Japanese remember mother, children killed after Marine Corps jet crashed 40 years ago
By HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 26, 2017
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.