August 13, 2010

Pride Kills: 25th Anniversary of Deadliest Single-Plane Crash Ever

I was surprised to see that it's the 25th anniversary of the world's worst-ever single-plane crash that killed 520 people and left only 4 survivors. I vividly remember news about JAL Flight 123 because it happened the year I arrived in Japan for what became a 14-year stay.

The memories also revive my anger at the Japanese government's response to the crash - something that you don't see much of in the news of the anniversary. US Forces were the first to pinpoint the mountainous site of the crash, and US rescue crews were standing by for insertion from helicopters, but the Japanese government refused all offers of assistance. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces didn't arrive on site until the next day.

One of the four survivors chillingly recalled how sounds from more survivors diminished through the night as the injured succumbed to shock and exposure.

Fingers can be pointed in many directions in this tragedy: at Boeing, at JAL, etc., but I still think that misguided national pride was one of the most stupid aspects.

To some degree I can understand the sentiment that Japan wanted to take care of its own, and didn't want to acknowledge that the always-contentious US bases in Japan had troops with the initiative, the training and the gear to accomplish what the JSDF could not.

But was pride worth those lives?

Posted by Paul at August 13, 2010 08:25 PM