Artist's War Plane Burns To The Ground

Bernice Akamine
Bernice Akamine
Seisaburo Taba
Seisaburo Taba
Phantom Zero plane
Phantom Zero plane
University of Hawaii-Manoa Campus
University of Hawaii-Manoa Campus

(KHNL) - It played a significant role in the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the past month, an artist's version of the Phantom Zero airplane has been the centerpiece of an exhibition at the UH Manoa Gallery. Wednesday, it burned to the ground.

Moving an aircraft made of 25,000 photographs is a delicate task.

"It was pretty amazing how they constructed it out of just like paper and tape," Laureen Shirokane, student, said.

It's a life-size replica of a Japanese Zero airplane used in the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

"It is very topical for today because of the war that is going on, and that it does address the futility of war," Bernice Akamine, volunteer, said.

Dozens of volunteers provide the muscle to get Katsushige Nakahashi's artwork around the UH Manoa campus.

"It feels really great to be here because just everyone is all working together," Shirokane said.

A large crowd, including members of the decorated 100th Battalion, watches as the plane approaches the site of an old World War II bomb shelter. It touches down gently, unlike the way a real Zero crash-landed on Niihau 65 years ago.

"These people were willing to give their lives," Akamine said.

Using old war-time newspapers, the artist then sets his creation on fire.

"It's about putting your heart and soul into a project, and then being willing to just totally let it go," Suzanne Cohen, volunteer, said.

The cremation is meant to symbolize a spiritual rebirth and a burning away of impurities. Firefighters keep a watchful eye on the flames.

Soon, the fire is out. But the memories of those who lived history burn on.

"I feel that the young generation, they never get chance to prove themselves and we did," Seisaburo Taba, 100th Battalion, said. "And I think we did a pretty good job."

UH officials say this event has been staged at about a dozen venues around the world.