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Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Tokyo air raid survivors sue for redress
By JUN HONGO
Survivors of the numerous U.S. air raids on Tokyo in 1945 sued the central government for compensation Monday, demanding an apology and a combined ¥220 million in reparations for its failure to assist the wounded.
The 20 plaintiffs will join 112 people who filed a similar lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court last March.
The combined group will demand a total of ¥1.4 billion in compensation on grounds that the government ignored its duty to help civilians, but rewarded former soldiers and their families with military pensions, thus violating Article 14 of the Constitution, which states that all people are equal under the law.
The plaintiffs' demands cover damages incurred by all U.S. air raids on Tokyo, including the Great Tokyo Air Raid on March 10, 1945, in which 300 B-29 bombers dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary and other explosives, killing 100,000 people overnight. Monday marked the 63rd anniversary of the attack.
One of the plaintiffs, Junzo Takenaka, 71, said the central government unjustly forced civilians to endure pain and suffering during the war.
"There were no differences between soldiers and civilians at the time. We were asked to fight for the country. I am enraged at the government" over the lack of compensation, said Takenaka, who lost his parents in the March 10 attack.
Takenaka was spared because he had evacuated to Nagano Prefecture after previous, smaller air raids. But he said the experiences he lived through as an 8-year-old left him traumatized to this day.
"My parents' bodies were never recovered. All I've heard is that they tried desperately to escape the fire that night," Takenaka told reporters.
Plaintiff Michiko Uchida, 75, explained that an incendiary shell from a U.S. air raid on Tokyo on May 25, 1945, wounded her in the hip and right leg.
"The pain was intolerable and I remember screaming and yelling at the doctors at the hospital. I begged them to take my life," Uchida said.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Japan was facing imminent defeat by July 1944 and that the government is liable for prolonging the war, thus inviting the devastating air raids and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Their criticism of the government also suggested the Imperial Japanese Army's indiscriminate bombings of Chongqin, China, set a precedent and led the U.S. to conduct similar raids on Tokyo.
Lawyer Tetsuhiko Kuroiwa explained that in the original lawsuit, which is scheduled to enter its fourth session next month, the government demanded the plaintiffs withdraw their grievances because "civilians must bear with the loss of war."