Monday, October 17, 2011

2nd US POW Delegation to Japan, October 15-23, 2011

On Saturday, October 15, 2011, the second delegation of American former POWs of Japan left the United States to visit Japan. They are guests of the Japanese government. It is unclear when the Japan's Foreign Ministry will announce the trip.

To honor these men, Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) took to the floor of the House on October 13th:

Mr. HONDA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor veterans from America's greatest generation and thank the Government of Japan for recognizing the sacrifices of these men. On Saturday, October 15, seven former members of the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps, who fought in the Battle for the Philippines at the start of World War II, from December 1941 to May 1942, will travel to Tokyo as guests of the Japanese government. These brave soldiers and airmen were all prisoners of war of Imperial Japan.

The conditions in which they were held are unimaginable. Their first trip to Japan was on aging freighters called "Hellships,'' where the men were loaded into suffocating holds with little space, water, food, or sanitation. At the POW camps in the Philippines, Japan and China, they suffered unmerciful abuse aggravated by the lack of food, medical care, clothing, and appropriate housing.

Each POW also became a slave laborer at the mines, factories, smelters, and docks of Japan's largest companies, including Mitsui, Nippon Steel, Showa Denko, Mitsubishi, and Japan Metals & Chemicals Company. In the end, nearly 40% of the American POWs of Japan perished; compared to the two percent of those in Nazi Germany's POW camps.
 
The men traveling to Japan this weekend include five residents of California, one from Arizona and one from Missouri. There are two survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and four who were captured during the surrender of Corregidor. Furthermore, two of the veterans believe that they were subject to medical experimentation.

In September 2010, the Japanese government delivered to the first American POW delegation an official apology for the damage and suffering these men endured. Although the Japanese government had hosted POWs from U.S. wartime Allies, this was the first trip to Japan for American POWs. It was also the first official apology to any prisoners of war held by Japan.

I know that the American POWs fought hard for this recognition. I appreciate the courage of the Japanese government for their historic and meaningful apology. I thank the POWs for their persistent pursuit of justice, and commend the U.S. State Department for helping them. Now, it is time for the many Japanese companies that used POWs for slave labor during World War II to follow the example of their government by offering an apology and supporting programs for lasting remembrance and reconciliation. Furthermore, I invite my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in a making a small, but significant, gesture to show these men that Congress has not forgotten their experience and sacrifice by cosponsoring House Resolution 333, which I introduced earlier this year.

I wish these men a fulfilling trip to Japan, and I hope that their trip contributes to securing the historic peace between the U.S. and our important ally Japan. Second U.S. POW Delegation to Japan, October 15-23, 2011

Harold A. Bergbower, 91, lives in Peoria, Arizona. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1939 and was part of V Bomber Command, 19th Bomb Group, 28th Bombardment Squadron, Far East Air Force. He was at Clarke Field when Japan attacked on December 8, 1941. He was knocked out in the bombardment and when he awoke he found himself in the morgue at Fort Stotsenburg. Bergbower crawled out and went back to his squadron to fight in the Battle of Bataan. By escaping to Mindanao after surrender, he avoided the Bataan Death March and was captured in May. On the Philippines, he was imprisoned at Malaybalay on Mindanao and the Davao Penal Colony. In August 1944, he survived the sinking of several Hellships only to end up on Mitsubishi's Noto Marti; a trip he has completely blocked out. He was a slave laborer scooping iron ore into an open hearth furnace at the Nagoya-6B-Nomachi (Takaoka) camp for the Hokkai Denka Company which was involved in ferro-alloy smelting. Today, the site remains in ferro-alloy business as Takaoka Works. It is, as was Hokkai Denka, still part of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd (JMC, Nihon Jukagaku Kogyo). Bergbower stayed in the U.S. Air Force and returned to Japan (1954-1957) to train Japan's Air Self-Defense Force. He and his family lived near air bases in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture and in Fukuoka (Itazuke), Fukuoka Prefecture. After retiring in 1969, he became a golf pro for Dell Webb's Sun City, Arizona. He is a past Commander of the American Defenders (2005-6) and helped to establish its Descendant's Group.
POW#89
Trent Franks (R-AZ) 

James C. Collier, 88, lives in Salinas, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 at the age of 16. As a member of U.S. Army 59th Coast Artillery, Battery D ``Cheney'' he was captured on Corregidor. Before being shipped from the Philippines to Japan on Mitsubishi's Noto Maru in August 1944, he was held in Cabanatuan and Clark Field. Collier was a slave laborer feeding iron ore into the open hearth furnace at the Nagoya-6B-Nomachi (Takaoka) camp for the Hokkai Denka Company, which was involved in ferro-alloy smelting. Today, the site remains in ferroalloy business as Takaoka Works. It is, as was Hokkai Denka, still part of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd (JMC, Nihon Jukagaku Kogyo). After WWII, he earned two master's degrees: one in the Teaching of English from San Jose State and another in School Counseling from the University of Oregon, Eugene. He taught English and Psychology and worked as a guidance counselor in a high school and community college for 31 years.
POW#130
Sam Farr (D-CA) 

Harry Corre, 88, lives in Los Angeles, California. He joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and was sent to the Philippines as part of the 59th Coast Artillery Regiment, Battery C "Wheeler.'' He was captured by the Japanese with the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and began the infamous Bataan Death March. He escaped by swimming, with the assistance of a hastily improvised floatation device, the three-and-a-half miles to Corregidor, where he rejoined his unit. Corre was surrendered on Corregidor and imprisoned at Cabanatuan #1 and #3. He was shipped to Japan in July 1943 on Mitsubishi's Clyde Maru to mine coal at Omuta Fukuoka #17 Branch POW Camp for Mitsui Mining (now Mitsui's Nippon Coke & Engineering Company Co., Ltd., NB: Mitsui-aflliated companies now have a minority stake in this company, of which Nippon Steel and Sumitomo hold the majority of shares. See FY2010 Annual Report, page 27, in Japanese only.). After the war he worked odd jobs for several years and then moved to California to work in the aerospace industry. He returned to school in 1971 and graduated from Western Electronic Institute in Los Angeles as an electronics engineer. He worked in the aerospace industry for 40 years with his last position at TRW. Corre presently works at the Los Angeles, California Veterans Administration Hospital as a Patient Advocate and as a Veterans Service Officer for the American Ex-Prisoners of War as well as a POW Coordinator for the Veterans Administration Hospital & West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Regional Office.
POW# 283
Karen Bass (D-CA) 

Roy Edward Friese, 88, lives in Calimesa, California. He joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and became a member of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment Battery E ``Erie.'' He arrived in the Philippines in April 1941 for basic training. He was assigned to a searchlight battery on the tip of Bataan and then evacuated to Corregidor when Bataan fell April 9, 1942. He was imprisoned on the Philippines in Bilibid and Cabanatuan. Friese was shipped to Japan in July 1943 on Mitsubishi's Clyde Maru to mine coal at Omuta Fukuoka #17 Branch POW Camp for Mitsui Mining (now Mitsui's Nippon Coke & Engineering Company, NB: Mitsui-aflliated companies now have a minority stake in this company, of which Nippon Steel and Sumitomo hold the majority of shares. See FY2010 Annual Report, page 27, in Japanese only.).  After WWII, he reenlisted in the U.S. Army and in 1947 transferred to the U.S. Air Force. He retired after 20 years of service. In civilian life he was employed doing various types of electronics work. In 1975, Friese established his own company installing & repairing micrographic equipment. In retirement he pursues hobbies of travel, photography, woodworking, and collecting antique clocks.
POW#173

Ralph E. Griffith, 88, lives in Hannibal, Missouri. He enlisted in the army in 1941 at the age of 17 and received his basic training on Corregidor, the Philippines. He was captured on Corregidor in May 1942 with his unit, the U.S. Army 60th Coast Artillery Regiment Battery F ``Flint.'' On the Philippines he was a POW in Bilibid and Cabanatuan. He was shipped to Mukden, China (today's Shenyang) in October 1942 on Mitsubishi's Tottori Maru via Korea to Manchuria. Griffith was a slave laborer at MKK (Manshu Kosaku Kikai, which some researchers believe was owned by Mitsubishi and known as Manchuria Mitsubishi Machine Tool Company, Ltd.) factory working as a planer operator. He believes that the multiple shots and blood tests that he received while at Mukden were part of human medical experiments conducted by the Imperial Army's 731st Biological Warfare Unit. At liberation, he walked out the main gate of the POW camp and was immediately taken by the hand by a little Chinese girl. She brought him to her home where her family had prepared a meal for him. This family fed and cared for him until he was repatriated. Ever since, whenever he sees a Chinese family dining at a restaurant he quietly pays their bill. After the war, he went to work for railways both in Missouri and Alaska. Not liking the cold weather, he went to work for the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in northern Indiana. After 37 years, he retired from the Railway and returned to his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri where he was born and raised.
POW#552
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)

Oscar L. Leonard, 92, lives in Paradise, California. He joined the Idaho National Guard 116th Cavalry in 1939 and the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was sent to the Philippines to be an airplane mechanic with 28th Heavy Bomb Squadron at Clark Field. He was surrendered on Mindanao in May 1942 and held as a POW in Malaybalay and Bilibid. Leonard was then shipped to Japan on Mitsubishi's Tottori Maru in October 1942. In Japan, he was held in a prison in Kawasaki and at Tokyo-2B-Kawasaki POW Camp (Mitsui Wharf Co., Ltd. known as "Mitsui Madhouse'') to be used as stevedore and steel mill slave labor for the Mitsui Corporation as well as mixing chemicals for ammunition for Showa Denko. He was then held at Tokyo-5D-Kawasaki POW Camp where he was forced to work at a steel mill for Nihon Kokan (Japan Steel Pipe, now part of JFE Holdings). He was sent finally to Tokyo-7B-Hitachi POW Camp to refine copper ore for Nippon Mining (today, JX Holdings Ltd., Inc.). He weighed only 85 pounds at liberation. After World War II, Leonard felt he was too old to return to medical school and decided to become a pharmacist. He attended Marin College and graduated from Idaho State College School of Pharmacy Pocatello in 1954. He still works relief at local pharmacies, sometimes helps his youngest daughter plant trees on her ten acres of land, cuts and chops his own firewood, and enjoys world travel.
POW#247

Robert J. Vogler, Jr., 90, lives in Rancho Bernardo, San Diego, California. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in January 1940 at the age of 19. Stationed in Manila as part of the 24th Pursuit Group 17th Pursuit Squadron, he completed aircraft instrument training and attended the University of Philippines to study engineering. He serviced aircraft and then fought as an infantry soldier during the Battle of Bataan. As a POW, he survived the Bataan Death March, Camp O'Donnell, and Cabanatuan in the Philippines. He was shipped to Mukden, China (today's Shenyang) in October 1942 on Mitsubishi's Tottori Maru via Korea to Manchuria. Vogler was a slave laborer at MKK factory (Manshu Kosaku Kikai, which some researchers believe was owned by Mitsubishi and known as Manchuria Mitsubishi Machine Tool Company, Ltd.), working as a grinding specialist. He believes that the multiple shots and rectal probes that he received while at Mukden were human medical experiments conducted by the Imperial Army's 731st Biological Warfare Unit. In May 1944, he and 150 American POWs were transferred to Nagoya-1B-Kamioka, Japan as punishment for bad behavior to be slave laborers for Mitsui Mining (now Kamioka Kogyo, a 100% subsidiary of Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., Ltd.) mining lead and zinc. Mitsui now operates a recycling center at the former POW camp site. The mine was also the source of one of Japan's four major cases of mass industrial poisoning in the 1960s. After the war, he remained in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 1960. He was then employed by General Dynamics as a manufacturing and development engineer, but was forced to retire in 1976 due to health issues caused by his POW experience. In 2000, Mr. Volger and his wife returned to Kamioka to a warm welcome from mine representatives, town officials, citizens, and school children. He said that the visit brought him to tears and helped rest the many demons that haunted him from his maltreatment in Japan's POW camps.
POW#138 and #0336
Darrell Issa (R-CA) 

None of these veteran's Representatives have become co-sponsors of H. Res. 333. (November 1, 2011)


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