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Commemorating Pearl Harbor Day With 'Blackened Canteen'
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cole Pielop
December 7, 2018

Whiskey slowly pours from the charred canteen as it splashes against the hallowed waters surrounding the USS Arizona memorial. Sharply dressed men, whose countries years ago were mortal enemies, solemnly stare at the water as the two liquids meet.

December 6, 2018 - Daniel Martinez, National Park Service Chief Historian, (Right) and Hiroya Sugano, M.D. (Left) pour bourbon whiskey into the waters to pay their respects to the lost service members during the 'Blackened Canteen' ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial. The blackened canteen, which was pulled from the ashes during World War II, is seen as an inspiration for peace. Its blackness and heat-distorted shape represent the inevitability of conflict, yet its presence represents eternal hope for a future of peaceful understanding and reconciliation between former enemies. . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cole C. Pielop)
December 6, 2018 - Daniel Martinez, National Park Service Chief Historian, (Right) and Hiroya Sugano, M.D. (Left) pour bourbon whiskey into the waters to pay their respects to the lost service members during the 'Blackened Canteen' ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial. The blackened canteen, which was pulled from the ashes during World War II, is seen as an inspiration for peace. Its blackness and heat-distorted shape represent the inevitability of conflict, yet its presence represents eternal hope for a future of peaceful understanding and reconciliation between former enemies. . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cole C. Pielop)

U.S. and Japanese military members and civilians observe the annual Blackened Canteen ceremony in commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day, at the USS Arizona Memorial, December 6, 2018.

In June of 1945 over Shizuoka, Japan, two B-29s collided mid-air, killing the 23 Americans on board. The morning after the wreckage, Fukumatsu Itoh recovered a blackened canteen, bearing what is thought to be the handprint of its former owner.
Hiroya Sugano, M.D, a child at the time, whose family lived through the bombings, was also at the wreckage the same day, but wouldn’t meet Itoh until some time later.

Itoh, a devout Buddhist, began an annual ceremony to honor those who lost their lives during the war. It began with a prayer and was followed by pouring bourbon whiskey from the canteen onto the crash site. Itoh’s devout fortitude throughout the years had a great impact on Sugano. Before Itoh passed away, Sugano promised to carry on the tradition, which he has faithfully executed since 1972.

“I personally feel that consoling and paying respect to the souls of all of the fallen, regardless of who they are, is the first step toward international reconciliation and world peace,” said Sugano. “I truly feel that my prayer has been answered.”

The commemoration is a moment for attendees to observe continued peace between the two nations and honor the victims of the events that took place during the war.  

December 6, 2018 - Members from the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and the U.S. Navy render a salute to show respect between the two militaries during the 'Blackened Canteen' ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial. The blackened canteen, which was pulled from the ashes during World War II, is seen as an inspiration for peace. Its blackness and heat-distorted shape represent the inevitability of conflict, yet its presence represents eternal hope for a future of peaceful understanding and reconciliation between former enemies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cole C. Pielop)
December 6, 2018 - Members from the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and the U.S. Navy render a salute to show respect between the two militaries during the 'Blackened Canteen' ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial. The blackened canteen, which was pulled from the ashes during World War II, is seen as an inspiration for peace. Its blackness and heat-distorted shape represent the inevitability of conflict, yet its presence represents eternal hope for a future of peaceful understanding and reconciliation between former enemies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cole C. Pielop)

“I’m so sad that we lost a generation of our most promising young folks to war,” said retired Lt. Col. Gary Meyers, a volunteer at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. “But then I’m happy that I see this appeasement of former enemies. This represents reconciliation at its finest.”

After emptying the canteen, flower petals were dropped into the waters representing the lost service members, “Taps” was played and benedictions said. The boat moored back into the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center and the guests dispersed, each with a new understanding for how far the two countries have come. 

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