Address by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
At the opening of the Memorial Service for the War Dead in Ioto, I express my feelings of sincere mourning for the souls of those who perished here.
Bereaved relatives of an advanced age are among those who have graciously attended today, visiting the island in accordance with this limited opportunity. I apologize for the inconvenience and cordially thank the bereaved family members as well as so many members of the National Diet and other relevant persons for attending.
While it is difficult to imagine from the present-day landscape enveloped by abundant nature, in 1945 a fierce battle raged here on Ioto for more than a month, with 22,000 Japanese troops, and over 28,000 troops in total between Japanese and U.S. forces, losing their lives. I offer my heartfelt prayers for the souls of those who fell on the battlefields wishing for tranquility in their homeland and concerned about their families so far away. I also offer my deep sympathies for the immeasurable burden that has been borne by the bereaved family members in the sorrow of having lost their beloved blood relatives.
Although 65 years have passed since that furious battle raged, the remains of some 13,000 of the dead have yet to be returned to their hometowns, instead lying at rest here on this island. Today, as I dig up with my hands the volcanic ash-infused earth and seek out those remains awaiting their return home, my heart is filled with intense emotions.
General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who commanded the Japanese forces in the battle of Ioto, wrote a letter to his daughter Takako from this island in which he said, "My dear Tako, your father wants you to grow up quickly and be a source of support for your mother. Keep yourself healthy, study hard, do as your mother tells you, and put your father's heart at ease."
Those who fought until the end of their days were, before they were soldiers, fathers protecting their families, good husbands, and sons shouldering expectations. The nation was entrusted with their existence, an existence irreplaceable to their families. If the nation was unable to have them return home in good health, then at the very least it must return their remains to the places where their families await them. This is incumbent upon the nation.
Although efforts to recover remains have been conducted approximately 80 times since the end of the war, we are now engaged in even more thorough recovery efforts. As of today, the remains of another 300 soldiers have been recovered as a result of advancing our efforts in which we once again carefully investigated documents of the United States and in which the government and the public worked together, including through the cooperation of bereaved families and civil society organizations. We will continue to conduct a thorough investigation of sites in which remains are buried, including under the airstrip. I pledge here that we will examine every grain of sand and spare no effort to bring about the recovery of the remains of even one more among the deceased. I ask for your patience a little longer. In addition, I would like to increase the number of opportunities for memorial services by the bereaved families so that those who rest on this island are not regarded as forlorn.
In order for us not to repeat the horrors of war, we must not forget the intensely sorrowful history that came about on this island, and we must go forth conveying that history to the younger generation.
Moreover, as we remember the spirits of the war dead who struggled on Ioto, staking their precious lives to protect their homeland, we must firmly build up the peace and prosperity of our nation. I will make efforts in the future having this once again etched into my mind.
I will conclude my address by offering my heartfelt prayers for the repose of the souls of the dead and by ardently wishing for the future peace of mind of the bereaved families.
December 14, 2010
Prime Minister of Japan