Toujin Grave

Toujin grave, Ishigaki island.
In 1852 an American / British ship was carrying Chinese labourers from mainland California when it crashed into rocks off the coast of Ishigaki island. The workers, believing that they were being treated like slaves, revolted against the crew and made a break for the island.

The Chinese labourers were persued and of the 380 who fled, 128 were to lose their lives to gunfire or suicide. However, the survivors received protection from islanders and the royal government, who provided them with food and shelter. The Toujin grave (or Toujinbaka as it is know in Japanese) was erected in memory of those Chinese workers who died.

Dragons Head. ToujinbakaThe grave, which has been designed with unmistakable Chinese influence, is intricately decorated with figurines of dragons and horse riders and is positioned in attractive grounds amongst other large gravestones and monuments.

 

The site is positioned right across the road from the Kannonzaki viewpoint, and Fusaki beach lies just a kilometer further up the road, hence, a stop-off at this site would fit perfectly into any schedule involving the south west side of the island.

Toujin grave,

Dark wartime history

Although the hospitality which was shown to the fleeing Chinese slaves is a testament to the generosity of the Yaeyama people, the same can't be said for the treatment of three American aviators who crash-landed just off the coast of Ishigaki on April the 15th, 1945, not long before the end of the second world war. All three soldiers were forced to endure a horrendous fate; two were beheaded shortly after being tortured but for the the third his nightmare was just beginning. He was paraded through the center of Ishigaki and chastised by an angry mob who were eager to find somebody to blame for the bombs which had been landing on their island. He was publicly stabbed multiple times with bayonets by Japanese soldiers and sailors, many of whom would go on to face war crimes charges.

US servicemen remembered

The murder of these three Americans led to the conviction of 41 Japanese soldiers and sailors on war crimes charges after the war, 7 of whom would go on to be executed. If it wasn't for the efforts of a local University professor, Takeo Shinohara, along with a collective need among the people of Ishigaki to make amends then it is likely that the fate of these three Americans would have been forgotten by all but their families and those who witnessed the horrific events which took place.

After researching the incident Shinohara campaigned for the construction of a memorial to honor the memory of the Americans who were killed. His hard work was finally rewarded in 2001 with the opening of a very fitting memorial which his positioned in the same grounds as the Toujin grave. Two engraved plaques describe the the fates which befell the three Americans in both English and Japanese.

Memorial

What follows is an exact transcription of the English text which is displayed on the monument:

'On the morning of April 15, 1945, in the closing days of World War II, a Grumman TBF Avenger, assigned to the carrier USS Makassar Strait, was shot down off the costs of Ishigaki Island by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The three aviators parachuted in to the water near Ohama and swam to a coral reef where they were captured by Japanese sailors. After being interrogated and tortured they were executed during the night at the foot of Mount Banna, at the Imperial Navy Headquarters. The torture of prisoners of war was a violation of the Geneva Convention, the rules of war signed by the international community in 1929. Vernon L.Tebo and Robert Tuggle Jr. were beheaded. Warren H.Loyd was beaten and stabbed with bayonets by numerous numbers of sailors and soldiers. This incident was a tragedy which took place during war.

Lt.Vernon L.Tebo, 28, a Navy pilot of Illionois
Aviation Radioman 1st Class Warren H. Loyd, 24, of Kansas
Aviation Ordnance 1st Class Robert Tuggle.Jr.,20, of Texas

To console the spirits of the three fallen American service members and to honor their deaths, we jointly dedicate this monument in the hope that this memorial stone will contribute to the everlasting peace and friendship between Japan and the United States, and that this monument will serve as a cornerstone to convey to future generations our keen desire for eternal peace in the world and our determination to renounce war.

August 15 2001

The Joint Committe of Japanese and American Citizens to Honor the Three Fallen Servicemembers During World War II.'

"It goes without saying that if you have an interest in either the Chinese tomb or the memorial dedicated to the US servicemen then this will probably be on your list of stops. It probably won't come as a surprise that the busloads of Japanese tourists who arrive daily to view the tomb are not also treated to an account of the events which took place in 1945. I personally find this rather disappointing."