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Hercules may become centerpiece of Yokota monument park

Japanese employees work on a memorial to John F. Kennedy at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. The monument, dedicated to the late president shortly after his assassination in November 1963, was moved from a traffic circle to a park that will open in September.

AARON KIDD/STARS AND STRIPES

By LEON COOK AND ALLEN ONSTOTT | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 17, 2016

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A C-130 Hercules transport plane, soon to be replaced by newer models at Yokota, could become the centerpiece of a new monument park in the works at the western Tokyo air base.

The park, which is currently under construction near the base library, already has nine monuments — including one dedicated to John. F. Kennedy donated by Japanese base workers shortly after the president’s 1963 assassination. The monuments were relocated to the new park from spots throughout the installation.

Park designers have left room for a “Herc” to honor the aircraft’s 36-year history at Yokota, said civil engineer Marco Furlan.

Later this year, the wing is scheduled to replace 14 of the aging aircraft with newer C-130J models that will share ramp space with a squadron of CV-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys due to start flying out of Tokyo in 2017.

The idea for the monument park was hatched six years ago after former Yokota historian John Treiber was alarmed by construction projects.

“He was concerned … that some of the monuments would get damaged,” said Eric Warner, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron’s engineering flight chief. “He wanted a place where the most important monuments would be safe and accessible.”

For example, the Kennedy memorial was easy to miss from its old spot near Nina Circle, a roundabout near the base housing office. Then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy laid a wreath there while visiting Yokota just two months after his brother was killed.

“Nina Circle will go away eventually, probably in the next five to 10 years, and it’s kind of hidden,” Warner said. “We thought the statue might as well be moved early and put where people could see it.”

The Japan-America Centenary of Friendship monolith, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the U.S. and Japan, was relocated from a spot near the Defense Finance and Accounting Service building.

Other monuments in the park honor fallen troops from various conflicts, prisoners of war and those missing in action. There’s also a list of airmen who have received the Medal of Honor for action in Vietnam, Korea and both world wars.

The monument park should be ready for visitors by Sept. 9. In addition to space for a Hercules, designers saved room for future memorials, displays and flagpoles, Warner said.

There are already a couple of historic aircraft displayed at Yokota. Nina II, an F-86F Sabre fighter given to the base by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to honor 5th Air Force pilots who flew the jets during the Korean War, sits in front of U.S. Forces Japan headquarters. Nina was formerly displayed in the center of the traffic circle that now bears its name.

Nearby, between the 5th Air Force headquarters and the JASDF command building, is a Mitsubishi F-1 jet fighter, Japan’s first domestically-developed supersonic military jet.

cook.leon@stripes.com
onstott.allen@stripes.com

Then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy looks at a memorial for his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in January 1964 at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The memorial, contributed by Japanese base workers shortly after the president's November 1963 assassination, is now part of a monument park opening soon near the base library.
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