FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — A local historian is convinced he’s located the site where a two-man Japanese dive-bomber crew crashed on the morning of December 7, 1941, and was buried nearby: the tony grounds of Hoakalei Country Club Golf Course in Ewa Beach.
“The responsible thing to do is at least make an attempt to find these guys,” said John Bond, a semi-retired Ewa resident who has labored for years to bring recognition to the largely forgotten Marine Corps Air Station Ewa and its role in the 1941 battle. “If they can’t find them, then put up a marker saying this is a crash site and remember that so-and-so was killed here. I don’t understand why that would be a problem.”
But the golf course’s owner, Haseko Development, has been less than receptive to the idea of an active search for the grave on the property, which the company announced in October was being sold to a Japanese firm. Haseko Vice President Sharene Saito Tam said the company has done all it was required to do in identifying culturally and archaeologically significant artifacts on the property during development and has found no evidence of such a grave. Further, she said, Bond does not have documentation that pinpoints the gravesite’s exact location.
As to placing a marker on the grounds, she said: “From the company’s point of view, if there was evidence that showed that to be the case, of course it would be considered, but at this point there is nothing like that. But to ask any landowner to put a marker that indicates a grave where you don’t know a grave exists does not seem appropriate or respectful of the people they are trying to name there.”
Of the roughly 60 Japanese troops who were killed or lost during the December 7 attack, many were buried in various cemeteries on Oahu but were repatriated after the war. About 30 Japanese remain missing from that day.
One notable memorial to a Japanese airman stands in Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu. A bronze plaque marks the spot where Lt. Fusata Iita, commander of the 3rd Aircraft Group of the Japanese Imperial Navy, crashed his plane on a hillside near Kansas Tower that morning. Iita’s body was long ago returned to Japan.
The defense attache with the Japan consulate in Honolulu said the case of the two Ewa airmen is “a difficult situation” for Japan because the site is private property and the owner says there’s no evidence to back up Bond’s assertion.
During the past few years, Bond and a group of historians specializing in the 1941 attack have gathered extensive documentation and photos about the crash site, which had been lost to time and land development.
Even Tom Dye, the archaeologist contracted by Haseko to monitor its land development, admitted that Bond and his colleagues have “done an incredible amount of work” in tracking down photos and accounts of the crash.