Blackened Whiskey Canteen Takes Pride of Place at Pearl Harbour Commemoration Ceremony

American and Japanese veterans pour bourbon whiskey into the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor as a way to observe and celebrate the continued peace and reconciliation between the two nations during a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the Pearl Harbor Day – 74th Commemoration Anniversary Nov. 6, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii. The Blackened Canteen ceremony is a way for Americans and Japanese veterans and observers to extend a hand of continued friendship, peace and reconciliation by pouring bourbon whiskey as an offering to the fallen in the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor. The ceremony is co-hosted by the National Park Service and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and is one event taking place leading up to the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day to pay tribute to the nation’s military while enlightening Americans about veterans and service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

American and Japanese veterans pour bourbon whiskey into the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor as a way to observe and celebrate the continued peace and reconciliation between the two nations during a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the Pearl Harbor Day – 74th Commemoration Anniversary Nov. 6, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii. The Blackened Canteen ceremony is a way for Americans and Japanese veterans and observers to extend a hand of continued friendship, peace and reconciliation by pouring bourbon whiskey as an offering to the fallen in the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor. The ceremony is co-hosted by the National Park Service and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and is one event taking place leading up to the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day to pay tribute to the nation’s military while enlightening Americans about veterans and service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
American and Japanese veterans pour bourbon whiskey into the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor as a way to observe and celebrate the continued peace and reconciliation between the two nations during a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the Pearl Harbor Day – 74th Commemoration Anniversary Nov. 6, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii. The Blackened Canteen ceremony is a way for Americans and Japanese veterans and observers to extend a hand of continued friendship, peace and reconciliation by pouring bourbon whiskey as an offering to the fallen in the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor. The ceremony is co-hosted by the National Park Service and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and is one event taking place leading up to the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day to pay tribute to the nation’s military while enlightening Americans about veterans and service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

A Pearl Harbor commemoration ceremony has taken place on the anniversary of the Japanese attack. The ceremony took place at the harbour itself and among the guests was US Air Force pilot Jack DeTour, who is now 92 years old, and Japanese pilot Shiro Wakita, who is now 88 years old.

During the war, the two were sworn enemies, but for the ceremony, they together poured an old canteen of whisky into the waters of the harbour in honour of all of those who died in the attack.

The Japanese launched their attack on the US naval base on December 7, 1941. Now the ceremony took place at sunrise on the same day 74 years later as the sun came up over the USS Arizona Memorial. The attack took more than 2,400 lives and ensured that the US entered into World War Two.

Colonel DeTour and Pilot Wakita took hold of the canteen together and jointly poured it into the waters where so many people lost their lives. Before the ceremony, the two veterans had never met.

Now a symbol of friendship, the relic was recovered in 1945 in Shizuoka, Japan after two B-29 U.S. Superfortress bombers collided overhead. The 23 Americans killed were buried alongside Japanese citizens who died in the bombing raid. Found among the wreckage was the blackened canteen, filled with whisky, and it was kept in Japan to remember loved ones lost.

Dr. Hiroya Sugano M.D., director general of the Zero Fighter Admirers Club, speaks at a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the Pearl Harbor Day – 74th Commemoration Anniversary Nov. 6, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii. The Blackened Canteen ceremony is a way for Americans and Japanese veterans and observers to extend a hand of continued friendship, peace and reconciliation by pouring bourbon whiskey as an offering to the fallen in the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor. The ceremony is co-hosted by the National Park Service and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and is one event taking place leading up to the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day to pay tribute to the nation’s military while enlightening Americans about veterans and service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
Dr. Hiroya Sugano M.D., director general of the Zero Fighter Admirers Club, speaks at a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the Pearl Harbor Day – 74th Commemoration Anniversary Nov. 6, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii. The Blackened Canteen ceremony is a way for Americans and Japanese veterans and observers to extend a hand of continued friendship, peace and reconciliation by pouring bourbon whiskey as an offering to the fallen in the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor. The ceremony is co-hosted by the National Park Service and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and is one event taking place leading up to the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day to pay tribute to the nation’s military while enlightening Americans about veterans and service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

For the past 30 years, Japanese veterans have returned to Pearl Harbor with the canteen to commemorate and honour those who lost their lives. It has now become a symbol of friendship and peace.

Jack now lives in Honolulu, originally from Oregon he joined the US Air Force in 1942.

The ceremony had no survivors of the Pearl Harbour attacks attending since there are no more surviving officers. The last survivor officer of the USS Arizona was Joseph Langdell, who died at the beginning of February this year at the age of 100.

Dr Hiroya Sugano manages the Japanese Zero Fighter Admirers’ Club and says that he keeps the canteen in his possession and takes it to the commemoration ceremony each year as a symbol of peace.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE