THE BLACKENED CANTEEN
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“On June 20, 1945, just before the end of the war, 123 American bombers took off from the island of Guam for an attack on Shizuoka, a Japanese city at the foot of Mount Fuji. The raid destroyed two-thirds of the city, taking the lives of two thousand of its citizens. Twenty-three American airmen also died when two of their planes collided in mid-air. That these twenty-three men were enemy soldiers mattered little to one Japanese person who buried their remains next to the graves of the Shizuoka citizens killed in the attack and erected a memorial for them there. Many years later, in 1971, another Shizuoka citizen learned of this. He began holding his own ceremony beside the memorial, praying for the souls of the twenty-three Americans each year on the Saturday closest to June 20. Though the two countries were once at war, the selfless action of one Shizuoka citizen over sixty years ago has built a bridge between the two countries, inspiring a campaign for peace among Japanese and American citizens, and strengthening ties between the two countries.