis Conter. From Sunday, December 4 when I met the group at the Meet Our Heroes Session at the Tapa Bar, I was adopted by the group and ended up being invited to sit with them at the Commemoration Ceremony on Kilo Pier where I heard Admiral Harry Harris speak. Admiral Harris spoke to the horror that every serviceman faced on that fateful day in December of 1941, and famously quipped that those men who lived through that day, “never took a knee and never failed to stand when the national anthem played.” The friendships I made during that trip, especially Ms. Kathryn Holt, has provided me with excellent research material on Mr. Louis Conter. Mr. Conter not only survived the attack on the USS Arizona but went on to fly missions in one of the famed Black Cat Squadrons of the South Pacific. Ultimately, Mr. Conter made a career of the Navy. In three weeks, I will be returning to Oahu and Pearl Harbor for the 76th Remembrance Week and I have the opportunity to interview Mr. Conter and another invitation to the ceremony on December 7.
On December 6, I will be attending the Blackened Canteen Ceremony that originated in Japan. After a successful bombing raid by the United States’ 314th Bomber Wing that killed over 2000 Japanese civilians in Shizuoka, Japan on the night June 20, 1945, two American B-29 bombers collided over the city and crashed. Ultimately twenty-three members of the Army Air Corps perished in the crash, but on the following morning, as survivors of the raid made their way to the crash site, Mr. Fukumatsu Itoh found that two Americans had somehow survived the crash, and he attempted to save them. Their wounds were too severe, and they succumbed to them just a short time after Mr. Itoh pulled them from the wreckage. In a supreme act of kindness, Mr. Itoh gave the enemy airmen a proper burial much to the chagrin of his countrymen. He silently bore the anger and the angst that his community heaped upon him because in his heart he knew he had done the right thing. The day he pulled the two Americans from the wreckage, Mr. Itoh found a heat transformed blackened canteen that held the imprint of its owner’s hand. In a memorial ceremony, Mr. Itoh went to a shrine at the top of a nearby mountain and poured whiskey from the canteen to honor the dead of both nations. The random act of kindness in the burial of the American soldiers and then Mr. Itoh’s blackened canteen ceremony helped build a bridge to reconciliation between two sworn enemies.
The Blackened Canteen Ceremony hit home for me last year, and I have scheduled an interview with Dr. Sugano to learn from him how Mr. Itoh’s random act of kindness affected him. In these divisive times, what similar action could bring reconciliation between people of different nations or even people in the same nation with divergent views. I hope that this interview along with the conversation with the American and Japanese high school students participating in the Ceremony Symposium afterward will lead to some understanding about what we can do today to bridge the divide of politics, race, and angst that seems to pervade America.
My research trips are costly, but the material they provide not only for my Johnson Family Chronicles Series but the other articles I write is priceless. To subsidize my writing research trips, I have started a Patreon account that I hope you will use to support my love of telling the story and preserving America’s past. For any amount of support, you will have access to my ongoing work on the Johnson Family Chronicles and exclusive access to future articles based on the research I have conducted. Thank you again for supporting what I’m trying to accomplish, and I hope you enjoy the articles and stories I tell about America’s past.