Editorial: Sixty years after Miyamori Elementary School plane crash, the dangerous conditions have not changed

June 30, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

The children were passing out milk for school lunch, when suddenly they were bombarded by thunderous noise and balls of fire. It has been 60 years since a U.S. military jet crashed into Miyamori Elementary School in Ishikawa City (now Uruma), killing 18 people and injuring another 210.

Even though this was an accident due to human error, the cause was concealed, and the compensation after the accident was insufficient. It was an accident symbolic of Okinawa under U.S. control, where the value of the lives of residents were taken lightly. We must continue to tell these kinds of absurd episodes of Okinawa’s post-war history.

The plane crash occurred on June 30, 1959. A U.S. military F-100 jet from Kadena Air Base fell into a residential neighborhood of Ishikawa, with the plane bouncing off the ground on impact and crashing into Miyamori Elementary School. There were 12 students among the victims. The pilot ejected and was unharmed in the incident.

The reaction by the U.S. military after the incident was extremely dishonest. The military announced that the cause of the incident was, “a Force Majeure caused by a part breakdown.” However, afterward in the accident report put together by the U.S. Air Force indicated that the accident’s, “main cause was a mistake during maintenance,” concluding that the accident was caused by human error. Despite the insufficient maintenance the crew chief deemed the plane flight-worthy, and during the flight the here was a fuel leak, causing an engine fire.

Ever since the early stages of development, the F-100 warplane was plagued by accidents and dubbed “defective,” losing 47 pilots in crashes over is operational lifespan. However, the fact that the plane was faulty was never explained to the people of Okinawa. Thankfully, details about the accident were compiled by the Ishikawa Miyamori 630 non-profit organization, which collected data from the U.S. military as well as testimonials.
This incident of 60 years ago was by no means an outlier. From the time Okinawa was reverted to Japanese control through today, accidents involving U.S. military aircraft have happened one after another, and nothing has changed about a structure that gives birth to tragedy.

On June 4 of this year, a plastic sheet attached to the wing of a U.S. helicopter fell onto a junior high school in Urasoe. After the accident, training flights were resumed before an investigation into the cause of the accident was announced, with aircraft continuing to fly over the school. For the incident at the preschool, they admitted that the part belonged to the U.S. military, but insisted that it had not dropped.

Also, when the MV-22 Ospreys were deployed to MCAS Futenma, the Ministry of Defense explained, “This model has a lower accident rate than others. As the plane is flown more, the accident rate decreases. However, the Class A (major) mishap rate per 100,000 flight hours dramatically increase from 1.65 in 2012 to 2.85 in 2018. The crash in Abu, Nago City in 2016 is fresh in people’s memories.

Have neither the Japanese nor U.S. governments learned anything from the tragedy at Miyamori Elementary? The live of Okinawans continue to be put in danger.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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