On Aug. 15th, 1945, nearly four years into World War II, U.S. Navy Lt. Vernon L. Tebo, 1st Class Robert Tuggle Jr., and 1st Class Warren H. Loyd, were shot down and crashed into the small island of Ishigaki. They were soon captured by the Japanese Imperial Army and faced execution shortly after. The death of the three U.S. Navy airmen brought the people of Ishigaki and U.S. armed forces together 56 years later and bloomed an enduring friendship.
Nearly six decades after the incident, U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Tim Wilson partnered with Takeo Shinohara, a professor at the University of the Ryukyus, to develop and create a memorial for the three U.S. Navy personnel. Over the next year, the duo worked tirelessly to develop this monument, gaining financial assistance and volunteers from the U.S. personnel located on U.S. Air Force Base Kadena, Okinawa, Japan and residents of the Ishigaki Island. On Aug. 15, 2001, 56 years after the incident, the monument was dedicated to the three U.S. Navy airmen.
“This monument will contribute greatly to the development of goodwill and friendship between Japan and the United States and will also serve as a testament of reconciliation with the bereaved families who have been through 56 years of emotional hardship and sadness,” said Shinohara.
The monument stands in a park overlooking the ocean and is symbol of peace and friendship between the people of Ishigaki and the U.S. Though Japan and U.S were once former adversaries, now have an enduring friendship and resilient partnership than is displayed in monuments like this Bilingual Memorial Monument.
On April 15, 2023, the memorial will once again rejoin the people of Ishigaki and U.S. service members at the Bilingual Memorial Monument for a ceremony dedicate to the lost airmen. The ceremony will host local civilians, politicians, members of the Japan Self-Defense Force, and U.S. service members.
“This ceremony takes what was an atrocious event in a horrific war, World War II, when we were at war with each other and reflects a wonderful partnership. It is a great opportunity to reconcile as an individuals and human beings.” explained U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Eric Austin, commanding general of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, “It also brings the local community of Ishigaki close to the American service men and women.”
The three Navy airmen were lost during World War II, but their sacrifice was never forgotten by the people of Ishigaki. The tragedy sparked an enduring friendship and symbolizes the unwavering commitment to peace between the U.S. and Japan.
Shinohara expressed in closing remarks, “I hope that the ceremony will continue to be held. From the border island Ishigaki, we can convey to the world the tragedy of war and the preciousness of peace.”
Text credit: Sgt. Megan Roses III Marine Expeditionary Force
Photo credit: Sgt. Megan Roses. ISHIGAKI, OKINAWA, Japan – U.S. service members and distinguished guests pose for a photo during the Ishigaki Memorial Ceremony on Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan, April 15, 2023.