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"I cannot allow our issue to end up in this manner"

December 5, 2015

Civilians affected by firebombings plan rallies to keep memories alive




It could be called their last war cry.

Civilian victims of U.S. air raids in World War II who never received compensation for their suffering will hold a rally in Tokyo on Dec. 8 to remind postwar generations of what they endured.

Military veterans who fought in World War II, civilians who worked for the imperial Japanese military as well as bereaved family members received government compensation after 1945.

Such payments in the form of pensions through 2013 came to at least 54 trillion yen ($440 billion), according to a study by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

In contrast, between 300,000 and 500,000 ordinary civilians lost loved ones or were themselves injured in firebombings of Japanese cities. However, these individuals were not eligible for pension payments.

Moreover, every lawsuit seeking compensation ended in defeat, as did all legislation presented to the Diet to pay out monetary benefits.

With this 70th anniversary year of the end of World War II winding down, many of those individuals felt they had to make one last symbolic act to ensure their experiences remain a part of the public memory.

"Many of my fellow members have died. And some have left the movement because they were too busy trying to keep up with their own lives," said Teruko Anno, 76, a homemaker from Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, who once served as a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking an apology and compensation from the central government for damages resulting from U.S. air raids in the closing days of World War II. "But, I cannot allow our issue to end in this manner."

As a child, Anno was badly injured in a U.S. firebombing. She was attending kindergarten in Kagoshima Prefecture in July 1945 when shrapnel from an explosion severed her left knee.

She could only attend the entrance ceremony for elementary school because her mother piggybacked her to school. While she eventually was able to walk using a crutch, her disfigurement made her a victim of bullying.

After reaching adulthood, she hid her disability and worked out of her home as a seamstress.

Her life would change dramatically from 1972 with the formation of a national organization of individuals injured due to the war. That organization was established through the initiative of Chisako Sugiyama, 100, who lost her left eye and part of her face due to the firebombing of Nagoya.

Despite what happened to her, Sugiyama never hid her injuries and spoke out publicly about the need for compensation. Anno was struck by Sugiyama's positive attitude and joined the movement to collect signatures for a petition calling on the central government to provide compensation.

However, 14 attempts to pass legislation failed as did the lawsuits seeking compensation that were filed in courts around the nation.

Dec. 8 marks the start of the Pacific War as that is when word reached Tokyo of the success of the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii the day before.

Anno will join others for a rally near the Diet building seeking government action to help civilians injured during the war.

When Anno addresses the rally, she plans to say the following: "Were we who have suffered damage wrong? Are you saying we should just bear with what we have gone through?"

(This article was compiled from reports by Senior Staff Writer Tomoaki Ito, Yosuke Watanabe and Jun Sato.)


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