Monday, October 22, 2012

American POWs Visit Osaka, Hitachi


On Wednesday and Thursday, October 18 and 19, three American former POWs of Japan visited Osaka, the site of their imprisonment and slave labor. They visited Takami Elementary School, which sits atop the ruins of the POW camp, Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka, at which two of the POWs were held.

The POWs had lunch with the children and shared their stories with them.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just Compensation

Secretary of State Clinton at the
American Cemetery in Manila
honoring the fallen of World War II
November 2009
The letter below appeared online in the Japan Times the same day the 3rd delegation of American POWs of Japan  met with the Japan's Foreign Minister Gemba and received their personal apologies for the torture and abuse they endured during WWII. Japanese-language publications had refused to print Dr. Tenney's reflections.

Remembrance is 'compensation'

By LESTER TENNEY


Past National Commander, American Defenders of Bataan And Corregider
Carlsbad, California
Japan Times, October 14, 2012


This week, seven former American POWs of the Japanese will travel to Japan and revisit former campsites where they were held during World War II. Some of them will also visit the companies for whom they were forced to work. Although their memories of Japan from 68 years ago are still painful, they know that they will be welcomed by today's Japanese citizens and that they will enjoy a beautiful autumn in Japan.

For the third straight year, the Foreign Ministry is inviting former American POWs to Japan under the "Japanese/American POW Friendship Program."

In 2009, Japan's Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki traveled to Texas to attend the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (a national organization of former POWs of the Japanese), of which I was the last National Commander. He stood before the surviving POWs and their families and apologized for Imperial Japan's abuse of POWs.

The following year, Ambassador Fujisaki and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell worked together to have six former POWs, including myself, invited to Japan, where Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada directly delivered Japan's formal apology to us. In 2011, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba graciously repeated the same apology to that year's POW delegation.

These sincere apologies played a vital role in our regaining the dignity once taken from us. Official Japan reached out to us POWs with respect and the invitation program has been so successful in bringing former POWs and today's Japanese citizens closer.

Today, I feel assured that our wartime experience will be remembered by the Japanese people through this invitation program, which I hope will continue not only for former POWs but also for their widows and descendants in years to come.

I have been hearing that so-called comfort women are still waiting for the Japanese government to offer them a sincere apology. I hope they will receive it soon. As someone who also had freedom, health and dignity taken away, I know how much a genuine apology like the ones we received will mean to them.

Most important, Japan needs to demonstrate its sincerity by remembering all its histories as a proud nation. To be remembered is our "compensation."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ten Days in October

FM Gemba with American former POWs of Japan
For the third time in as many years, seven nonagenarian veterans of World War II become "guests of Emperor." These men were tortured, starved, beaten, and forced to work in dangerous conditions by Imperial Japan as prisoners of war. Unlike their first trip to Japan, which was by Hell Ship or parachute, they traveled by a first class ticket on a Japanese airline.

For the third time, Japan's Foreign Minister faced the American POWs and apologized for his government for their suffering under Imperial Japan (photo above). The men and their caregivers are touring Japan and visiting the sites of their incarceration and slave labor. They slaved for well-know Japanese firms such as Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Nippon Express, Rinko, and Ube Industries.

Initiated in 2010, the visitation program for American former POWs of Japan is a model for Japanese government war apologies. There is a formal presentation of an apology and a concerted act of contrition. It is unfortunate, however, that the Japanese Government does not publicize this successful program and has not pushed the Japanese companies that were complicit in the torture and abuse of the POWs to also acknowledge and apologize. Indeed, the companies have been largely silent and some have refused to allow these elderly men to revisit the sites of their first stay in Japan.

Here are brief biographies of the men in Japan from October 12 to 21.

>Randall S. Edwards, 95, lives in Lakeland, Florida. Born in Wyoming, he grew up in Nebraska and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1935 after high school to see the world. He was sent to the Philippines in 1940 and assigned as a Radioman 1ST Class to the submarine tender, the USS Canopus, which had been ordered to stay in Manila Bay after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Bombed and strafed continually, the ship was finally scuttled in Mariveles Bay on April 8, 1942 with the crew escaping to the fortress island of Corregidor in the mouth of Manila Bay. On Corregidor, the crew served in beach defense with the Fourth Marines. He was a POW at Cabanatuan 3 and shipped to Mukden, China (today’s Shenyang) in October 1942 on Mitsubishi’s Hellship Tottori Maru via Formosa and Korea to Manchukuo (Manchuria). Edwards 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.). He worked on multiple machines from grinders to lathes, carefully sabotaging each task. Toward the end, he was made to haul pig iron to the company’s foundry. 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. After the war, Edwards remained in the Navy where he received over 40 medals during his service and retired in 1955 as a Warrant Officer. From 1948-1950, he was with U.S. Occupation Forces in Yokosuka, Japan in charge of the Base’s radio station. He found there that the Japanese were “not all demons.” After the Navy, he received his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida, Gainesville and went to work as a research engineer on fusion energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. After retiring in 1982, he became a National Service officer for American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and American Ex-Prisoners of War to help his fellow veterans with their VA claims. He enjoys golf and international travel with his wife Rose Mary.
POW# 104
Member of: DAV, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War

>Robert W. Ehrhart, 89, lives in Carmichael, California. He grew up in Oakland, California and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve during high school. His unit was activated November 6, 1940 and sent to the Philippines in April 1941 to join the Marine Detachment at Cavite.  On May 1, the 1st Separate Marine Battalion, unique in that it trained to function either as infantry or antiaircraft artillery, was activated. Relocated fall 1941 to the Olongapo Navy Yard near Subic Bay, the unit was moved during December 1941 to Corregidor Island. On January 1, 1942 they were redesignated the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines and joined the Battle of Corregidor through surrender on May 6, 1942. Ehrhart was sent to the Cabanatuan POW Camp where he was on a burial detail, burying as many as forty men a day. He remembers that the “bodies were like skeletons and when you lifted them onto the window shutters, which were used for litters, their skin would peel back and stick to your hands.” To bolster his morale and that of his fellow POWs, he started to draw cartoons, risking severe punishment if discovered. He had a pencil, but paper was almost impossible to obtain. He bartered for whatever writing material anyone had with the rare Carnation Milk can label his greatest canvas. In September 1943, Ehrhart was transferred to Japan aboard the Hellship Taga Maru (aka Coral Maru). He was sent to Osaka 4-D Sakurajima were he was a slave laborer at Hitachi Zosen’s Sakurajima Shipyard (today’s Universal Shipping Corporation). He worked as a riveter helping build military ships and oil tankers. Today, the site of this POW camp is the Universal Studios Japan theme park. After the camp was bombed in May 1945, he was sent to Osaka 6-B, Akenobe, POW Camp where he was a slave laborer working as a stope driller in a copper mine for Mitsubishi Mining (today’s Mitsubishi Materials Corporation). When the POWs realized that the war had ended, they pieced together an American flag to fly on the camp flagpole, which they believe was the first postwar U.S. symbol in Japan. After recuperating in military hospitals from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, and various tropic diseases, he was discharged April 29 1946. He then studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, he worked for the Navy and eventually joined the State of California’s Department of Water Resources as a hydroelectric engineer. Since retiring in 1983, he has pursued his passions of travel and fine photography. The Veteran’s History Project of the U.S. Library of Congress holds a recording of his oral history.
POW# 221
Member of DAV, VFW, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War

>David G. Farquhar, Jr., 90, resides among orange groves in Redlands, California where he has lived all his life. He joined the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942. He trained in Nebraska and was assigned as a Technical Sergeant to General Curtis LeMay’s 20th Air Force, 24th Squadron, 313th Bomb Wing, 6th bomb group, Crew #2404. He was sent with the 6th Bomb Group to Tinian in the Northern Marianas in January 1945. Farquhar participated in 18 missions over the Pacific and Mainland Japan. On May 23, 1945, he was a turret gunner when his B-29 was shot down over Tokyo by flak and fighter planes. He and his 11 crewmates all bailed out safely and were captured. They were taken to the infamous horse stalls outside of the Kempeitai (military police of the Imperial Army) Headquarters in Tokyo near the Emperor’s palace. They were not considered POWs but “special prisoners” who were war criminals. Beaten, starved, and tortured, they were denied clothes, basic hygiene, and medical treatment. On August 15th, the day Japan surrendered, he was transferred to a cell at Tokyo Base Camp #1 Omori where he was liberated August 28, 1945. Omori was the first POW camp liberated. After a series of hospital stays he was discharged in 1946 and returned to San Diego State College (today’s San Diego State University) for a BA in Engineering. He then obtained an MA in Education from the University of Redlands. From 1950 to 1993, Farquhar taught both junior high and high school mathematics and science. He has been married to Jacqueline for nearly 66 years. He currently tends his orange grove, serves on various boards, and participates in community activities.
POW# Not known to “special prisoners” 
Member of American Ex-Prisoners of War 

>Douglas Northam, 93, lives in Reno, Nevada. Born in Morris County, Texas, he grew up in nearby Naples, Texas. After graduating from high school in 1937, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and in 1940 in the U.S. Navy. He was transferred to China in February of 1941 and assigned to the USS Oahu (PR-6), a Yangtze River Patrol boat ported in Shanghai. The USS Oahu, never designed for open sea operations, was sent to Manila Bay in November 1941, arriving two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The gunboat operated in and around Manila Bay and Cavite Navy Yard on inshore patrol and in support of U.S.-Filipino forces on Bataan until after its fall April 8, 1942 and then continued to operate about the island fortress of Corregidor until sunk by enemy gunfire May 5th. Northam was then assigned to an artillery group on Corregidor, which was surrendered on May 7th when Corregidor fell. As a POW of Japan he was sent to Bilibid POW Camp in Manila and then moved to Cabanatuan 1 and 2. In November 1942, he was sent to Japan aboard Mitsubishi’s Hellship the Nagato Maru. He worked for Nippon Express as a slave stevedore in the freight yards in and around the city of Osaka at Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka (Osaka 2-D UMEDA). In March 1945, after his POW camp was firebombed, he was transferred to Osaka POW Camp 5-B TSURUGA were he was a slave stevedore again for Nippon Express and Tsuruga Transportation Company. After the war, Northam utilized the GI Bill to study geology at the University of California, Berkley. He joined Shell Oil Company in 1951 as a laboratory technician and retired 1977 as research technician. He has been married to Hazel for 64 years. In retirement he was a volunteer at a local elementary school and the VA Hospital. His hobbies include gardening, horse racing, and cooking.
POW# 117
Member of DAV, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War, AMVETS 

>John Leroy Mims, 90, lives in Aberdeen, North Carolina. Born in Ashburn, Georgia, he grew up in Florida and enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1938, but was discharged a year later after it was discovered that he was underage. Still hungry and jobless, he re-enlisted February 15, 1941 and was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion of the famous 31st Infantry Regiment sometimes referred to as the “American Foreign Legion.” In April 1941, he was sent to the Philippines aboard the USAT Republic and stationed at Cuartel de España in Manila. He fought in the Battle for Bataan and as a POW forced on the Bataan Death March. During the war, his Filipino fiancée Juanita worked as a secretary for a Japanese general and bravely aided the resistance by sending shortwave radio messages to Allied forces in the Pacific. As a POW, the Japanese repeatedly beat and tortured Mims . Although they were able to break his body, they could never come close to breaking his spirit. During his captivity, the Japanese broke his back, neck and both of his legs and shattered many of the bones in his face. The beatings briefly left him a paraplegic on two separate occasions and he retains a limp. Mims lost over 120 pounds as a POW dropping from 190 pounds to 67 pounds. Of the 1,600 soldiers in the 31st Infantry Regiment who surrendered, less than half survived Japanese captivity. In September 1944, he was sent to Japan on board Mitsubishi’s Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Hellship Sekiho Maru (Canadian Inventor [the Mati Mati Maru or slow slow ship]). Mims became a slave laborer mining coal for Ube Kosan’s Sanyo Muen Kogyo Sho (Ube Industries’ Sanyo Smokeless Coal Work, which is still known today as Ube Industries Ltd.) at Hiroshima #6B - Omine (Sanyo) POW Camp in Omine-machi, Yamaguchi Prefecture. After the war, Mims remained in the Army for the next 27 years, attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class. He returned to Japan from 1952-54 to be in charge of the Tokyo Quartermaster Depot. He retired in 1963 and involved himself in real estate, construction, and mining. He and Juanita were married 59 years until her death in 2004. They are parents of three biological and 22 adopted children. He remarried in 2009 to another beautiful Filipina, Nena Sabal. His hobbies include reading and recounting his history story as a POW of Japan, especially on how he survived the infamous Bataan Death March. The Veteran’s History Project of the U.S. Library of Congress holds a recording of his oral history.
POW# 429
Member of DAV, VFW, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and National Order of the Trench Rats, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor

>John Real, 90, lives in Ventura, California. A California native he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1940. He was sent to the Philippines in April 1941 and assigned to aerial reconnaissance at Clark Field with the 2nd Observation Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group, V Bomber Command, 20th Air Force. Real and his unit manned an observation tower on top of Mt. Mariveles, Bataan during Japan’s invasion of the Philippines where he tracked Japanese ship movement around the Olongapo Navy Yard. He walked down the mountain to surrender on April 9, 1942 and was stripped of all his belongings before being forced on the Bataan Death March. At the start of the march, he and others were used as human shields by being forced to walk in front of seized American 155mm calibre field guns (Long Toms) that the Japanese were firing at Corregidor. He was a POW at both Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan 1. He avoided a certain death at O’Donnell by volunteering for a work detail on Bataan. In September 1943, he was sent to Moji, Japan aboard the Hellship Taga Maru (aka Coral Maru) via Formosa. At Tokyo 5-B POW Camp in Niigata he was a slave laborer unloading coal ships for Niigata Kairiku Unso, now part of the Rinko Corporation (however, POWs remember Rinko as their “employer”). After the war, Real received a BA in Business Administration from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a MA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he met his wife with whom he had three children and was married to for 49 years until she passed away in 2006. After graduation, he pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales with various companies, retiring with Berlex Labs, at the time a division of Schering AG. In retirement, he has been an active member of the Museum of Ventura County and the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu.
POW# 514 
Member of DAV, VFW, American Legion, American Ex-Prisoners of War, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, AMVETS 

>George R. Summers, 90, lives in Riverside, California. Born in the Philippines, he grew up in California where he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in February 1941. Activated in June 1941, his unit was sent to Guam, an American territory, in September 1941. Japan invaded the island on December 8, 1941 and he was taken prisoner by on the 10th. Summers was on the first transport of Allied POWs to Japan, the Argentina Maru with 420 American POWs from Guam to Tadotsu on the north coast of Shikoku. After arriving in Japan on January 16, 1942, the POWs were transported to Zentsuji (Hiroshima Branch #1), a POW camp about eight km from Tadotsu. He spent six months there clearing a mountainside to plant apple trees. He was then transferred to Tanagawa Osaka Area POW Command #4B Camp. At Tanagawa, he helped to manually tear down a mountainside building a breakwater for a primitive dry-dock and submarine base. This camp was noted for its severe malnutrition and extreme death rate. Six months later, he was sent to Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka (Osaka 2-D UMEDA), Japan where he worked for Nippon Express as a slave stevedore. He was transferred to a total of six POW camps due to American bombings. His last camp was the Nagoya 10-B Fushiki Camp, where he worked as a stevedore slave unloading soybeans from Korea for Fushiki Kairiku Unso until Japan’s surrender. After his release, he was hospitalized for six months at the Long Beach Naval Hospital. Like many veterans, he then shifted between various odd jobs and classes. In 1947, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine. From 1955 to 1968 he worked for General Telephone Company, which later became GTE and is today’s Verizon. After GTE, he served as a financial clerk for the City of Anaheim from 1968 to 1978. Married to Juanita Louise Summers since 1970, he has two children from his first marriage. In retirement, he has focused on real estate investment and his hobbies of collecting Koi fish and exotic birds.
POW# 347 
Member of DAV, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Military Order of the Purple Heart