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NEWS | May 26, 2022

Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo Soto Dam Memorial Ceremony 2022

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Graham Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo

SASEBO, Japan -- Sasebo-based U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors, Sasebo City Hall, Sasebo City Water Bureau, and Yunoki District representatives met atop the scenic Soto Dam for the annual Soto Dam memorial ceremony, May 26, 2022

The annual memorial ceremony is held for the 53 American prisoner of wars (POWs) and 14 Japanese laborers who died building Soto Dam during World War II and is used as an opportunity for both countries to come together to commemorate the lives lost during its construction and reaffirm their bonds as friends and allies.

This is the second year in a row that the event has been able to be held since the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause of the celebration in 2020.

“Our ability to hold this important ceremony was impacted significantly over the last two years due to COVID-19, so I am especially pleased that we have been able to once again gather together today in remembrance and fellowship under the fewest restrictions and measures we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Capt. David Adams, Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo.

Soto Dam has served as a vital water source for Sasebo since its construction during WWII by approximately 265 American civilian construction workers imprisoned by the Japanese after the surrender of Wake Island on Dec. 23, 1941. The group was then transported to Japan to complete construction projects like the dam alongside Japanese laborers. The 53 American POWs and 14 Japanese laborers who died building the dam are memorialized today at the site by a large memorial tower, which was erected by Sasebo City and its citizens in 1956. On prominent display inside the tower is a brass plaque on which their names are engraved.

Among the locations benefiting from Soto Dam today is the Sasebo Nishi High School located nearby which receives its drinking water from the dam. Two students from the school, Akiho Moriyama and Mana Yamaguchi, participated in the ceremony, joining Adams and Sasebo City vice mayor Tomohisa Yamaguchi in laying flowers on the memorial site. Moriyama and Yamaguchi are part of a team of journalism students from their school who are producing a documentary on the history of Soto Dam and its continuing impact on the local community for a national competition.

“I commend their efforts wholeheartedly and believe that studying our past conflicts and histories of this kind enables us all to learn from our shared past, prevents us from repeating our mistakes, and is the key to a brighter future for everyone,” said Adams. “I greatly admire Mayor Yamanaka and the people of Sasebo for their ability to look past darker times and unpleasantness in our mutual history, enabling us to come together today in this beautiful place to commemorate the sacrifices of our countrymen, standing side by side as fast friends and strong allies.”

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