Bourbon Poured Every Year In to the Water During Pearl Harbor Commemoration The Symbolism

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U.S., Japanese WWII Vets Honor Fallen with Blackened Canteen Spirits

By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal

USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL, Hawaii (NNS) — World War II veterans from the United States and Japan joined in silent prayer and poured bourbon whiskey into Pearl Harbor’s hallowed waters during the Blackened Canteen ceremony in observation of Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 6.

The annual commemoration provided a moment for attendees to observe continued peace and reconciliation the two nations share and remember those who lost their lives during the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack and during World War II.

The canteen used was recovered from a B-29 bomber that was destroyed after colliding with another B-29 bomber over Shizuoka, Japan, in 1945.

Daniel Martinez, USS Arizona Memorial chief historian, explained the bourbon whiskey’s significance as a peace offering.

“The whiskey is really the water of life,” Martinez said. “For the Japanese, the highest honor is to pour whiskey, American whiskey, as a part of home. To pour it on the stone that’s in Shizuoka and here at the USS Arizona Memorial, as it falls into the water it’s a way of extending the hand of friendship, forgiveness and peace.”

For the last 20 years, Hiroya Sugano, M.D., director general of the Zero Fighter Admirers Club, has been conducting this act of reconciliation with the National Park Service at the USS Arizona Memorial.

Jack Detour, U.S. Air Force retired Colonel and World War II veteran, poured an offering to the fallen alongside Japanese veterans. He believes that Sugano’s efforts in continuing these ceremonies is a great way to respect those who lost their lives in World War II.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Detour said. “I think that what the gentleman has done to keep this going is great because one of the main things that they did is they took care of burying our 23 B-29 pilots that crashed in Japan. After the war now we have a very close relation with Japan and a friendly relation with them and it’s great. Anything I can do to further that relationship with Japan I’ll be happy to do.”

The ceremony is co-hosted by the National Park Service and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and is one event taking place leading up to the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day to pay tribute to the nation’s military while enlightening Americans about veterans and service.

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