Sunday, April 16, 2017

Appeal to Congress by American POWs of Japan

click to order commemorative mug
The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society (ADBC-MS), the leading American veterans’ organization for former prisoners of war of Imperial Japan, their families, and historians, submitted testimony for the record on March 22, 2017 to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and House Veterans' Affairs Committee Joint Hearing To Receive Legislative Presentations of Veterans Service Organizations. [click to see full testimony]

The ADBC-MS asked Congress to:
  • Adopt a resolution commemorating this year’s annual National Prisoner of War Remembrance Day, April 9th, which is also the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March on the Philippines.
  • Award a Congressional gold medal to the American POWs of Japan, who endured the longest and harshest imprisonment of any WWII POWs.
  • Insist that the Japanese corporations that used POW slave labor during WWII make amends for their war crimes before they are allowed to bid on U.S. high speed rail contracts.
  • Encourage the Government of Japan to turn its POW visitation program into a permanent Future Fund for research, documentation, reconciliation, and people-to-people exchanges.
  • Demand that the Government of Japan refute misrepresentations of POW history in Japan and include the history in its UNESCO Industrial Heritage sites.
  • Ask the Japanese government to create a memorial at the Port of Moji, where most of the “hell ships” delivered their sick, dying, and dead human cargo to Japan.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, the fall of the Philippines, the end of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, and the destruction of the U.S. Far East Air Force. It is estimated that over 300,000 American and Allied POWs and civilian internees were POWs of Imperial Japan. Nearly half died in squalid POW camps, aboard fetid “hell ships,” or as slave laborers for Japanese corporations.

Never again, means never forget.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

NATIONAL FORMER PRISONER OF WAR RECOGNITION DAY, 2017

The Bataan Death March
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 07, 2017

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims April 9, 2017, 
as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day


NATIONAL FORMER PRISONER OF WAR RECOGNITION DAY, 2017

- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



On National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, America honors our service men and women imprisoned during war. These patriots have moved and inspired our Nation through their unyielding sacrifices and devout allegiance. We honor the strength through adversity of all of these heroes from our Nation's wars and conflicts, from the American Revolution to the World Wars, from Korea to Vietnam, from Desert Storm to the War on Terror.

American service members serve and fight selflessly each day to secure the freedoms we often take for granted. They bear the full weight of their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," in which there is no safety clause. None know this so well as our former prisoners of war (POWs). According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than half a million Americans have been captured and interned as POWs since the American Revolution.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. After the surrender of the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines on April 9, 1942, Filipino and American soldiers were rounded up and forced to march 60 miles from Mariveles to San Fernando. An estimated 500 Americans died during the march, as they were starved, beaten, and tortured to death. Those who reached San Fernando were taken in cramped boxcars to POW camps, where thousands more Americans died of disease and starvation.

These stories remind us of the great sacrifice and bravery of our men and women in the Armed Forces. Throughout our history, they have risked everything to defend our country. They have been stripped of liberty, and regained it. They have faced the darkness of captivity, and emerged to the warm light of freedom. These victories have no match. These triumphs ignite the flame of liberty deep within their hearts, and in ours, and make America the great Nation it is today.

But in celebrating those POWs who returned from captivity, we also solemnly remember and honor those who died in captivity. They paid the ultimate price for their love of country.

As President, I am committed to providing our veterans, and especially our former POWs, with the support, care, and resources they deserve. Our country owes a debt to our heroes that we can never adequately repay, but which we will always honor each day.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 9, 2017, as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day. I call upon Americans to observe this day by honoring the service and sacrifice of all our former prisoners of war and to express our Nation's eternal gratitude for their sacrifice. I also call upon Federal, State, and local government officials and organizations to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

Bataan Death March survivor will be missed by his Japanese friends

Tokudome and Tenney
Champion for the American POWs of Japan
By Kinue Tokudome, founder and director of US-Japan Dialogue on POWs
Fox News Opinion, April 7, 2017

Dr. Lester Tenney, a Bataan Death March survivor, and I exchanged thousands of emails since we first met in 1999. Initially, I became interested in his POW experience as a Japanese journalist. But it did not take long before I found myself working with him to bring an honorable closure to the history of American POWs of the Japanese. Our emails were always upbeat, discussing what more we could do together.

But in late January, Lester sent me an email that was uncharacteristic of him:

I am on my last trip, travel to a new world. So nice having you as a friend. If I am still alive I will be speaking in front of 200 people on January 27th how forgiveness works wonders. If you could come, it would be the culmination of many good years together.

How could I refuse such a request? So I flew from Japan and joined Lester in Carlsbad, Calif. as he spoke to a local audience.

Towards the end of his speech, Lester called me onto the stage and had me read from a letter he had just received from Mitsubishi Materials. It was a report on memorial plaques that the company had placed last November at four mines where its predecessor enslaved American POWs during WWII. Lester wanted me to read the inscription to the audience. After stating how many American POWs were forced to work and how many died at each mine, the inscription ended with following sentence.

Reflecting on these tragic past events with the deepest sense of remorse, Mitsubishi Materials offers its heartfelt apologies to all former POWs who were forced to work under appalling conditions in the mines of the former Mitsubishi Mining Company, and reaffirms its unswerving resolve to contribute to the creation of a world in which fundamental human rights and justice are fully guaranteed.

Lester had already received an apology from the Japanese government for the inhumane treatment American POWs were subjected to. In 2010, the Japanese Foreign Ministry started a reconciliation program in which it invited former POWs and their families to Japan. They all became possible because of Lester’s tenacity in seeking them. I had the privilege of helping him as he faced many obstacles along the way.

What Mitsubishi Materials wrote on their plaques was what Lester wanted the most and what took him the longest to obtain. It was not from Mitsui Mining that enslaved him, but as a longtime leader of former POWs he was genuinely pleased with Mitsubishi Materials’ sincerity.

As we parted, I said to Lester, “Let’s work harder so we will get apologies from other companies.” That was the last time I saw him. I would go back to Carlsbad to attend the memorial service for Lester a month later.

Lester was among some 27,000 American soldiers who became POWs after the largest surrender in the US military history that took place in the Philippines in the spring of 1942.

Forty percent of them would die while in captivity. Those who were surrendered on April 9, including Lester, were forced to walk what became known as the Bataan Death March. Lester was later sent to Japan and became a forced laborer in Mitsui coalmine.

Of some 12,000 American POWs who were sent to Japan to work for Japanese companies 1,115 died due to harsh working conditions, abuse, diseases and malnutrition. In addition to Mitsui Mine and Mitsubishi Mining, they included internationally known companies like Nippon Steel, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Nippon Express and Nippon Sharyo (now owned by JR Central).

Lester was determined not to let the world forget this tragic chapter of the Pacific War, although he had long forgiven the Japanese. His lawsuit against Mitsui was dismissed as the U.S. court found that POWs’ claims had been waived by the 1951 Peace Treaty.

But since money was not his goal, he did not stop. In fact, it was through his quest for justice and reconciliation that Lester made many Japanese friends. I witnessed Lester and his wife Betty develop a beautiful friendship with Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Ichiro Fujisaki and Mrs. Fujisaki. He dearly loved the Japanese exchange student who stayed at his home. He spoke to thousands of Japanese young people and enjoyed every opportunity to do so. His memoir was translated into Japanese by a group of English teachers in Japan who listened to his speech and were touched by his humanity.

The only thing I regret was that Lester did not receive much support from his own government. Having read the Mitsubishi Materials’ inscription and realized its significance, I asked the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo if Ambassador (Caroline) Kennedy could attend the unveiling ceremony. After all, there was not a single memorial built by the Japanese government for the American POWs who died in Japan.

But the Embassy told me that not only could Ambassador Kennedy not attend but also it could not send anyone to represent the U.S. government.

It was widely reported that Ambassador Kennedy worked very hard to pave the way for President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.

Candidate Obama compared his campaign to the Bataan Death March and never apologized. This could have been the opportunity for the Obama administration to pay respect to POWs. And it would have encouraged other companies to come forward.

Shortly before his passing, Lester read a piece in the Washington Post that praised Ambassador Kennedy for her effort for reconciliation. He sent a letter to the paper writing in part:

As the last Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, a recognized military organization of former POWs of the Japanese during WWII, I myself as well as our members have been working for reconciliation for many years.

I wish Ambassador Kennedy had supported our effort in seeking reconciliation with those Japanese companies that enslaved us. Most of the companies have not acknowledged their involvement in POW forced labor, much less apologized. So far only one company, Mitsubishi Materials, has come forward and apologized to the American POWs.

I was pleased that Ambassador Kennedy visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and paid respect to the victims of the end of this tragic war. I wish Ms. Kennedy had also paid tribute to those American POWs who died in Japan as forced laborers.

The letter was never published. But Lester would not live his life with bitterness. In our last exchange ten days before his passing we wrote to each other:

As you did so many times when you faced adversities in your life, I am confident that you two remain positive and live in the present and enjoy everything. Love, Kinue

You are right… just another hurdle in my life of living. I must realize I am 96 years old, and that is already way beyond the most. It is the unknown that gets me. Love, Lester

Dr. Lester Tenney will be missed by many Japanese friends he made.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

BATAAN DEATH MARCH 75TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIONS

Over the next few days, numerous ceremonies will be held to honor the fallen and survivors of the Bataan Death March on its 75th anniversary and National Former POW Recognition Day, April 9th. 

WASHINGTON, DC

75TH COMMEMORATION OF ARAW NG KAGITINGAN [BATAAN AND CORREGIDOR DAY]. 4/7, 3:15-4:30 PM, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Embassy of the Philippines. A wreath laying ceremony at the WWII Memorial at the National Mall. 5:30-7:30pm Commemoration Program at the Romulo Hall of the Embassy of the Philippines. Location: Embassy of the Philippines, 1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Contact: http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org/news/5507/589/75th-Commemoration-of-Araw-ng-Kagitingan-on-07-April-2017/d,phildet/  Information: veterans@philippinesveteransaffairs.org  

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

75TH COMMEMORATION OF ARAW NG KAGITINGAN (DAY OF VALOR). 4/8, 9:00 AM, Chicago, Illinois. Wreath laying ceremony (weather permitting) at the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge at the corner of State Street and Wacker Drive, Chicago to pay tribute to thousands of Filipino and American soldiers who displayed extraordinary gallantry and courage beyond the call of duty in defending Bataan and Corregidor in 1941-1942. After the wreath laying ceremony, a short program will be held around 10:00-11:30 AM at the Kalayaan Hall of the Consulate General of the Philippines, 122 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1600, Chicago, Illinois 60603. Contact: http://www.chicagopcg.com/chicagopcg@att.net and http://www.chicagopcg.com/pr16-17.pdf

CALIFORNIA

BATAAN DEATH MARCH 75TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION. 4/8, 9:00am-Noon, The Presidio, San Francisco, California. 9:00AM Laying of Wreaths at the ABMC WWII West Coast Memorial at Kobbe & Washington Aves. 10:00AM Commemorative Program At Pershing Square/ Presidio Officers Club. Contact: www.bataanlegacy.org; Program http://zif7.r.ah.d.sendibm4.com/zmo9s9vonf.htmland http://usa.inquirer.net/1829/bataan-death-march-75th-year-rites-set-sf-presidio-april-8     

NEW YORK

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATAAN DEATH MARCH COMMEMORATION. 4/8, 1:00-4:00 PM. Bataan Road, Orangeburg, New York. Ceremony, concert, presentations. Contact: Jerome Kleiman, https://www.facebook.com/events/1168848923170955/

VIRGINIA

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATAAN DEATH MARCH AND UNVEILING THE BEN STEELE COLLECTION. 4/9, 2:00-4:00 PM, Norfolk, VA. Sponsor: MacArthur Memorial. As part of the unveiling, the Memorial will screen the documentary film Survival Through Art. Produced by American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society President and professional filmmaker Jan Thompson and narrated by Alec Baldwin,Survival Through Art tells the story of Ben Steele's remarkable life. Location: MacArthur Memorial Visitors Center, 198 Bank Street, Norfolk, VA 23510. Contact: http://www.macarthurmemorial.org/Calendar.aspx?EID=62&month=1&year=2017&day=12&calType=0 or

6TH ANNUAL BATAAN DEATH MARCH MEMORIAL WALK/RUN.  4/22, 6:00AM-2:00PM, Chesapeake, VA. Sponsored by the SSG Jonathan Killian Dozier Memorial VFW Post 2894 and FilVetRep. Location: Dismal Swamp Canal Trail North Parking Lot, 1113 George Washington Highway South, Chesapeake, VA 23323 Contact: https://www.virginia.org/listings/Events/BataanDeathMarchMemorialWalk/

MINNESOTA

BATAAN MEMORIAL WREATH LAYING CEREMONY. 4/9 10:00 AM, Brained National Guard Training and Community Center, 1115 Wright Street, Brainerd, MN  56401. Mr. Walter Straka, the last surviving member of the Brainerd 34th Tank Company as it began, and A Company 194th Tank Battalion after federalization, will lay the wreath while Taps is played. The names of those who were killed in combat or captivity will be read as their dog tags are hung on the barrel of the M3 Stuart tank. Contact: Captain Chris Bingham (651) 268-8117,http://www.brainerdbataan.com/wreath-laying-ceremony.html ;

20TH ANNUAL BATAAN MEMORIAL MARCH, 9/9, Brainerd, Minnesota.  http://www.brainerdbataan.com/

NEW MEXICO

COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY HONORING 75TH ANNIVERSARY. 4/9, 4:00-6:00 PM, Las Cruces, NM. Sponsor: The Remember Bataan Foundation of Las Cruces. Location: Veteran’s Memorial Park, 2651 Roadrunner Parkway, Las Cruces.

BATAAN MEMORIAL CEREMONY. 4/8, 1:00 PM, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sponsor: Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico. Location: Bataan Memorial Park, 748 Tulane Drive, NE, Albuquerque. Contact: MAJ Richard A. Luena, USAF-R (Ret.), https://www.facebook.com/events/1763311350552957/

BATAAN MEMORIAL CEREMONY. 4/9, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sponsor: New Mexico National Guard. Location: 200th CAC marker on the southeast side of the Bataan Memorial Building, 407 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe. http://www.bataanmuseum.com/event/nmng-honors-world-war-ii-bataan-veterans-on-75th-anniversary/

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Yawata POW Camp down on its luck


Old age, depopulation decimating A-bomb-spared Kitakyushu
[But there is something missing from this story]


BLOOMBERG/Japan Times, MAR 30, 2017

Few places evoke the rise and fall of Japan’s industrial might than the head office of the Imperial Steel Works in Kitakyushu. The red brick Meiji Era building was the heart of the nation’s first big steelworks. Now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

[And it was Fukuoka #3 POW camp where over 1,200 Allied POWs from the U.S., UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Java, India, Arabia, Portugal and Malaya slaved. There is no mention of this at the site. Further the Port of Moji in Kitakyushu was where most of the POWs and forced laborers were brought into Japan. Many off the hell ships died on the docks. In addition, Japan's "industrial world heritage" bid was carefully crafted to emphasize Japan's difference from the rest of Asia. It highlights superiority and indigenous inventiveness and underplays technology borrowing and Western investment.]

Kitakyushu, with nearly a million people, embodies the struggle of Japan’s cities to adapt to a future where citizens are older, workers are fewer and many houses are emptying. The emblems of government efforts to revitalize the economy — a billion-dollar airport, a robotics factory — stand beside the empty lots, an idle blast furnace and shuttered shops.

Five hours west of Tokyo by shinkansen, Kitakyushu lost over 15,000 people in the five years to 2015, more than any other city in the country apart from those evacuated because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. More than 100,000 residents have gone since the peak in 1979, and half of the factory jobs have disappeared with them.

Provincial cities are competing for a declining pool of talent, workers and investment to replace vanishing industries. Kitakyushu’s task is especially stark because of the contrast with Fukuoka, an hour’s drive southwest, where efforts to lure entrepreneurs have made it one of the few big cities outside Tokyo whose population is growing.

“I feel like Fukuoka is taking away all the good,” said Masahiro Urabe, 73, who runs a men’s clothing store that his father started on the Yahata Chuo shopping street. Nearby, under a flickering florescent light, is a deserted bar. Urabe says the street used to be filled around the clock with steelworkers coming off shift. “Manufacturing is a tough sell for young people,” he said. “It can’t be helped when the (steel mill) isn’t doing well.”

Kitakyushu, formed by the merger of five towns in 1963, owes its manufacturing roots to the Imperial Yawata Works, which poured its first steel in 1901. Today, the mills are run by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., [never apologized for its use of POW slave labor.] with about 4,200 staff making high-value products such as shinkansen rails. The company declined an interview request.

At its peak, the works had nearly 50,000 people, said Akinori Yamamura, 78, who worked there for four decades. The city was so vital to industry during World War II that it was the original target for the second U.S. atomic bomb, which was eventually dropped on Nagasaki because of clouds and poor visibility over the Kitakyushu area. [because it had been bombed a day or so before.]

The city’s mills attracted steel-consuming businesses such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., which still have major plants in the area.

“The city used to be full of energy and at its heart was Chuo (shopping street),” said Yamamura, who volunteers as a guide at the Yawata Works’ old head office. “Now, abandoned houses are everywhere and fewer people means the shutters are coming down.”

Other parts of the steelworks have also been listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, including a repair shop that is still in operation after more than a century. The Space World amusement park set up in 1990 at Yawata Works’ idle land, will close at the end of this year.

“It’s not easy to create a new industry. It’s a hard-fought battle,” said Kitakyushu Mayor Kenji Kitahashi, 64. He’s looking to encourage growth from sectors like tourism, robotics, health care and offshore wind power. One of the primary tools in his arsenal is the airport.

Opened in 2006 on an artificial island in the bay after 12 years of construction, the 24-hour airport gives Kitakyushu an advantage over Fukuoka [originally built by Allied POWs], whose downtown runway has to close at night due to noise.

One Kitakyushu company that managed to adapt is robot-maker Yaskawa Electric Corp., which started in 1915 making electric motors and now produces Motoman industrial robots. The company’s stock has risen 75 percent in the past year. High-tech toilet-maker Toto Ltd. and airline Star Flyer Inc. are also based here.

But Kitakyushu’s strategic special zone status granted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016 has more to do with demographics than its industrial heritage. The city was designated as an area for innovation in elderly care.

Even that sector is struggling.

“It’s very hard to find staff,” said Ikuko Kamei, a manager at a local care center within sight of the abandoned Yawata Works blast furnace. “We put out ads at job centers and offer extra cash for new employees, but workers are getting old here.”

Almost 30 percent of Kitakyushu’s residents are 65 or older. Kamei herself is 61.

“I think our future lies in tourism,” she said, ruefully. [Dark Tourism, which is a thing.]

Obligation and the Bataan Death March Memorial

99-year-old Ben Skardon completes 10th walk in Bataan Memorial Death March 



Skardon, a newly minted captain in 1941, led Company A of the 92nd Infantry Regiment PA (Philippine Army), a battalion of Filipino Army recruits on the Bataan Peninsula. Skardon started out with 120 men in his command, and ended in April, 1942, with 60 men left. He himself was in hospital for malaria when the surrender came, but was ambulatory and forced to make the Death March. He earned two Silver Stars and four Bronze Stars for valor. He also survived 3 years in POW camps on the Philippines, the bombing and sinking of two unmarked hell ships by US planes as he was shipped to China. He survived to become a professor of English literature at Clemson University.
March 30, 2017

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, New Mexico — The 75th anniversary of World War II’s infamous Bataan Death March was commemorated by 7,200 participants who gathered in the wee morning hours for the 28th Bataan Memorial Death March, Sunday, March 19.

 Once again, Clemson University alumnus and professor emeritus Ben Skardon, 99 years young, was the oldest participant and the only survivor of the real Bataan Death March who walked in the event. 

He walked eight and a half miles through the unforgiving New Mexico desert, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees, and refused to stop until he matched his distance from the previous nine years. Skardon is a Clemson institution, so Clemson orange was the color of choice for the 64 members of “Ben’s Brigade” — the die-hard support group made up of friends, family, former students and relatives of his fellow prisoners of war — who accompanied him. The swarm of orange T-shirts was only given competition as Skardon crossed through several bright yellow fields of blooming California poppies between the four- and six-mile markers.

Skardon stopped at each mile marker to address his Brigade, usually with a joke or the cry “Oosh!” which is the command he says his Japanese captors gave to keep moving.

As the temperature rose, members of Ben’s Brigade took turns holding an American flag at angles that would shade him. He moved at his normal pace of two miles an hour, but stopped to rest or talk to people several times between each mile marker — something he hadn’t done in years past. Spirits rose as they reached one mile marker after another, but there was concern he might not make it the whole way this year. He had just recovered from a bout of the flu weeks earlier, and the temperatures were 10 degrees hotter than in previous years. It would take nothing away from him if he couldn’t go his traditional 8.5 miles again — if he only walked a mile it would still be an astounding feat — but nobody could question the power of his will either. He never mentioned quitting.

At mile marker six, he left the road to sit on a folding chair and rest in the shade of one of the support tents. The members of Ben’s Brigade, themselves sweaty and tired at this point, gratefully accepted water and gatorade from the volunteers who had waited for them. Somebody put a wet handkerchief around Skardon’s neck and handed him an orange slice to suck on. The two Army medics assigned to him took his vital signs and suggested he should take it easy on himself this year.

“Four minutes,” he said.

Four minutes later, he stood up and walked on.

At mile marker eight, Ben’s Brigade gathered around him one more time.

“Our destiny is right here,” he told them. “What I want to say is ‘thank you,’ and if I haven’t already shaken hands with you, please shake my hand after this. I can’t tell you, personally, how much this has meant to me, especially the new people who come out here for 8.5 miles. A few of you still go out and do more and that’s more power to you, [but] the power in my feet has gone! I have two very stalwart gentleman [the Army medics] who are actually dragging me through to the finish line. It touches me every time I look around and see you. So goodbye to a lot of you. This is the last point we’ll all be together today. Once we get to the finish line, they take me to an air-conditioned tent. You’ll all have to sweat it out!”

At that point nobody in Ben’s Brigade doubted he would reach his goal of 8.5 miles again. They weren’t wrong. He crossed the finish line less fifteen minutes later.

The Bataan Memorial Death March honors a special group of World War II heroes responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino Soldiers were forced to surrender to Japanese forces. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Among those seized were large numbers of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard — the reason the memorial march is held in New Mexico.

Often overlooked are the four months of fierce fighting that took place before the American and Filipino forces surrendered. For instance, Skardon earned two Silver Stars and four Bronze stars during that short time span.

This was Skardon’s 10th time walking in the march, which he considers a personal pilgrimage. He says it’s his sacred responsibility to attend every year and walk with the thousands of others who come to honor those who didn’t survive the real Bataan Death March or the years of confinement in prisoner of war camps that followed.

“Coming here is an obligation,” he said. “I ought to do something, and the best way I know, physically, is to walk every time I get a chance in their memory.”

He says nothing he does now, even at 99, can compare to the ultimate sacrifice of his brothers-in-arms who didn’t return from the war.


“The word ‘hero’ does not apply to me at all,” he insists, quoting the Bible verse John 15:13: “‘Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.'”

Monday, March 13, 2017

Senator John Cornyn's tribute to the Lost Battalion


REMEMBERING THE SOLDIERS OF 2ND BATTALION 

131ST FIELD ARTILLERY REGIMENT

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, this week, we remember the brave men of Texas who gave so much to preserve freedom in the Pacific and survived the greatest horrors of World War II. Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment from Camp Bowie, TX, a Texas National Guard unit, were fighting alongside Australian forces on Java, an island in Indonesia, against invading Japanese forces. On March 8, 1942 the Americans and their Australian allies were captured by the Japanese. A report was never filed by the Japanese to identify the captured unit. As a result, the Texas soldiers had disappeared and were dubbed ``the Lost Battalion.''

They were combined with survivors of the USS Houston, CA-30, which had been sunk in the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942, and dispersed to POW labor camps located in Burma, Thailand, and Japan to work as slave laborers. They worked on the Burma-Siam Death Railway, building a railroad through the jungle and into the coal mines, docks, and shipyards in Japan and other Southeast Asian countries. For 42 months, the men of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery and the USS Houston suffered together through humiliation, degradation, physical and mental torture, starvation, and horrible tropical diseases, with no medication.

Five hundred and thirty-two soldiers of the battalion, along with 371 survivors of the USS Houston were taken prisoner. As many as 163 soldiers died in captivity, and of those, 133 are estimated to have died working on the railroad.

In August of 1945, after 42 months of captivity and forced labor, the survivors of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment and the survivors of the USS Houston were returned to the United States. March 8, 2017, marks the 75th year since their capture on the island of Java, and these soldiers deserve to be remembered for their heroic service and sacrifices in the Pacific theater of battle.

From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office
March 8, 2017
115th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 40 — Daily Edition
[Page S1686]

Friday, March 03, 2017

Senator Ted Cruz's tribute to the USS HOUSTON (CA-30)

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SINKING OF THE USS ``HOUSTON''
115th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 37 — Daily Edition

Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Houston (CA-30), the ``flagship'' of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, which fought bravely against the Imperial Japanese Navy Battle Fleet. During an engagement on March 1, 1942, the USS Houston and the Australian cruiser HMAS Perth were sunk at the Battle of Sunda Strait, suffering a combined loss of nearly 1,000 servicemen; the surviving sailors and marines became prisoners of war. After the war, it was revealed that they had been sent to Japan and then transferred to the mainland and used as slave labor for construction of the Thai- Burma Railway. Only 266 men from the Houston's complement of 1,008 and 214 of the Perth's complement of 681 returned home after the war. The news of this horrific loss hit the Lone Star state hard, but with typical Texan gusto and determination, it prompted a mass recruiting drive for volunteers to replace the lost crew. On Memorial Day 1942, a crowd of nearly 200,000 witnessed 1,000 ``Houston Volunteers'' inducted into the Navy. An accompanying bond drive raised over $85 million, enough to pay for a new cruiser and an aircraft carrier, the USS San Jacinto. This historic event speaks to the American spirit and grit as well as our enduring alliance with Australia. 

In honor of this occasion, we remember the brave men of Texas, and all of those from the Greatest Generation, who gave so much to preserve freedom in the Pacific and fight for America. They fought for country and liberty in the face of impossible odds. These sailors, soldiers, and marines represent America's unbeatable determination.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lester Tenney In Memoriam

It is with great sadness that I report that Sgt Lester Tenney née Tennenberg of the Maywood, Illinois 192nd Tank Battalion Company B died on Friday morning, February 24th in Carlsbad, California.

Dr. Tenney survived the tank battles on Bataan in the Philippines when Japan invaded in December 1941, the April 9, 1942 surrender and the tortures of the infamous Bataan Death March, the squalid POW death camps on the Philippines, Camp O’Donnell and Camp Cabanatuan, the Hell ship Clyde Maru to Japan, and Mitsui’s Omuta Miike coalmine (now a UNESCO Industrial World Heritage site without mention of POW slave labor) to receive a PhD from San Diego State University in Business Education in 1967 and to become a professor of accounting and finance at Arizona State University.

click to order
Most important, he was an effective advocate for the American POWs of Japan. In 2009, as the last National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, he persuaded the Japanese government to offer an official, Cabinet approved apology to their wartime POWs and to establish in 2010 a reconciliation trip to Japan for American former POWs and their families.

In 2013, the Embassy of Japan awarded him an Ambassador’s commendation and medal for his “distinguished service in contributing to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the United States of America.” In April 2015, he was again honored by being invited to attend Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s address to a joint meeting of Congress as well as join the Prime Minister’s gala dinner that evening. Later that year, he represented the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society at President Barack Obama’s Veterans Day breakfast. Since 2015, he has written a series of remembrances for the Wall Street Journal on his POW experience.

In July 2015, he participated in ceremony at the Museum of Tolerance  in Los Angles to receive an official apology from Mitsubishi Materials Corporation to all its former POW slave laborers who were assigned to four of their copper and coal mines.

Dr. Tenney witnessed much progress by Japan in its taking responsibility for Imperial Japan’s war crimes. And he persisted in his quest despite the many obstacles created by his own government. His disappointment was never receiving an apology from Mitsui, the company that enslaved him. He not only dug coal in a dangerous, obsolete mine, he also participated in plays that entertained his fellow prisoners as well as Baron Mitsui who enjoyed watching the spectacle at his mine.

Dr. Tenney was 96 and is survived by his wife, Betty (their 57th anniversary would have been Tuesday, February 28th); a son, Glenn Tenney (Susan) of San Mateo; two stepsons, Don Levi (Eileen) of Doylestown, PA, and Ed Levi (Jan) of Mountain View, AK; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

HERE is an obit that appeared Saturday’s in the San Diego Union Tribune and HERE is the one in The New Times. However, both contain a number of inaccuracies.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like information on sending a condolence card to his widow, Betty.

Please donate to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society in his memory.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Library of Congress posts POW of Japan diaries

2 POWs, 2 World War II diaries tell a story of friendship, suffering and death

In a World War II prisoner diary acquired by the Library of Congress, George Washington Pearcy kept lists of the foods he ate and the things he wanted to do when he got back to the U.S. 


By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post,  January 8,  2017

In September 1944, after two years of suffering in POW camps in the Philippines, U.S. Army Lt. George Washington Pearcy was being transferred to one of Japan’s “hell ships,” bound for captivity in the enemy’s home islands.

Before he left, he entrusted his diary to a fellow prisoner who was staying behind. Pearcy had written the diary on the backs of tin-can labels and other scraps of paper, and he wanted to make sure it survived him.

He gave it to Lt. Robert F. Augur, a friend who had lost a leg in the fighting at Corregidor in 1942 and who kept a small journal of his own.

Pearcy, 29, was killed a few weeks later when the prison [Hell ship] ship Arisan Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine. Augur, 34, survived the war, made his way home, and brought his friend’s diary with him.

Now, almost 75 years later, the Library of Congress has acquired both men’s writings and posted them online, along with family correspondence.


Photographs of Army Lt. Robert F. Augur, of Portland, Ore., top and bottom left, and Army Lt. George Washington Pearcy of St. Louis, a set of four at right, at the Library of Congress. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

See Here for Pearcy's WWII diary, papers, that recall POW suffering, death and survival.

The acquisitions tell a grim story of World War II prison life, the anguish of families back home and the determination of two men to preserve for history what they experienced.

Pearcy described fellow POWs, thin as skeletons, eating frogs and snails, and clad in rags, or in nothing at all. He noted the diseases he had — including malaria, chronic diarrhea, and beriberi, the debilitating result of vitamin B1 deficiency.

His life was filled with flies, lice, mosquitoes and death, as he was shuttled among prisoner-of-war camps and prison ships. He made toothpaste out of charcoal and powdered salt. He wore shoes that had no soles. He bathed in the rain and shaved with a knife.

Yet he tried to avoid foul language, read the Bible and made plans for the future.

To pass the time, he kept lists — of people he met, foods he ate, expressions he heard and things he wanted to do when he got home.

“Buy record player and start collection,” he wrote. “Buy complete set of pocket books to read in idle moments and going to and from work . . . Talk to Pop about buying farm . . . Write officers of Bataan Corregidor campaign and ask them to write back experiences — humorous, pathetic, realistic, and must be true.”

When George Washington Pearcy was a POW at a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines, he wrote his diary on the backs of can labels and other discarded paper. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Japan attacked U.S. forces in the Philippines at the same time it attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Most American and Filipino soldiers held out until the bastion of Corregidor fell in spring 1942 and its defenders, including Pearcy and Augur, were captured.

In June 1942, Pearcy recorded that he was in Cabanatuan Prison Camp No. 1, north of Manila, and stayed there until Oct. 25.

The detailed pages of his diary begin in October.

“I have run an intermittent fever for the last four days,” he wrote on the 17th. “And it has been coupled with [diarrhea] . . . My legs both of them are stiffening up again — my feet are swelling in the insteps.”

The next day, a Sunday, he wrote: “It is peculiar to walk right by the church area while the service [is underway] and go either to the urinal or the latrine box and . . . stand or sit and relieve yourself while you listen to the sermon.”

“The principal thing around here is the constant battle for weight,” he wrote. “You get sick for a few days and drop 10-15-20 pounds . . . that you can little afford to lose. It takes a long time to gain weight and only a short time to lose it.”

Pearcy was a diligent letter writer before the war broke out, and the acquisitions include numerous letters to his parents from the Philippines. The son of a prominent St. Louis attorney, he had a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, according to the Library of Congress.

The library’s Veterans History Project received the Pearcy papers in December 2015 from relatives, the project’s senior reference specialist, Megan Harris, said. It was then the library’s only original POW diary from the Pacific theater, she said.

“By itself, it’s an extraordinary artifact,” she said recently.

When the project produced a blog post about the gift last February and mentioned Augur’s role, Augur’s family heard about it, recognized the connection, and offered his papers, too.

Harris immediately accepted, and the papers of both men were posted this fall.

Before his capture, Augur had been decorated for heroism in the fighting that cost him his left leg. In captivity, he jotted down in a small black book the names and home addresses of comrades, and in some cases their fates.

Next to Pearcy’s name, he penciled “J-abt 9/44,” denoting when Pearcy was shipped out for Japan.

Pearcy, for his part, used a pencil and wrote in tiny script on material that included labels of cans that had contained pork and beans, chili con carne or mackerel.

“I have just come back from the [camp] hospital,” he wrote at one point. “It is still a depressing place. The whole area is so contaminated that it smells. And the smell of death is everywhere.”

“There are human skeletons and people you know are going to die,” he wrote. “There are little shower houses. . . . These are the ‘death houses’ or ‘St. Mary’s wards’ where people are put to die.”

Later in October, he was transferred to Bilibid prison, outside Manila, and from there began a harrowing, 11-day journey by ship to the Davao Penal Colony in the southern Philippines.

“All Americans getting filthy,” he wrote during the trip. “B.O. terrific. Can’t wash . . . Perspire . . . Men run around bare footed. Make themselves more prone to infection. Legs puff up. General infections and sores on body get worse.”

Aboard the boat on Halloween 1942, he noted:

“An officer (Lt. Fitzgerald) died in our lower bay today from heat exhaustion and general exhaustion . . . the men sat around and watched him die . . . Japs drop a small platform . . . through hatch and lift body out. All American troops stood at attention and saluted.”

He drew a picture of the ship, the Erie Maru, on the back of a letter he had received from his mother. “We have had no word from you since the war started,” she had written. “We are anxious to have you back and that day cannot come soon enough.”

Upon arrival at the penal colony, Pearcy worried about the delivery of his meager belongings: “I am afraid that some light handed person will get my musette bag which has my diaries in it, which I have spent so much time on.”

Pearcy did not report the kind of Japanese brutality that appears in other POW accounts. He found some guards to be reasonable, although a few were “regular sadists, and seem to get pleasure out of making the men as miserable as possible.”

He guessed the same kind of men could be found in the American army.

He remained at Davao through 1942 and 1943, and into 1944, much of the time hospitalized with malaria, bronchitis and dysentery. He appears to have returned to Bilibid prison in 1944.

In March 1945, after Augur was freed, he sent the diary to Pearcy’s parents, Frances and Claude Pearcy, in St. Louis.

He and Pearcy had been buddies, Augur wrote them. Before Pearcy was to board the ship to Japan, “George left a few of his papers with me and asked that I try to get them out for him.”

Augur warned Pearcy’s parents that, reading the diaries, they would see that “George has had a pretty rough time of it.”

He “was in poor condition at the time and should never have made the trip,” Augur wrote. But the enemy forced him, and many others, to go.

Augur thought Pearcy could make it.

“I do hope and pray that you have either already had word from him . . . or will soon have a message telling of his safe arrival,” Augur wrote.

Neither Augur nor Pearcy’s parents knew it, but Pearcy had been dead for five months.

The American submarine crew did not know that the Japanese vessel being targeted had 1,775 POWs, including Pearcy, on board when they sank the ship Oct. 24, 1944, in the South China Sea. Only a handful of men survived.

The Pearcys would not learn their son’s fate for seven months.

They continued to write to him via the authorities and send photos, hoping something might get through. They sent a snapshot of their house and a photo of his father smoking a pipe.

On May 25, 1945, Frances Pearcy filled out an official postcard to her son:

“We have heard of you from Augur [and others]. All assure us you have what it takes. Keep your chin up. Much love. Mother.”

Four weeks later, the War Department wrote the Pearcys that George had been killed “by submarine action” in the sinking of the ship.

“It is with deep regret that I must notify you of this unhappy culmination of the long period of anxiety and suffering you have experienced,” the Army’s adjutant general wrote.

George Pearcy’s body was never found.

But in October 1945, two months after World War II ended in the Pacific and a year after their son had perished, the Pearcys received a delayed “Imperial Japanese Army” postcard from a Philippine prison camp.

“Love to both of you,” it said. “Birthday greetings to ‘Pop.’ ”

It was signed, “George W. Pearcy.”

Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Bataan

ADBC-MS and Filipino Scouts
WWII Memorial Washington, DC January 7, 2017

Japanese officials now less apologetic about WW II

Says an Editorial appearing January 4, 2017 in THE MANILA TIMES 

OFFICIALS of Japan have until last Thursday Dec. 29 taken every effort to show remorse for their forebears having started and pursued World War II.

Japan’s officials to show their remorse—and to signal to the world that their country, as the constitution commands, will never ever again go to war— avoid publicizing their visits to the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni.

More casually known as the Yasukuni Shrine it is a Shinto shrine in Chiyoda, Tokyo. It was founded by the Meiji Emperor to honor those who died in service of the Empire of Japan. This existed from the Meiji Restoration of 1869 until the Japanese Empire disappeared with its defeat in World War II and Japan’s occupation by Allied Forces. Subsequently, the shrine’s reason for existence has been expanded to commemorate also those who died in Japan’s service during wars during the Meiji, Taisho and part of the Showa period.

The shrine honors 2,466,532 people and animals—with their names, birthplaces and dates of birth and death recorded, including 1,068 war criminals (some of whom served in or commanded forces in the Philippines).

To millions of Japanese, the dead in Yasukuni are heroes. And to prevent disdain among peoples of countries that Japanese forces invaded, occupied and committed atrocities in, Japanese officials have tried to keep their visits to Yasukuni unpublicized.

This sensitivity was probably terminated last Thursday Dec. 29 by female Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

Japan Times’
Reiji Yoshida reported it, as follows, in the Times article with the head “Defense chief Inada disrupts Abe’s historic moment by visiting Yasukuni.” Here are excerpts from the article:

A day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated during his historic visit to Pearl Harbor that Japan would never again wage war, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada raised eyebrows by paying a visit to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday (Dec 29).

The move immediately drew protests from China and South Korea, former victims of Japan who regard the Shinto site as a symbol of Japan’s fervent militarism from the 1930s and 1940s. The shrine honors Class-A war criminals along with Japan’s war dead.

The visit is controversial because Inada, once a frequent visitor to Yasukuni, is widely regarded as a historical revisionist and an ardent defender of the wars Japan has waged. It was her first visit to the politically sensitive shrine since she became defense minister on Aug. 3.

In an apparent effort to avoid controversy, Inada skipped her regular visit on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, and flew to Djibouti instead to inspect the Self-Defense Forces contingent stationed there.

Facing reporters at Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, Inada said her visit was intended to pay tribute to “those who dedicated their lives to their country” in war.

“This year the president of the country which dropped an atomic bomb visited Hiroshima, and yesterday Prime Minister Abe visited Pearl Harbor and offered words to pay condolences” to the war dead, Inada said, referring to Obama’s May visit to Hiroshima.

“I paid a visit (to Yasukuni) with my determination to build up peace for Japan and the world with a future-oriented perspective,” Inada said in a video clip aired on NHK.

“Whatever historical view one may have, whether they are an enemy or ally, I believe people in any country would understand the act of paying tribute and expressing appreciation for those who dedicated their lives to their country,” she added.

According to Kyodo News, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry immediately released a statement criticizing Inada and calling her visit “deplorable.” Chinese media outlets were also critical.

Yasukuni honors the souls of 2.46 million people, mainly Japanese soldiers. Among them are 12 convicted Class-A war criminals from World War II, including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, and another two suspects who died in detention.

Many supporters of the shrine are right-leaning nationalists who defend Japan’s offensives against China and the West. Inada is considered among them, although she has pledged in public to uphold the government’s official apology statements on World War II as defense chief.

In December 2013, Abe made a visit to Yasukuni Shrine that drew protests from China, South Korea and even the United States. He has since refrained from visiting in public.

Abe, Inada and other lawmakers who have visited the shrine have all emphasized that they did so to commemorate those who were killed, not to justify the acts of war criminals.

Still, visits by Cabinet ministers have created controversies throughout the postwar era.

Before becoming defense chief, Inada was policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and often visited the shrine.

(These excerpts are copyrighted by the Japan Times (Tokyo) and distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Unearthing Rare Second World War Musical

The New Yorker reported in its January 9th issue, that director Tom Ridgely, of the theatre troupe Waterwell, will mount “Blueprint Specials” Jan. 6-11, on the hangar deck of the Intrepid.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum | Pier 86, Twelfth Ave. at 46th St. | 212-245-0072

A few years before writing “Guys and Dolls,” which premièred in 1950, Frank Loesser put his sizable talents to work for Uncle Sam, when the U.S. Army hired him to collaborate on a series of musicals to be performed by and for the troops. Commissioned by the Special Services Division to boost morale, these “Blueprint Specials” came with a script, a score, and instructions for easy assemblage. (“The gags and situations are of the type to hit the GI funnybone. . . . The scenery can be knocked together in a jiffy from scrap materials found in even the loneliest outpost.”) Loesser, who had been writing lyrics for Hollywood before the war, cut his teeth crafting songs for camp shows like “About Face” and “Hi, Yank!”; a 1951 Billboard profile proclaimed that “the army made a composer—a one-man songwriter—out of Frank Loesser.”

Many of the scripts were lost to time, but the director Tom Ridgely, of the theatre troupe Waterwell, has unearthed four of them—all composed principally by Loesser between 1944 and 1945—and will mount them Jan. 6-11, on the hangar deck of the Intrepid. Ridgely spent months hunting down the scripts from various libraries and combining them into a full-length compilation. Much of the story will come from “P.F.C. Mary Brown,” written in 1944 for the newly formed Women’s Army Corps, in which the goddess Athena descends from Mt. Olympus to enlist as a private. The Broadway actors Laura Osnes and Will Swenson will lead a cast of thirty-four, consisting of both civilians and military performers, whom Ridgely found through veterans’ groups by way of Army Entertainment, the modern-day equivalent of Special Services. They’ll be joined by a fourteen-piece jazz orchestra and eleven dancers from the Limón Dance Company, who have reconstructed original Blueprint ballets by the choreographer José Limón.

This will be the first staging of these musicals since 1945—and the first ever for the American public.

Words cannot see - Abe's Pearl Harbor

Anemone 
Kazuhiko Kuwata 
Views Of War Museum Directors Split Over Abe's Pearl Harbor Visit

Tokyo, Dec. 29 (Jiji Press)--The directors of three museums focusing on war history in Japan expressed different views on Wednesday about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday.

Kazushige Todaka, the 68-year-old director of the Kure Maritime Museum, better known as Yamato Museum, in the western prefecture of Hiroshima, described Abe's visit as "very good." "It was meaningful that the leaders of Japan and the United States together mourned for the victims" of the 1941 Japanese attack on the Hawaiian harbor, Todaka said.

He supported the absence of an apology for the attack in Abe's speech delivered in Pearl Harbor, saying that "people can't blame one side or the other for a war that requires reflection, not apology." Abe's Pearl Harbor visit was "remarkable in terms of history," Todaka said.

Katsumoto Saotome, the 84-year-old director of the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage, in Japan's capital, expressed concerns over the emphasis on the Japan-U.S. alliance in Abe's speech, terming it "a military alliance." The words "tolerance" and "reconciliation," both used in Abe's speech, sounded "hollow," Saotome said, referring to the Japanese government's resumption on Tuesday of work to build a new military facility in Okinawa Prefecture to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station there.

"I think apologies to people in China and the Korean Peninsula, which Japan invaded and colonized, should be made first," added Saotome, who also works as a novelist.

"I felt (Abe's visit) was like a ceremony, themed 'reconciliation without apology,' jointly organized by Japan and the United States," said Seiichiro Kuboshima, the 75-year-old director of a gallery that collects artworks by students who died in war, in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, central Japan[Mugonkan or Silent Museum]

"The fundamental contradiction of avoiding an apology led to words with no power," Kuboshima said, referring to Abe's Pearl Harbor speech.

"Japan could join a war for the United States," he warned. Abe "lacked a humble attitude" after Japan made the mistake of supporting World War II in the past, he added.