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Thursday, January 25, 2001

U.S. airman, Japanese
professor work to build
memorial on Okinawa

By Gregg K. Kakesako

An American airman wants to put to rest three U.S. World War II aviators who were captured, tortured and executed on Okinawa 56 years ago, in the last months of World War II.

Since last summer Tech. Sgt. Tim Wilson, an Air Force maintenance specialist at Kadena Air Force Base, has developed a partnership with Takeo Shinohara, professor of forestry at University of Ryukyus, to bring closure to this tragic incident.

Wilson said he wants "to help the people of Ishigaki Island by creating a long-lasting friendship between the two people."

However, he faces an April 15 deadline to raise the remaining $15,000 needed to complete the $50,000 monument.

On April 15, 1945, three American airmen had to bail out of their Grumman TBF Avenger near Ishigaki Island, located 265 miles south of Okinawa. Lt. Vernon Tebo, 28; Aviation Radioman 1st Class Warren Lloyd, 24; and Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Robert Tuggle, 20; were captured by the Japanese and interrogated. Tebo and Tuggle were beheaded, Wilson said.

Lloyd was said to have been blindfolded and paraded through the village and later was repeatedly bayoneted by conscript Japanese soldiers.

Wilson said the Japanese tried to hide the incident after they surrendered in September 1945 by cremating the bodies of the three men. "Their ashes placed in fuel cans and sunk to the bottom of the sea near Iriomote Island."

Later, 41 Japanese soldiers who participated in the incident were tried and seven Japanese officers were hanged.

Wilson said he hopes part of the money can used to bring the surviving members of the three airmen to Okinawa for the April dedication ceremony.

"It is time to bring these guys to rest," Wilson said. "I am a firm believer in not leaving people behind or not letting people forget the sacrifices of those that do not make it home. To me, they died heroes. And I will do everything in my power to erect this monument."

The black marble monument will be four feet tall and have three steps to represent the three aviators. The Ishigaki Island memorial will include a red Torii gate.

Shinohara learned about the incident while doing research on the people, including his mother and two sisters, who died of malaria on Ishigaki. Residents of the island told Shinohara that even today they believe they see ghosts of the airmen "who wander the island because of the way the three were so cruelly killed and their ashes were taken to the ocean."

Shinohara added: "I firmly believe we need to erect a monument to them to console their spirit and put an end to this tragedy. Otherwise their spirit will continue to roam the Earth in search of a resting place. The monument will also bring healing to the people of Ishigaki."

The two have been helped by Ishigaki Mayor Nagateru Ohama, who has donated land for the memorial and will donate the memorial stone.

Wilson can be contacted at PSC 80 Box 16932; APO AP 96367.

E-mail to City Desk

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