Scott Downing, 96, was back in the Japanese farmland where he was taken prisoner of war 70 years ago, shaking hands with the people of the tiny town where his plane crashed near the end of World War II.
"It's great," he said Friday about being back. "There is nothing to forgive."
Three of the 11-member crew were killed that night of May 25, 1945, when their B-29 was shot down, crashing into bamboo groves as they were flying back from a bombing raid on Tokyo.
Downing, of Amarillo, Texas, was among eight who parachuted to safety, only to be taken prisoner, beaten, half-starved and interrogated by Japan's Imperialist military during the closing months of the war.
In an emotional moment, Downing was given a hero's welcome by Inzai, a town 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Tokyo, which had given the U.S. airmen proper burials at a temple and mourned their deaths, defying the stereotypes about wartime animosity.
After the war, the Americans' bodies were transferred to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, and Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii.
Downing acknowledged he had suffered, including being imprisoned in horse stables, but noted the Japanese people had also suffered. Frail and seated in a wheelchair, he listened to monks chant a prayer for the Americans, his hands clasped in a silent prayer in front of the temple.
Yamada has since died. But others were there to meet Downi...
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