Defense Department News

U.S., Japan Extend Peace Offerings in "Blackened Canteen" Ceremony

Dec. 7, 2016 | BY Lisa Ferdinando

American and Japanese representatives extended an offering of peace at the USS Arizona Memorial here yesterday, gently pouring bourbon whiskey from a World War II-era canteen into the hallowed waters below.

The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military, left, and the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military, left, and the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military, left, and the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Blackened Canteen
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military, left, and the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
VIRIN: 161206-D-BN624-338

The annual "Blackened Canteen" ceremony centers on a single artifact -- a canteen recovered after a June 1945 mid-air collision of two American bombers over Shizuoka, Japan -- and the actions of a Japanese farmer who sought to promote peace and reconciliation after the bombing raid that killed 2,000 people in his city.

A choir sang in the background. Prayers were said for the dead, and participants gently tossed flowers into the water to honor the victims of the events in Japan, and the more than 2,400 killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the battleship’s final resting place in Pearl Harbor. 1,177 sailors and Marines were killed aboard the ship.

"The Blackened Canteen ceremony began 71 years ago, now joins two nations with the hope of a world that will join together to seek peace on Earth," the executive director of the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Ken DeHoff, said.

The museum cohosted the event with the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, as part of events for the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

"The blackened canteen has become a symbol of the horrors of war. For these past years, it represents the humanitarianism that resides in the hearts of the Japanese people," DeHoff said.

The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military and the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen,” Dr. Hiroya Sugano, holds the World War II-era canteen recovered from a crash site of two American bombers in Japan during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military and the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Blackened Canteen
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen,” Dr. Hiroya Sugano, holds the World War II-era canteen recovered from a crash site of two American bombers in Japan during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
VIRIN: 161206-D-BN624-081

'Exemplary Virtue

The metal canteen bears an indentation believed to be of the hand of the American airman who was gripping it when his plane collided with another B-29 bomber during a bombing mission over the Japanese city of Shizuoka on June 19, 1945. Both aircrews were killed, explained Jacqueline Ashwell, the superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

"War is tragic and it can bring out the worst in mankind, and yet there can be glimmers of hope that out of death and destruction can emerge exemplary virtue," she said.

A farmer, Fukumatsu Itoh, buried the crewmembers alongside the citizens who were killed in the air raid. He recovered the canteen and built the Sengen Hill monuments at the crash site to promote peace between the United States and Japan, Ashwell explained.

Bridge for Friendship and Peace

After Itoh's death, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, who lived through the raid as a child, continued the traditions for peace and reconciliation. This year marks the 25th year he has traveled to Hawaii for the Pearl Harbor commemorations.

"I'm certain that this memorial service will be a bridge between Japan and U.S. friendship and contribute toward peace," Sugano said.   

Other participants included Japanese Consul General Yasushi Misawa; World War II American pilots Jack DeTour and Jerry Yellin; and World War II Japanese pilot Shiro Wakita.