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Masahiro Saito, organizer of a memorial for Kazue Doshida and her two sons, explains the meaning of their statue to students in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Doshida and her sons were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps jet crashed near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

Masahiro Saito, organizer of a memorial for Kazue Doshida and her two sons, explains the meaning of their statue to students in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Doshida and her sons were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps jet crashed near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. (Hana Kusumoto/Stars and Stripes)

Masahiro Saito, organizer of a memorial for Kazue Doshida and her two sons, explains the meaning of their statue to students in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Doshida and her sons were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps jet crashed near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

Masahiro Saito, organizer of a memorial for Kazue Doshida and her two sons, explains the meaning of their statue to students in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Doshida and her sons were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps jet crashed near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. (Hana Kusumoto/Stars and Stripes)

Junior high school students recite a script written about the crash of a Marine Corps reconnaissance jet that killed three and injured six 40 years ago near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

Junior high school students recite a script written about the crash of a Marine Corps reconnaissance jet that killed three and injured six 40 years ago near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. (Hana Kusumoto/Stars and Stripes)

A photo of Kazue Doshida and her two sons was displayed during a memorial gathering at a park in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. They were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps aircraft crashed in Kanagawa Prefecture.

A photo of Kazue Doshida and her two sons was displayed during a memorial gathering at a park in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. They were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps aircraft crashed in Kanagawa Prefecture. (Hana Kusumoto/Stars and Stripes)

A statue was built in memory of Kazue Doshida and her two sons, who were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps reconnaissance jet crashed near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

A statue was built in memory of Kazue Doshida and her two sons, who were killed 40 years ago after a Marine Corps reconnaissance jet crashed near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. (Hana Kusumoto/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Paper cranes and flowers were placed over the weekend near a statue of a mother holding her two children to mark 40 years since a deadly Marine Corps plane crash in Kanagawa Prefecture.

About 60 people observed a moment of silence Saturday at the Yokohama statue to remember Kazue Doshida and her 3-year-old and 1-year-old sons, who were killed after an RF-4B Phantom II reconnaissance jet crashed into their home near Naval Air Facility Atsugi on Sept. 27, 1977.

“Lives of innocent residents were taken away by a military jet and we shouldn’t let a tragedy like this happen again,” said Masahiro Saito, the gathering’s organizer. “We should think what Kazue and her children’s wishes were.”

The Marine jet crashed soon after it took off from Atsugi heading to the USS Midway aircraft carrier in Tokyo Bay. The crew tried to ditch the plane in the sea but, realizing they wouldn’t make it, steered toward a less populated hillside and ejected.

Tragically, the plane struck people’s homes. Doshida’s sons died of burns soon after and their mother succumbed to complications from her own burns four years later. Six others were injured and 51 houses were burned or destroyed.

Doshida, who underwent several skin grafts, wasn’t told that her sons were dead for a year. After finding out, she said she wanted to hold them one more time. The statue was built in 1985 to fulfill her wish.

Junior high school students told those who gathered at the statue over the weekend about the accident. Their teacher, Masahiro Yamada, said the children wanted to remember what happened.

“Even Yokohama residents are starting to forget [about the accident] even though it has only been 40 years,” Yamada said.

kusumoto.hana@stripes.com

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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