Saturday, August 31, 2019

Requiescet in pace George Rogers

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of George Rogers (100) on August 18 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty University reported his death on the 20th.

In 2015, at 95, he returned to Japan with nine other former POWs of Imperial Japan as a guest of the Japanese government as part of the 6th POW Friendship program that is organized by the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society of which he was a member. The Japanese initiated this important program of reconciliation only in 2010.

Rogers was a survivor of the Bataan Death March, the hellship Nissyo Maru, and Nippon Steel's steel mill at Yawata (now a UNESCO site). The multi-national Nippon Steel still exists and has never offered an apology for its use of POW slave labor. The Yawata steel mill complex was to be the target of the second atomic bomb, but on that day clouds covered the target and Nagasaki was instead selected.

GEORGE W. ROGERS, 100, resided in Lynchburg, Virginia. Mr. Rogers grew up in St Louis, Missouri and enlisted in the U.S. Army August 20, 1941, at Jefferson Barracks. He arrived on the Philippines October 1 and was assigned to 4th Chemical Company.

At first a clerk/typist at Fort McKinley, he was soon fighting in the defense of Bataan with L Company of the 31st Infantry Regiment (US) after Japan’s December 8 invasion. American forces were short of food, ammunition, and reinforcements throughout the campaign against the better equipped and trained Japanese. All forces on Bataan were surrendered on April 9, 1942, and most were forced on the infamous Bataan Death March.

Mr. Rogers endured the 65-mile trek up the Bataan Peninsula experiencing starvation, exhaustion, and beatings while witnessing merciless murders and torture. At the Camp O’Donnell where 1,500 Americans died over four months, he was a gravedigger. In August, he was moved to Cabanatuan #3 to farm rice and vegetables as well as to do duty building an airfield. On top of the beatings he received from the camp guards, Mr. Rogers and his fellow soldiers suffered through extreme pain in their feet and legs due primarily to dry or dry beriberi, a disease affecting the nerves and muscles. He also survived malaria and spent six months quarantined for what was thought to be amoebic dysentery.

On July 17, 1944, he was one of 1541 POWs taken to Japan via Formosa aboard the Hellship Nissyo Maru. During the 18-day trip with barely any food or clean drinking water, extreme heat, rampant illness — both physical and mental—he said, “I almost lost it, and then … I got a peace that came over me, and I just felt everything is going to be alright, just relax”; Rogers said. “As far as I’m concerned, God was at work again.” After arriving at the port of Moji, Japan, he was sent to POW Camp Fukuoka 3-B Yawata Japan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. (Nippon Seitetsu; today’s multi-national Nippon Steel) to work in the Yawata steel mill for the rest of the war. Yawata featured Japan’s first blast furnace and was one the Empire’s most important armament makers. It was the primary target for the second atomic bomb. Cloud cover from aerial bombing on August 8, 1945, prevented this, but succeed in destroying key production facilities and ending prisoner work at the mill.

In July 2015, the site was given UNESCO World Industrial Heritage status, albeit without mention of the hundreds of POW slave laborers—American, British, Australian, Dutch, Portuguese, Jamaican, Indian, Malay, Chinese, and Arabians at the site. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the facilities of Yawata Steel Works in July 2014, to encourage the UNESCO application. 

On August 15, 1945, the camp commander announced that the war had ended and the guards disappeared. The camp was liberated on September 13th.

Mr. Rogers returned to the U.S. a gaunt, 6-foot-3, 85 pounds. Military doctors told him that it was unlikely that he would live past 45 or 50, keep his teeth, or have children. He retained his teeth, had five children, and displayed “a contagious joy.” Mr. Rogers used the G.I. Bill to obtain an accounting degree from St. Louis University.

Starting in 1973, Mr. Rogers was the CFO for Reverend Jerry Falwell (founder of the Moral Majority) overseeing his Old Time Gospel Hour television ministry and the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. He became Liberty University’s vice president of finance and administration in 1999, through to Rev Falwell’s death in 2007.

In 2010, Liberty University named an award in Rogers' honor. The George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award is given annually to a man or woman who served in the United States Armed Forces and went above the call of duty, displaying extraordinary heroism while serving. The award is presented at a Flames football game during Liberty's Military Emphasis Week, held near Veterans Day. A bust of Rogers stands at the gate of Williams Stadium, the home of the Liberty Flames football team, as a tribute to Rogers for his sacrifices. 

In 2017, President Donald Trump devoted 20 minutes of his commencement speech at Liberty University honoring George Roger s' inspiring courage and grit.

Mr. Rogers was married 67 year to Barbara,who passed away August 2015 shortly before he returned to Japan.

Mr. Rogers returned to Japan, as a guest of the Japanese government, in October 2015.

Japan POW# unknown
Philippines POW# 1-06096

Friday, August 23, 2019

Happy Birthday General Wainwright

Wainwright at liberation August 1945
Today, is the anniversary of General Jonathan Wainwright's 62nd birthday. In 1945, he celebrated while not quite a free man. He was liberated the next day, the 24th. Wainwright was in a Japanese POW camp in Northern China where he and other high-value Allied officers were held. As head of U.S. Forces in the Philippines, he surrendered Corregidor on May 6, 1942 and the rest of Philippines within the following days.

On August 16, 1945, a six-man Office of Strategic Services (OSS) team parachute into (Hoten) Mukden (today’s Shenyang), POW camp in northern China to liberate the POWs and locate the senior officers held by the Japanese. On the 19th, several dozen British, Dutch, and American senior officers including Lieutenant Generals Jonathan Wainwright and A.E. Percival were located at the Hsian POW camp (Xi'an or today's Liaoyuan), 150 miles north of Mukden. This was the first they heard that the war had ended.

When Wainwright and the other captive officers, enlisted men, and civilians were told of the war's end on August 19, he recounted, "We roared suddenly with laughter ... roared until the rest of [the interpreter's] words were blotted out. There was no stopping the laughter. It came up in me, and in the others, with an irresistible force: something born of a combination of our relief, the look on [the interpreter's] face, the blind preposterousness of his beginning, the release from years of tension, the utter, utter joy over having survived to see this blessed day."

However, the prisoners still had to wait for the arrival of the Russian Red Army on August 24th in order to move out. The Japanese, noted Wainwright, left the prisoners the remaining Red Cross packages and they "began having fine, well-cooked meals, the first sufficient food we had since the outbreak of the war. We smoked American cigarettes like chimneys." With the "prospect of getting home soon," Wainwright said he celebrated "the happiest birthday in many years."

The years of captivity took its toll on the general. He had endured prison camps on the Philippines, Formosa, and China. The man who had been nicknamed “Skinny” was now emaciated and drawn. His hair had turned white, and his skin was cracked and fragile. He was also depressed, believing he would be blamed for the loss of the Philippines to the Japanese.

When Wainwright arrived in Yokohama, Japan, to attend the formal surrender ceremony, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his former commander, was stunned at his appearance. Wainwright was given a hero’s welcome upon returning to America, promoted to full general and awarded the Medal of Honor.

🌷You can leave virtual flowers at his Grave HERE

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Japan's desecration of Manila

Bay View Hotel
The Filipino in the eyes of the world

by James M. Scott, author of Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita and the Battle of Manila.

First published in The Philippine Star, July 28, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Few cities and cultures have been as dramatically shaped by war as Manila and the Philippines — the effects of which still echo through life today with the struggle of poverty, violence, and questions over national identity and remembrance.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Philippine capital, filled with neoclassical architecture and spacious parks, was known as the Pearl of the Orient, the star of steamship ads and tourism brochures.

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The capture of the Philippines by the Japanese led to a brutal three-year occupation. Enemy troops terrified residents, commandeered homes, and looted department stores. Grocery shelves sat empty and fields rotted.

The Japanese so mismanaged the Philippine economy that it triggered widespread starvation and the unraveling of the Catholic nation’s social fabric.

To survive, doctors hawked bogus drugs, lawyers committed forgery and fraud, and police resorted to burglary and extortion.

Desperate parents, meanwhile, abandoned their children to orphanages or even sold them while loving wives sold themselves.

“Morality cowered before the relentless onslaught of economic forces that the war had marshaled and unleashed,” observed prominent historian Teodoro Agoncillo.

The late journalist Carmen Guerrero Nakpil echoed him: “We became a race of spies, thieves, saboteurs, informers and looters, callous and miserly.”

The liberation of Manila, which most had hoped would at long last bring an end to the years of fear and misery, instead only compounded the tragedy.

Japanese forces, rather than evacuate the city as America had expected, instead hunkered down inside government buildings, homes and hospitals — even the dugouts at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

In a battle fought building-by-building and even room-by-room, American troops had no choice but, in the words of one Army report, to “exterminate the enemy in place.”

Amid this ferocious fighting, Japanese soldiers and marines committed some of the worst atrocities of World War II. Troops tossed babies in the air, skewering them on the steel tips of their bayonets.

Others raped scores of women, decapitated men by the hundreds, and torched entire neighborhoods, dynamiting the financial district and leveling the beautiful areas of Malate and Ermita.

When the guns finally fell silent on March 3, 1945 — 29 days after the American cavalry had rolled into the city – Manila was gone.

The battle to liberate the capital had flattened 613 city blocks, an area containing more than 11,000 homes, schools, churches and businesses.

“There seemed nothing left even to mourn,” journalist A.V. H. Hartendorp wrote at the time. Manila, he observed, “remained a name only.”

Beyond the structural losses, were the cultural ones.

Gone were the centuries-old Spanish churches. Gone were the museums filled with paintings and sculptures. Gone were the libraries and archives that housed priceless literary works and the historical records of a nation.

The battle not only robbed Manila of its past and its heritage, but also its future. Amid the rubble and wreckage lay the lawmakers and doctors, teachers and inventors, moms and dads.

Forever lost was that priceless human capital, those men and women upon whose shoulders had once rested the future of a soon-to-be independent Philippines.

Absent any equivalent of the Marshall Plan — the $12 billion investment to rebuild a war-ravaged Europe — Filipinos were largely left to Band-Aid the city and themselves back together.

Manila, in many ways, has never recovered. Makati, with its wide boulevards and steel and glass high-rises, is a product of that pivotal battle. It was easier to simply start over than to rebuild.

But how does a nation heal the moral wounds that grew out of the war?

Were those years of desperation, which prompted brothers to turn on brothers, the seeds that blossomed into the social turmoil that currently ails the Philippines?

In an ironic reversal, Japan is one of the largest foreign investors and donors to the Philippines. But that cash has come with hidden costs that erode national morale and memory.

One such example was the removal last year of a statue on Roxas Boulevard dedicated to the euphemistic “comfort women,” victims of Japanese sexual assault.

The statue was not far from the old Bay View Hotel, where many Filipino women were held hostage and assaulted during the city’s liberation.

More recently, complaints by the Japanese Embassy prompted the removal of a second statue in San Pedro.

Why are the Japanese allowed to remember their war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo or the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima but Filipinos cannot honor their wartime past with a simple statue?

National memory, it seems, has been traded for foreign investment.

But there are positive signs and fresh dialogue, too.

I was back in the Philippines in February for the launch of my book on the Battle of Manila, Rampage, a trip graciously sponsored by Memorare Manila, an amazing organization of survivors and descendants of that frightful fight.

During that time, I visited with students at area universities. I was amazed, too, at how many battle and even atrocity survivors attended. One woman brought me a copy of her diary. Another gifted me a poem she had written. Others showed me shrapnel scars.

It was powerful to witness generations come together to learn, share and remember this pivotal battle that was the fulcrum on which the history of Manila and its people forever changed.

Memorare hosted an essay contest afterward for students, asking what they learned of the battle and its legacy. The winning essay by Lea Athena Molina, a student at the University of Asia & the Pacific, captured it perfectly. “History teaches us that the past not only impacts the present, but also shapes the future.”

Friday, August 09, 2019

The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and The Defeat of Japan

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“Mr. Straight Arrow,” John Hersey, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb: A Book Review

by D. M. Giangreco

D. M. Giangreco is the author of 13 books including Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947(Naval Institute Press, 2017) and The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman. Vol. I: 1906-1919(Potomac Books, 2018). His Journal of Military History article “Casualty Projections for the U.S. Invasions of Japan: Planning and Policy Implications” was awarded the Society for Military History's Moncado Prize.

First published in History News Network, August 4, 2019

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Roy Scranton’s ”How John Hersey Bore Witness” (The New Republic, July-August 2019) is an insightful look at a new book on one of my favorite authors. It touched all the right notes and has prompted me to add Mr. Straight Arrow to my “Christmas list.” Sadly, in the midst of this otherwise fine review, author Scranton repeats the discredited old chestnut that President Harry S. Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though he knew Japan was trying to surrender. Truman’s real reason for using the weapons, according to Scranton, was to employ them as a diplomatic club against the Soviet Union. This allegation was popular in some quarters during the 1960s and 70s, but was only sustained by a systematic falsifying of the historical record and it continues to pop up even today.

Underscoring this sad fact is the link Scranton provides which takes readers to a 31-year-old letter to the New York Times from Truman critic Gar Alperovitz purporting that “dropping the atomic bomb was seen by analysts at the time as militarily unnecessary.” Presented in the letter is an interesting collection of cherry-picked quotes from a variety of diary entries and memos by contemporaries of Truman, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower. All are outtakes and have been long rebutted or presented in their actual contexts. Even key figures are misidentified. For example, FDR’s White House chief of staff Admiral William D. Leahy, who chaired the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is elevated in the letter to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

As for the notion that Japan was trying to surrender, this is not what was beheld by America’s leaders who were reading the secretly decrypted internal communications of their counterparts in Japan.

In the summer of 1945, Emperor Hirohito requested that the Soviets accept a special envoy to discuss ways in which the war might be “quickly terminated.” But far from a coherent plea to the Soviets to help negotiate a surrender, the proposals were hopelessly vague and recognized by both Washington and Moscow as no more than a stalling tactic ahead of the Potsdam Conference to prevent Soviet military intervention --- an intervention that Japanese leaders had known was inevitable ever since the Soviets’ recent cancellation of their Neutrality Pact with Japan.

Japan was not trying to surrender. Even after the obliteration of two cities by nuclear weapons and the Soviet declaration of war the militarists in firm control of the Imperial government refused to admit defeat until their emperor finally forced the issue. They had argued that the United States would still have to launch a ground invasion and that the subsequent carnage would force the Americans to sue for peace leaving of much of Asia firmly under Japanese control.

The war had started long before Pearl Harbor with the Japanese invasion of China, and millions had already perished. That Asians in the giant arc from Indonesia through China --- far from Western eyes --- were dying by the hundreds of thousands each and every month that the war continued has been of zero interest to Eurocentric writers and historians be they critics or supporters of Truman’s decision. As for the president, himself, Truman rightfully hoped, after the bloodbaths on Okinawa and Iwo Jima, that atomic bombs might force Japan’s surrender and forestall the projected two-phase invasion which would result in “an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.”

Hersey understood this well. Fluent in Chinese (he was born and raised in China), Hersey was painfully aware of the almost unimaginable cost of the war long before the United States became involved and, after it did, observed the savagery of battle on Guadalcanal first hand. Yes, he understood it quite well and it will come as a surprise, even shock, to many that neither Hersey nor Truman saw Hiroshima as an indictment of the decision to use the bomb.

Those were very different times and the prevailing attitude, according to George M. Elsey, was “look what Japanese militarism and aggression hath wrought!” (Truman also made similar observations when touring the rubble of Berlin during the Potsdam Conference.) The president considered Hiroshima an “important” work and, far from being persona non grata, Hersey would sometimes spend days at a time in Truman’s company when preparing articles for The New Yorker. This level of access was not accorded to other journalists and circumstances resulted in Hersey sitting in on key events such as when Truman learned that the Chinese had just entered the Korean War and a secret meeting with Senate leaders over the depredations of Joe McCarthy.

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Although exceptions can be found in the literature, Hersey’s Hiroshima was simply not viewed in the postwar period as an anti-nuclear polemic and Elsey, who served in both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations before going on to head the American Red Cross for more than a decade, remarked to David McCullough that “It’s all well and good to come along later and say the bomb was a horrible thing. The whole goddamn war was a horrible thing.”

Scranton, himself, gives a brief nod to this fact, admitting that the midnight conventional firebombing of Tokyo earlier that year killed even more people, approximately 100,000, yet one shudders to think what he teaches to his unsuspecting students. The “revisionist” Japanese-were-trying-to-surrender hoax prominently recited in his review of Mr. Straight Arrow has long been consigned to the garbage heap of history by a host of scholarly books and articles* including, ironically, a brilliant work by one of Scranton’s own colleagues at Notre Dame.

Father Wilson D. Miscamble’s The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and The Defeat of Japan(Cambridge University Press, 2011) is a hard hitting, well researched effort that is especially notable for its thoughtful exploration of the moral issues involved. Though Scranton and Miscamble share the same campus, a colleague of mine maintains that the two scholars have never met. Perhaps they should get together for coffee some morning.

* Six particularly useful works are: Sadao Asada’s award winning, “The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender -- A Reconsideration,” Pacific Historical Review, 67 (November 1998); Michael Kort, The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima and the Bomb, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) and “The Historiography of Hiroshima: The Rise and Fall of Revisionism,” The New England Journal of History, 64 (Fall 2007); Wilson D. Miscamble C.S.C., The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Robert James Maddox, ed., Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2007); Robert P. Newman, Enola Gay and the Court of History, (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2004)

Monday, August 05, 2019

THE Coast Guard's POW of Japan

Lt James Crotty, USCG
August 4th is the birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard. On this day in 1790, the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of federal revenue.

Thus, today, we pause to remember the Coast Guard's one POW of Japan. Records suggest there were two others, but Coast Guard historians believe they were actually sailors assigned to Coast Guard duties in the Philippines.

By all accounts Lt. James "Jimmy" Crotty is a hero. He arrived in the Philippines on October 28, 1941 for what was supposed to be a six month deployment as a member of a Navy mine recovery unit near Manila.

A 1934 Coast Guard Academy graduate, Crotty had never before traveled outside North America. He served on board cutters based out of New York, Seattle, Alaska and Sault Ste. Marie. His career included duty on the cutter USCGC Tampa (WMEC-902) during its famous rescue of passengers from the burning liner SS Morro Castle, and a Justice Department appointment as special deputy on the Bering Sea Patrol.

Prior to his Philippines assignment he studied at the Navy’s Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, Virginia. With additional training at the Navy’s Mine Recovery Unit in Washington, DC, Lt. Crotty became the Coast Guard’s leading expert in mine operations, demolition and the use of explosives. He was first assigned to the In-Shore Patrol Headquarters at the American Navy yard at Cavite, located near Manila.

On December 10, Japanese aircraft bombed and damaged most of the facilities at the Cavite Navy Yard and advancing enemy ground forces necessitated the movement of American units behind fortified lines on the Bataan Peninsula and onto the island fortress of Corregidor. During this evacuation, Crotty supervised the demolition of strategic civilian and military facilities to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. This equipment and material included the Navy yard’s ammunition magazine and the fleet submarine USS Sea Lion, which the enemy damaged during the air attack. Crotty had the sub stripped of useful parts, filled it with depth charges and blew it up on Christmas Day.

Corregidor under attack
The Navy withdrew Crotty and its other personnel from Cavite to the Sixteenth Naval District Headquarters at Fort Mills, on Corregidor. The Navy reassigned Crotty to the local guard unit, but he also participated in night raids on the mainland to demolish more American equipment and facilities before the Japanese occupied the mainland around Manila. During February and March of 1942, Crotty served as executive officer of the Navy minesweeper USS Quail (AM-15), which shot down enemy aircraft and swept American mine fields so U.S. submarines could surface at night to deliver goods and remove critical personnel. During his time as executive officer, Quail served as command vessel and provided shore bombardment for an offensive against Japanese landings attempting to cut off supply lines to American forces trapped on the Bataan Peninsula.

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After Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Corregidor's defenders held out for another month. Crews on board Navy vessels, such as Quail, had cannibalized deck guns and moved them onto the island to mount a final stand against the encircling enemy forces. Crotty served up to the bitter end fighting alongside the island’s stubborn Army, Navy and Marine defenders. Eye witnesses reported last seeing him commanding a force of Marines and Army personnel manning seventy-five millimeter beach guns firing down on enemy forces landing on Corregidor’s beaches. When Japanese bombardment finally silenced Crotty’s guns, Corregidor’s defenders knew the island fortress would soon fall.

The Quail was scuttled May 5th to prevent her capture. After, Lt. Commander John H. Morrill gave his crew the choice of surrendering to the Japanese or striking out across open ocean in a 36-foot motor launch. Only 17 of his 24-member crew could join him on the desperate voyage. They drew straws. Lt. Crotty chose to stay on Corregidor. With a pistol recovered from a dead serviceman as their only armament, and virtually no charts or navigational aids, Morrill and his crew evaded the Japanese and transversed 2,060 miles of ocean, reaching Darwin, Australia on June 6 after 31 days. BOOK: SOUTH FROM CORREGIDOR

motor launch to Darwin
With Corregidor’s capitulation on May 6, Crotty became the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812, when the British captured Revenue Cutter Service cuttermen. At the end of May, the Japanese loaded Crotty and his fellow prisoners into watercraft transferring POWs from Corregidor Island to Manila, where they were marched through the city to Bilibid Prison and eventually taken by railroad in box cars to the Cabanatuan prison camp in northern Luzon.

Crotty’s fellow prisoners at Cabanatuan knew him for his love of sports as well as his sense of humor and optimism. One of them wagered a bet with Crotty on the outcome of the 1942 World Series while another later recounted that: “The one striking thing that I remember was his continued optimism and cheerfulness under the most adverse circumstances. He was outstanding in this respect at a time when such an attitude was so necessary for general welfare.” But Crotty’s courage and optimism could not sustain him late in the summer of 1942 when a diphtheria epidemic swept through the camp killing forty prisoners per day. Crotty contracted the illness and, with the Camp's lack of necessary medications and proper health care, he passed away only days after getting sick. It is unclear if he died July 19th or September 30th. In either case, the exact location of his final resting place remains unknown.

One of the 43 Battle Streamers on the Coast Guard flag--Philippines Defense--is entirely due to the actions of Lt Crotty from Buffalo, New York, who helped command a Navy vessel, scuttled a submarine, swept mines, served as adjutant, led Marines and soldiers defending Corregidor and held the line to the last.

Requiescat In Pace

Liberally borrowed from Compass and War History Online.