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ENOLA GAY CREW CANCEL TINIAN ANNIVERSARY
By Liberby Dones
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 27)
–Enola Gay pilot Gen. Paul W. Tibbets and his crew have
canceled their plan to attend peace ceremonies on Tinian
next month that celebrate the 60th year anniversary of the
end of World War II.
This comes as the Tinian local government is
finalizing plans to bring in next month some survivors of
the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for a peace
ceremony called Hibakusha Experience.
The event is called Hibakusha Experience, to
be held at the American Memorial Park on July 31 and at the
Multi-Purpose Hall in Susupe on Aug. 2 on Saipan.
Tibbets piloted the Enola Gay plane, which
dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
Earlier reports said that Tibbets and his
crewmen - navigator Theodore Van Kirk and weaponeer Morris
Jeppson - who came to Saipan and Tinian in June 2004 to
celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and
Tinian, had wanted to return to Tinian to take part in this
On Friday, the 10th Tinian Municipal Council
confirmed that the Enola Gay crew would not be able to come
mainly for "health reasons."
"All of the crew of the Enola Gay would not
be able to come. Actually Gen. Tibbets was very willing to
come. It's just that his doctors stopped his visit. I
believe Mr. Jeppson, who is in his 80s, was also stopped by
his doctor because of his condition," said council executive
director James M. Mendiola in an interview with the Saipan
A forwarded e-mail, which originally came
from Tibbets' grandson, Paul W. Tibbets IV, also confirmed
the team's decision not to come to Tinian.
"My grandfather, his business manager, and
the surviving Enola Gay crew and family members have
informed me they all respectfully decline the invitation to
attend the 60th anniversary activities," a portion of the
younger Tibbets' e-mail said.
Tibbets IV is a lieutenant colonel with the
U.S. Air Force.
Independent sources could not confirm
speculations that Tibbets and the other Enola Gay crew are
staying away due to the presence of the atomic bombing
survivors. There have been some criticisms that the presence
of the survivors and the exhibit could embarrass Tibbets and
the other veterans.
Mendiola admitted receiving a lot of
criticisms for their plan to bring in the bombing victims
but he explained that it was never the intention of the
council "to stir up bad feelings among the U.S. veterans."
"We've come into a lot of criticisms this
year because we're featuring the Japanese Hibakusha and not
the survivors, for example, of the Bataan Death March,
comfort women, etc. We went to a lot of controversies. But
we say that these people are here to share their experiences
so that people can realize what happened. These are the only
victims of the bomb ever in the history of the world," he
Former Tinian senator David Cing said that
he had begun to hold talks with Hirsohima and Nagsaki people
since 1985 but he was allegedly dissuaded by the Office of
Insular Affairs (OIA).
"I was the first elected official to get in
touch with mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima but the OIA said
it should be put on hold," he said.
Cing said the reservation "was coming from
the U.S. side, not Japanese."
"Probably, the U.S. doesn't want to bring
this feeling again. But take a look at the statistics, there
are more Japanese tourists coming to Pearl Harbor. So I
said, why not bring in the survivors. That was my whole
point. So I support the coming of [Hibakusha] this year," he
OIA field representative Jeff Schorr said
there was no OIA yet in 1985 and he was obviously not part
of it back then. Right now, he said, his office has no
involvement in Tinian's preparation for its peace memorial
event this year.
Two Hibakusha from Hiroshima-85-year-old
Keijiro Matsushima and 75-year-old Fumiaki Kajiya-and one
from Nagasaki-85-year old Kiyoshi Nishida-have confirmed
their attendance at the Tinian peace ceremonies. They are
expected to arrive on July 29.
During their stay, the three survivors would
tell of the atomic bombing and its aftermath in at least
four separate occasions.
The event is called Hibakusha Experience,
which will be held at the American Memorial Park on July 31
and at the Multi-Purpose Hall in Susupe on Aug. 2 on Saipan.
The group will also be at the Rota Public Library on Aug. 4
and finally on Tinian on Aug. 6.The Hibakusha Experience
also includes an exhibit, which displays photos showing the
impact of the atomic bomb.
Mendiola said this is a product of a
three-year negotiation with both Nagasaki and Hiroshima
people. He said the Tinian mayor, Francisco M. Borja, led a
delegation to both cities in Japan.
Following that trip, the Tinian government
has held peace ceremonies in the last three years.
The Tinian mayor also became a member of the
Mayors for Peace, which is headed by the Hiroshima city
"We just want to show a kind of solidarity
with Hirsohima and Nagasaki. Their main message, which we
really believe, is the idea that no longer would there be
any city and people on the face of the earth that should be
subjected to an atomic bombing," he said.
"Obviously, the war and the emperor's visit,
all of that has a lot of emotions tied into it. We really
want to keep away from any debate. We want to try to make
sure that the peace aspect has publicity this year," he
Mendiola said that people associated with
some veterans groups had warned against the implication of
the Hibakusha's visit.
"There is a problem about people feeling
that may be the exhibit posters would stir up bad feelings
among the veterans, that veterans don't want to be
confronted [with it] but that kind of idea is unfounded," he
said, noting that all the poster venues are 'completely
separate from the veterans' venue.
"If you want to look at the pictures, you
have to actually enter a room. It's not blatantly
displayed," he said.
The council is in-charge of the Hibakusha
visit while the veterans' trip is being handled by the
Mendiola said, though, that the council and
the mayor's office "are not quarreling over the issue."
Mayor Borja was unreachable for comments as
of press time.
Mendiola also dismissed criticisms that he
and his family, including the Mayor's Office' Phillip
Mendiola-Long, who handles the veterans' group, are leaning
toward the Japanese side rather than the United States.
Mendiola admitted that he is born to a
Japanese mother, a Miyahara family, but he is also half
Chamorro and was educated in the United States.
Mendiola is the oldest child of former
Tinian Mayor James Mendiola Sr., and grandson of the first
Tinian mayor (Commonwealth) Felipe Mendiola.
His grandfather, he said, fought during the
war on the Japanese side. "He was on Rota. He worked for the
Japanese police. He was sent to Guam," he said.
He said he is aware that while his
grandfather was "a kind of a hero" in the CNMI, "on Guam he
was looked at as a villain, which is very sad."
"A lot of Chamorros on Guam thought that he
had something to do with the death of a priest. My grandpa
was there to help the Japanese get information from the
people," he said.
A memoir written about his grandfather by a
Japanese writer, he said, related that the elder Mendiola
"was trying to save people by making sure that they would
not get killed."
The Mendiolas originally came from Guam. The
elder Mendiola settled on Tinian after World War II.
Mendiola, who is turning 30, recalls that
his grandfather would tell him war stories.
"I remember conversations with him from a
very young age. He used to tell me war stories. He used to
tell us very clearly how awful war is, how splitting and
divisive it is," he said.
Mendiola said that people who are aware of
his background do question his intention in bringing the
Hibakusha to Tinian this year.
He said his critics also call him "a kid who
does not know anything."
"The truth is I have no ill feelings. I have
to explain this through an e-mail. I get a lot of e-mails
complaining. They called me a kid that does not know
anything, that my Japanese background is changing my
perspective. I said I grew up on Tinian. At 10, I moved to
the U.S. I lived in the U.S. and received an American
education. My opinion now is a product of that American
education," he said.
Mendiola said he majored in economics and
Japanese language at Portland University in Oregon.
"You know, my Japanese background, I never
look at it as a curse or anything like that. My Japanese
background is something I'm proud of. I was given the
opportunity to have a Chamorro father and a Japanese mother
to form a bridge for our family, Mendiola family, between
Japanese and Chamorro," he said.
"I realize completely that a lot of nations,
even a lot of Chamorros, still harbor ill feelings for what
happened during the war. These people have every single
right to have those feelings but what I'm saying is that
there has to be a point where people talk about things and
move forward," he said.
Meantime, Mendiola said that one of the
Hibakusha, Matsushima, was actually excited at hearing that
he would have a chance to see Tibbets on Tinian this year.
"His personal goal was to shake the hands of
Mr. Tibbets. No exchange of words. No taking of picture.
Just to show that its time for the world to move on," he
Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino, which is a
member of the preparation committee for Tinian's peace
ceremonies in August, said it is reserving 150 rooms for the
"We're asked to provide hotel and meal
accommodation," said TDHC executive Alfred Yu.
TDHC general manager Tom Liu said that based
on the initial talk, the hotel would reserve 150 rooms.
June 27, 2005
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