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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 10, 2002

Victims' families gather at Ehime Maru memorial

 •  Special report: Collision at Sea: The Ehime Maru and Greeneville

By David Butts
Advertiser Staff Writer

Families of the nine Japanese killed a year ago when their fisheries training vessel was rammed by a U.S. submarine stared blankly with reddened eyes during the unveiling yesterday of a monument to their lost loved ones.

Relatives of victims sit silently during the unveiling ceremony at the Ehime Maru memorial at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

At the memorial atop a hill at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park, nine black granite blocks support the one-ton anchor retrieved from the sunken Ehime Maru, with nine links of its chain still attached. Carved in stone is the inscription: "This honors the nine precious lives lost and serves as a place where their souls are remembered."

The $65,000 monument was paid for by Japan, and the land was donated by the state.

"To the families of these nine men and boys, I want to express, on behalf of the people of Hawai'i, our deepest condolences," said Gov. Ben Cayetano, who helped pull back the plastic tarp to unveil the memorial at almost the same moment the Ehime Maru sank a year earlier.

"The injury to our hearts that we suffered in the Ehime Maru accident have not yet healed," said Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, father of Takeshi Mizuguchi, whose body was the only one not recovered.

Mizuguchi, representing the families of the victims, said they had all gone through "grief, impatience, anger and resignation."

The USS Greeneville sliced through the Ehime Maru on Feb. 9, 2001, as the submarine demonstrated an emergency surfacing maneuver nine miles off O'ahu for 16 civilian guests.

The unveiling of the memorial caps a year in which the United States has made several efforts to console the families in Uwajima, a seaside town in Ehime prefecture, and to assure them that the tragedy will not be repeated.

The Navy found Cmdr. Scott Waddle, captain of the sub, guilty of negligently hazarding a vessel and dereliction of duty. It forced him to retire.

The Navy then launched a $60 million project to recover the bodies of the victims. Eight of the nine were found and their remains returned to their families.

The Ehime Maru memorial comprises nine granite blocks and the anchor retrieved from the sunken wreck of the fisheries training vessel.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Navy is also negotiating with the families to settle their claims for compensation.

Mizuguchi said he and the other family members were grateful for the response of the Navy.

"We have watched you work, and we are full of gratitude," he said at the ceremony. "Thanks to your efforts, the bodies have been raised and it has been possible to give them a proper burial."

Earl Okawa, president of the Ehime Maru Memorial Association and organizer of yesterday's ceremony, said he is aware that some members of the community say there is no need for the Navy to apologize to the Japanese.

"I saw negative things," said Okawa, in an interview before the hour-long ceremony. "I'm hoping the memorial will serve as a way of bringing Hawai'i people and the people of Ehime together."

Okawa said some Hawai'i residents, including some Pearl Harbor survivors, can't let go of their anger toward the Japanese.

"There are others who have and are richer for it," he said.

Cayetano said the accident created an opportunity for Americans and Japanese to learn about their different cultures. The Japanese feel the soul of the deceased cannot rest unless the body is returned to its home. They also place a high value on apologies.

Even though Ambassador Howard Baker and Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in Japan, traveled to Uwajima to attend a memorial service for victims last month, some relatives are unhappy that Waddle has not made the trip.

Waddle's attorney has advised him not to go because he may be arrested upon arrival in Japan. Waddle, who has moved to the Mainland and remains unemployed since retiring from the Navy in October, was not planning to observe the anniversary, said attorney Charles Gittins.

"He is moving on with his life," Gittins said.

Yesterday's ceremony, held under white tents with guests sitting in folding chairs on freshly laid sod, was attended by 52 Japanese visitors who arrived Friday, an almost equal number of representatives of Japanese news media and about 50 Hawai'i residents. The U.S. Navy representative was Rear Adm. Robert F. Willard, deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The most emotional moment came when four student survivors of the Ehime Maru accepted a long lei of kukui nuts from four members of the Japanese club at St. Louis High School.

The show of youthful friendship elicited tears from many of the family members.

Reach David Butts at dbutts@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2453.

Correction: The anchor from the Ehime Maru, part of the new memorial at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park, weighs one ton. A previous version of this story was incorrect.