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Saturday, March 10, 2007
Civilian survivors sue state over Tokyo air raid
By JUN HONGO
Claiming that the state has failed to compensate civilian casualties of the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945, victims and their relatives filed suit against the government Friday, demanding a combined 1.23 billion yen in reparations and an apology.
The 112 plaintiffs, aged between 57 and 88, say the government's failure to recognize them has caused "decades of intolerable pain." The suit, the first of its kind, was filed the day before the 62nd anniversary of the March 10, 1945, firebombing of downtown Tokyo. The attack left some 100,000 people dead.
"The central government rewards former soldiers and their families with military pensions but ignores its duty to aid civilians who were injured or killed in the raid," said Taketoshi Nakayama, lawyer for the plaintiffs.
By doing so, the government has forced civilians to endure injuries and losses from the war, in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which states that all people are equal under the law, Nakayama said.
"There were no differences between soldiers and civilians. The government should recognize that all of Japan was a battlefield at the time," the plaintiffs claim in the suit.
Some 300 U.S. B-29 bombers dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary and other explosives over residential areas in downtown Tokyo on March 10, 1945.
"Bombers filled the sky like an army of dragonflies that night," plaintiff Michiko Kiyoka, 83, told reporters after the suit was filed. Kiyoka lost her father and sister in the raid but survived by dousing herself in a nearby river.
"There were charred bodies everywhere. I felt I was going to die," she said.
The suit also holds the government responsible for indecently prolonging the war, claiming Japan's defeat was certain by July 1944 and its consequences, including the air raids on Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, could have been prevented.
The plaintiffs said plans to sue decades ago were shelved because survivors felt they had little chance of winning.
"But the survivors don't have that much time left. We must do something and let the younger generation know what happened. This could be our last chance," said Hiroshi Hoshino, 76, representative of the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs said they had no plans to sue the U.S. government, citing the peace treaty signed in 1951 between Japan and the Allied forces that waived the right of civilians to seek compensation from other countries.