Friday, September 18, 2015

ADBC & National POW/MIA Recognition Day

American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, Memorial Society Inc. 

National POW/MIA Recognition Day 

September 18, 2015 

Today, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, is a time of reflection for the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society. Today, we honor our family members and friends who were prisoners of war of Japan, especially the many who did not return. We also wish to credit the hard work of descendants, researchers, scholars, and government officials who have labored to ensure that the history of the American POWs of Japan is remembered and respected.

On this 70th anniversary year of the end of World War II, we were heartened by and appreciative of the recognition of our POWs by the governments of both Japan and the United States. In his September 2nd VJ day statement, U.S. President Barak Obama remembered “those who endured unimaginable suffering as prisoners of war.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his war anniversary statement on August 14th recognized “the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military.”

This October will see the sixth iteration of the Japan/POW Friendship Program. Nine American former POWs of Japan will be guests of the Japanese government as emissaries of peace, understanding, and reconciliation. There will be a seventh trip in December to ensure that this year all former POWs of Japan who are able and want to visit Japan can do so.

The ordeal of the American POWs of Japan is not just another facet of war history. Nor is it simply another saga of WWII suffering. It is a history of resilience, survival, and the human spirit, good and bad. And it has become an example of a path toward mutual understanding between Japan and its former victims.

We appreciate the efforts of the Abe Administration to recognize our shared past by continuing this important visitation program and we hope it will continue past 2015 and include descendants and widows as originally designed. It has done much to heal injured psyches, humanize past adversaries, and enlighten new generations. The program is the embodiment of Prime Minister Abe’s call to his citizens that “…we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

At Last in Nagaski

Memorial Unveiling and Peace Ceremony 

Koyagi Junior High School
Koyagi-machi, Nagasaki City

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hosted by
Committee of the Memorial Dedication for Fukuoka POW Camp 2-B
Representative Tomonaga Masao (朝長万左男)

At Fukuoka POW Camp 2-B (Koyagi Camp), 499 British, Dutch, Australian and American POWs were liberated in September 1945. A total of 73 POWs perished before liberation due to disease and abuse. The POWs were slave laborers for Kawanami Koyagi Shipbuilding Co., which was purchased by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1967. MHI still owns a facility at the site.

With the understanding and support from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of the Netherlands, Embassy of the United Kingdom, Embassy of Australia and Embassy of the United States in Japan, the Committee of the Memorial Dedication built this memorial, engraved on it the names of all who died, and sent their hearts out to all who were victimized by the war including returnees. See this Daily Telegraph article on the British POWs at the camp.

This is a particularly interesting camp as the POWs were affected by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and some even get medical compensation from Japan. More interesting, it held the the one Japanese-American POW who did not receive a Gold Medal for being a Japanese American in combat. Frank Fujita was with the Texas National Guard and the Lost Battalion that fought and was captured on Java in March 1942. He was not discovered as Japanese until June 1, 1944. 

The Memorial Unveiling and Peace Ceremony will be held as follows:
10:00 am - Chartered buses depart from Nagasaki Station to pick up people at hotels to take them to Koyagi-machi

10:45 am - Opening Ceremony

11:00~Noon - Ceremony
· Silent prayer

· Opening Speech by Committee Representative Tomonaga Masao

· Memorial Unveiling

· Guest Speech by representative from Ministry of Foreign Affairs

· Guest Speech by representative of survivors

· Guest Speech by Nagasaki Prefectural Governor

· Guest Speech by Mayor of Nagasaki city

· Flower tributes by

Committee Representative Tomonaga Masao
Representative from Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Representative of survivors
Nagasaki Prefectural Governor
Mayor of Nagasaki city
Representative from Embassy of the Netherlands in Japan
Representative from Embassy of the United Kingdom in Japan
Representative from Embassy of the Australia in Japan
Representative from Embassy of the United States in Japan
Representative of the bereaved family
Representative from POW Research Network Japan
Representative of the region
Student representative

12:15~12:40 p.m. Move to Hotel Yasuragi Iojima by bus
12:40~02:00 p.m. Reception (Yasuragi Iojima)
· Host Speech

· Speeches by representatives of four embassies

· Speech by representative of the bereaved family

· Speech by representative from POW Research Network Japan

· Toast

02:15~04:00 p.m. Friendly talk
04:10 p.m. Leave for Nagasaki city by bus
05:00 p.m. Dismiss at Nagasaki Station

Friday, September 11, 2015

73rd annual Maywood Bataan Day Memorial Events

click for more information

Held the second Sunday in September, as it has every year since 1942, the Maywood Bataan Day Memorial, is one of the longest continuous war memorials in Chicagoland. The service will be at Veterans Memorial Park, Maywood, Illinois. Of the 89 men of Company “B” who left the US in 1941, from a Maywood National Guard unit, only 43 would return from the war.

A concert of military music will begin at 2:30pm, courtesy of the Navy Ceremonial Band, Great Lakes. The service begins promptly at 3pm. Keynote speaker this year is Stephen Gibson, MBDO Director, whose father Emmett Gibson, was the first Battle of Bataan survivor to return to Maywood, and who later became a Maywood Police officer before passing away at the age of 41 in 1958

Additional speakers include Wayne Wagner, Past Department Commander, American Legion of Illinois, as well as Alena Grace S. Borra, Consul, Philippine Consul General in Chicago, and The Honorable Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins.

Exhibition & Conference: WWII in the Phiippines

click for more details

Monday, September 07, 2015

Guadalcanal and other critical battles

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THE BATTLE FOR GUADALCANAL was discussed at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC on July 1. Marcus Jones, history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and consultant for the Institute for Defense Analyses, tells the story of this ambitious undertaking and considers what was won and what was lost. Afterward, Gaspar presented a miniature war-game battlefield created to depict the battle of Guadalcanal. 

This seminal Pacific battle was a victory that marked the transition by the Allies from defensive operations to the strategic offensive against Imperial Japan. It has been immortalized in James Jones' novel The Thin Red Line

click to order
After Guadalcanal, it was a slog across the Pacific to Japan. These less remembered battles in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and Central Pacific were mostly critical campaigns, that resulted in Japan's eventual surrender and the end of World War II.

Writer Alan Rems recounts in fascinating detail in the video above the largely unnecessary Australian mop up of Bouganville from November 1944 August 1945 and the untold tragic story of Major General Barrett's suicide. Mr. Rems' talk introduces his fascinating book South Pacific Cauldron: World War II's Great Forgotten Battlegrounds. In clear language he explains the series of battles, necessary and not, that once riveted the nation. Most interesting are his descriptions of battles in the South Pacific that were largely militarily unessential and generally retributive.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Legacy: Being a War Criminal's Granddaughter

Makoto Inaki's POW Camp
Sendai 5-B
Newsweek Japan in its August 11-18, 2015 (Magazine released on Aug 4, 2015, Pages 34-40.
published a long piece by a Japanese reporter on her encounter with the POWs once entrusted in her grandfather's care. She has written about this in other publications, generally conservative ones. She wants to believe that he was not a war criminal and that he did not make conditions in the POW camp so miserable that men died.

Her quest is a tricky one as she is dependent upon her hope and the memory old, traumatized men. POWs of Japan had their very survival dependent upon their ability to please; they curated their memories in order to coexist with them; and they barely had the strength to remember one day from the next. Among these fragments of memory she sought and found forgiveness. She should not, however, interpret this as absolution or confirmation that her grandfather was not fanatically cruel.

The lesson for her and what all historians grapple with is that POWs simply need to forget.

The following is a provisional translation by George Washington University graduate students who intern at Asia Policy Point, Han Yanchu and Lu Pengqiao. They used the piece to practice their translation skills with the hope of making this available for the personal use of the POW families mentioned in the article and to assist the POW the research community. They welcome your suggestions, edits, and comments.


Granddaughter of a Former WWII Camp Commander Faces an ex-POW of Japan

By KOGURE Satoko
小 暮 聡 子(本誌編集部)

8月15 日、日本は戦後70周年を迎える。日本が語る「国家」としての歴史が議論される一方で、第二次大戦には当時を生きた一人一人の物語がある。それはそれぞれの国で、体験者それぞれの「真実」として、多くの場合苦しみを伴いながら今後も語られていく。その戦争の記憶に「終止符」を打てる日は来るのだろうか

On August 15th, Japan marks its 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. While Japan’s historical narrative as a “state” has been discussed, there are also stories of individuals who lived through the war. These stories were of people from different countries, each with their own “truth”. In most cases these stories were accompanied by suffering, and will continue to be told in the future. Will the day come when we can put an end to the memory of war?

The Hell Prisoners of War Had Seen


In order to look once more into the story my grandfather left behind, I flew to New Orleans International Airport in southern United States from my new post in New York. It’s already at the height of the summer in the Jazz town of New Orleans, and when I walk out of the airport I’m immediately surrounded by hot air. A 30 minute drive can take you to the downtown French Quarter filled by music and liquor, but the destination of my taxi is not a cheerful tourist destination.

旅の目的は、戦時中にフィリピンのバターン半島とコレヒドール島で日本軍の捕虜となったアメリカの元兵士や民間人、その家族や遺族が集う戦友会に参加すること。この「全米バターン・コレヒドール防衛兵の会 (ADBC)」年次総会では、1つのホテルに集った参加者が数日間にわたり戦中・戦後の体験を共有し、次世代に語り継ぐ。私がこの戦友会に参加するのは22 歳だった03年以来、 12年ぶりだ。

The purpose of my journey is to attend a comrades-in-arms meeting of veterans, civilians, and bereaved families. These veterans became prisoners of war (POWs) of Japan when defending Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island, Philippines during WWII. On this annual meeting held by the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC), participants will gather in one hotel and share their stories during and after the war, and hand down their war experiences from generation to generation. It has been 12 years since my first participation of the meeting in 2003, when I was 22 years old.

日本軍に捕らわれた捕虜たちにとって、捕虜生活は「生きるか死ぬか」の戦いそのものだった。1941年 12月 8日、日本軍が真珠湾を攻撃して太平洋戦争に突入すると、本間雅晴中将率いる日本軍はダグラス・マッカーサー米極東陸軍司令官下のフィリピンに侵 攻を開始。首都マニラからマニラ湾を挟んで対岸に位置するバターン半島とコレヒドール島の米軍とフィリピン軍は、日本軍との戦闘を経て42年4月以降相次いで降伏、捕虜となった。

For those POWs captured by Japanese military, life was the very fight for survival. On December 8, 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor and initiated the Pacific War. Japanese military led by lieutenant general Homma Masaharu invaded the Philippines under the command of Douglas MacArthur, Commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East. Stationed in Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island on the opposite shore across the Manila Bay from the capital Manila, American and Filipino militaries fought several battles with Japanese troops, before surrendering and being taken prisoners after April 1942.


After that, the Japanese army forcibly transferred more than 70,000 Filipino and American POWs to a detention camp 100 km [or 65 miles] away. Starving POWs were forced to walk under the scorching sun in Bataan, and around 30,000 POWs died along the way. The so-called “Bataan Death March” is remembered by Americans even today as a symbol of the brutality of Japanese Imperial Army.

日本の市民団体「POW (戦争捕虜) 研究会」によれば、第二次大戦中、日本軍がフィリピンなどアジア・太平洋地域で捕らえた連合軍の捕虜は約14万人。そのうち約3万6000人は水や食糧、衛生設備が欠如した輸送船、いわゆる「地獄船」で日本に送られた。航海中は連合軍からの攻撃も加わって多くが命を落としたが、生き延びて日本に到着した捕虜たちは全国約130カ所の捕虜収容所に連行され、炭鉱や鉱山、造船所や工場などで働かされた。戦争末期にかけて日本側も疲弊するなか、捕虜たちの生活は過酷を極め、 終戦までに約3500人が死亡したという。死因は飢えや病、事故や虐待、連合軍による爆撃などだった。

According to Japanese civic group POW Research Network Japan, Japanese captured around 140,000 Allied POWs in the Philippines and other Asian Pacific regions during WWII. Among these POWs, an estimate of 36,000 POWs were sent to Japan via “hell ships”, transport ships with a significant shortage of provisions and unpleasant health conditions. Many of POWs lost their lives as a result of Allies’ attack on the sea, and those who survived the trip were taken to around 130 POW camps on Japan’s homeland, and were forced to work in mines, shipyards, factories, and other facilities. As Japan became impoverished towards the end of the war, life of POWs turned extremely harsh. An estimate of 3,500 POWs had died before the war ended. Causes of death include starvation, disease, accident, maltreatment, and Allied bombing.


Members of ADBC are former soldiers who lived through such miserable life, and their family members, as well as those bereaved families of those who died as POWs during imprisonment. As most of ex-POWs are over 90 years old, the majority of members are now from their children’s generation and they inherited their parents’ sufferings. Many of the ex-POWs have been haunted by PTSD after returning from Japan, and never talked about their experiences as POWs. On the other hand, many from the children’s generation began to harbor hatred against Japan while doing research to find out what their fathers had gone through.

そんな戦友会で受付登録を済ませた私は、03年にこの会に参加して以来元捕虜やその家族と面会するたび幾度となく経験してきた「居心地の悪さ」を感じた。もちろんここは、見知らぬ日本人がハグとキスで歓迎されるような場所ではない。だがそれ以上に、私 には参加者を遠ざける肩書があった。私は、「元捕虜収容所長の孫」。そして祖父は戦後、「戦争犯罪人」として裁かれた人物だったからだ。

I’ve been a registered member of ADBC’s meeting since 2003, and time and again I have an uncomfortable feeling when I meet with ex-POWs and their families. Of course this is not a place to welcome strange Japanese people by kissing and hugging, but my identity makes me even more alienated from participants—I’m the grandchild of a former POW camp commander, and my grandfather was tried as a war criminal after the war ended.

The interview with an unexpected start


On the first day of the meeting, a seminar on war experiences continued, and I made an interview appointment with one of the ex-POWs on the next day. I introduced myself as a journalist. If I introduce myself as the grandchild of a former POW camp commander, I could have offended or hurt him. Most of all, I wanted to hear what he really thinks without any prejudice. However, this interview ended up unfolding in an unexpected direction.


On the day of my interview with ex-POW Darrell Stark (92 years old), as I arrived at the lobby of the hotel a little earlier before the promised time, I found that Pam Eslinger, the daughter of another ex-POW whom I’ve known for two years, was chatting with a man. Eslinger is one of the few persons present that know my grandfather’s identity. Then, Stark appeared with his daughter Judy Gilbert.


Eslinger seemed to know Stark’s daughter, and she happily talked to them about my visit to her father in Oklahoma two years ago, and her visit to Japan in this fall to meet my parents. When Stark’s daughter asked about her relationship with me, Eslinger was a little puzzled. She thought for a while, and answered: “Her grandfather was the commander of the POW camp where my father was held.”


Eslinger’s father, Jack Warner (93 years old [Mr Warner will travel to Japan October 2015 as part of the 6th POW Friendship Delegation), was one of the POWs held at the camp my grandfather managed. Two years ago when I was appointed to the New York bureau, I got in touch with Warner through an acquaintance and visited his home the next year. Warner didn’t show hatred or hostility towards my grandfather and Japan at all. Instead, I received a warm welcome that I’d never thought would come from his big four-generation family. We have been in touch since then.


However, Stark and his daughter didn’t know that. For several minutes, I was seeing what I’ve seen for so many times—when told about my grandfather’s identity, every listener’s face stiffens and freezes.


With a surprised face, Stark’s daughter repeated to his father, who has a bad hearing, what Eslinger has said. This time, it’s Stark’s turn to look at my direction wide-eyed. Eslinger said immediately that “my father told me that her grandpa was a good person”, and the facial expressions of Stark and his daughter became somewhat softened. Stark stood up with a scary look, saying “I’ll tell everything to you. I’ll tell you everything I know.” At the time, I felt my heart was stiffening quickly.