YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A Yokota delegation is headed to Shizuoka City on Saturday for the 34th annual joint commemoration honoring victims of a B-29 air raid and disaster that occurred near the end of World War II.

On June 20, 1945, about 2,000 Japanese people died when 123 B-29 bombers struck the area. During the mission, two of the planes collided, killing 23 U.S. air crewmembers.

In 1967, Fukumatsu Itoh, a former Shizuoka City assemblyman, built two monuments on top of Sengen Hill — one for Japanese victims and another for the U.S. airmen who perished that day. He conducted the inaugural B-29 U.S.-Japan Joint Memorial Service five years later.

Col. Paul Montgomery, the acting 374th Airlift Wing commander in Col. Scott Goodwin’s absence, will attend this year with 14 other Air Force and Japanese officials from Yokota.

“It has been over 60 years since our two nations were at war. It was a time of great pain, sorrow and loss — the lives, hopes and dreams for many Japanese and Americans were shattered,” Montgomery was quoted in a written statement as saying. “It is events such as these that truly demonstrate the strong friendship that has been established between Japan and the United States, creating a solid foundation for peace and prosperity here in the Western Pacific region.”

The ceremony is marked by a Buddhist service and flower presentation at the monuments. A canteen, filled with American bourbon whiskey, is poured over the B-29 monument by Air Force members, in a tribute to the people who died in Shizuoka.

The blackened canteen, which had the clearly marked indented fingerprints of a U.S. airman, was plucked from the planes’ wreckage and preserved by Itoh, organizers said. The Japanese man believed the airman’s spirit merged with the metal canteen at the moment of impact.

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