Sōei Hirata says, "We want to bring to
fruition the Peace Museum with Usa's distinctive features." (December 2015,
New Receptacle: We Want to Tell About War's Structure (Arata na utsuwa:
Sensō no "kōzō" tsutaetai)
Researched and written by Shūji Fukano and Fusako Kadota
Pages 378-80 of Tokkō kono chi yori: Kagoshima shutsugeki no kiroku
(Special attacks from this land: Record of Kagoshima sorties)
Minaminippon Shinbunsha, 2016, 438 pages
This story is based on an interview with Sōei Hirata,
chief priest at Kyōkaku Temple in Usa City and head of
a regional development group.
When you walk through fields and paddies of Usa City in Ōita Prefecture, you
can see semicircular concrete structures here and there. During the Pacific War,
these covered shelters were constructed in order to protect Japan's military
aircraft from enemy air attacks. There are remains of Usa Naval Air Base, which
existed in this area for six years from 1939 until the defeat in the war. The
ten covered shelters that still exist as part of the base's remains are said to
be the only ones in the entire country.
Usa Naval Air Group, a training air group at Usa Air Base, trained
crewmen for aircraft carrier-based attack aircraft and bombers. Captain Kaku'ichi
Takahashi, who served as first Flight Commander of Usa Air Group, is known
as the person who dropped the first bomb during the attack on Pearl Harbor,
which started the Pacific War.
During the last part of the war, special (suicide) attack units were formed from
training officers and trainees of training air groups. In April and May 1945,
there were special attack sorties toward Okinawa from Kushira Air Base (Kanoya City) and Kokubu
No. 2 Air Base (Kirishima City) in Kagoshima Prefecture. There were 154 men from
Usa Air Group who died in battle.
In 2020, the 75th anniversary of the war's end, Usa City plans to open a
Peace Museum (tentative name) to introduce the history of Usa Naval Air Base and
the Training Air Group .
The Peace Museum currently is at the basic concept stage. As a
temporary facility until the new museum is opened, in 2013 Usa City opened the
Usa City Peace Museum after renovation of a building originally used as a
shiitake mushroom warehouse. One attraction is a large replica of a carrier-based Zero fighter that was used in filming the hit movie The
Eternal Zero, which tells the story of special attacks.
At the Usa City Peace Museum, we met Sōei Hirata (67 years old), chief priest at the
historic Kyōkaku Temple in Usa City who serves as head of Toyo Province Usa
City Private School, a regional development group.
In 1989, Usa City Private School began research on the Usa Naval Air Group in
connection with activities related to "Usa Detailed Guide," which uncovers
hidden things in the region. Besides putting together five volumes titled World
of Usa Air Group by researching and collecting valuable testimonies of
persons related to the former Navy, we approached the city to designate the
covered shelters as a cultural property and hosted a Peace Walk so that city
residents could get to know better the war remains. This hard work led to the
opportunity to improve the museum.
In recent years the names of various places have become nationally well-known
based on the collection and analysis of gun camera images taken by American
military aircraft that showed aerial bombardments of various places throughout
"Based on a quarter century with the aim to realize a museum with Usa's
distinctive features, we have gathered materials and images, and I am sincerely
happy with what has been completed so far," says Hirata. On the other hand, he
cannot be optimistic about the future, "As a facility with a late start, if we
do not make clear completely the facility's objectives, we will remain unknown
among Kyūshū's earlier facilities such as the one in Chiran."
The museum that Hirata wants to actualize will have junior high
school students as the main target and will be able to communicate the structure
of how war occurs. It is because he thinks, "If you do not study the history of
war, you do not know also the value of peace."
He shows his enthusiasm when he says, "The reality of war does not produce
winners and losers but only victims. The crucial point to communicate that idea to a
generation that does not know about war is to focus going forward on the details
of the facility's exhibits."
Translated by Bill Gordon
1. As of July 2022, Usa City has not yet broken
ground for construction of the new Usa City Peace Museum.