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Former American POWs visit Japan, recount memories

27 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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27 Comments
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According to Japan, these former POW's are liars. According to Japan, they were treated well and humanely by their Japanese captors.

I just hope we don’t have any more wars.

Japan is heading for war.

6 ( +17 / -12 )

Sorry guys, but you are being used. Largely your story will be ignored but where you are heard it will be for statements like, "all soldiers had to follow orders" so our captors were just doing what they believed like in any country and "no more war" which resonates with the ideology of Japan. Your forgiveness, your fonder memories and your willingness to praise Japan's superficial development will be given more attention.

12 ( +18 / -7 )

They say that of the total, about 35,800, or nearly one-third, died in captivity - dying at a rate several times higher than prisoners held by Germany and Italy.

Forces War Records of the UK notes that, "according to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians." (Other sources list a 33% death rate of American POWs in Japan, 3% in Germany.)

Two of the most well-known POW camps in the Tokyo/Yokohama area were the Omori POW camp (nearby Shinagawa station, the camp was in the movie Unbroken) and the Ofuna POW camp in the Yokohama area (infamous for its interrogations of officers and pilots).

There is little to commemorate those sites other than a Buddhist statue (Goddess of Mercy) and a Japanese inscription at the Omori site (nothing that I know of at the Omori site). I hope someday a proper museum with foreign language information is built on at least one of those sites.

Ofuna POW camp: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%8Cfuna_%28Prisoner_of_War_Camp%29

Famous photo of the rescue of Omori POW camp prisoners: http://worldwar2database.com/gallery/wwii1261

16 ( +16 / -1 )

I realize that most of the people who were in and who ran the POW camps are dead now, but that is no reason for history to forget how terrible these camps were and how inhumanly the guards treated our soldiers. If these men needed to forgive to have closure, so be it. But someone has to speak for all of our POWs who died like animals there.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

His (George Rogers) hope to revisit the [Yawata] steel plant wasn’t accommodated. The Yawata plant was chosen as a World Heritage site.

It is inexcusable that Japan's foreign affairs ministry refuses to accommodate this 96-year-old man's request. The opportunity for him to find some closure through a visit to the plant is now or never.

I imagine the request was denied largely because the Yawata plant's World Heritage status does not cover the war years when foreign slave labor was used, and the bureaucrats don't want to sully the site's role as a source of pride for Japan by allowing/publicizing the the former POW's visit.

Anyway, the U.S. military is obviously taking part in this tour by former POWs, I hope they enable George Rogers to visit the plant.

14 ( +14 / -2 )

So...when is Anglina,s "Unbroken " going to make it to the cinemas here in Japan finally then? Its not like Abe , Suga and the black truck backed LDP gang would put any pressure on the potential movie distributors or anything is it? I mean since they go around pressuring UNESCO for their recognition of Naking documents and such right?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Sensato Who knows why Roger's request wasn't accommodated, but given the name of the owners on the current steel mill I can see why they wouldn't want attention brought to them. And if the current owners don't want their names associated with Yawata, that makes me wonder why they don't.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Well, at least the Japanese took some prisoners. The US killed surrendering Japanese until military intelligence offered ice cream as a reward for soldiers turning in Japanese prisoners for interrogation.

Search for Japanese POWs and see how little information you'll find. There just weren't any until 1945.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japan's superficial development

You're kidding right

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

I'm glad for these men at least, their war is finally over

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I imagine the request was denied largely because the Yawata plant's World Heritage status does not cover the war years when foreign slave labor was used, and the bureaucrats don't want to sully the site's role as a source of pride for Japan by allowing/publicizing the the former POW's visit.

One of the conditions for Japan in getting UNESCO heritage status was that Japan was supposed to raise a memorial for the victims of forced labor, which would let the world know the complete history of those places, not the just promote the history that Japan wants promoted. But it looks like Japan is going back on their promises.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Gruenberg said he was simply impressed by Japan’s postwar development and hoped it remains a peace-loving nation.

“Everything is just amazing, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I can’t say it (my feelings) has changed much, I just hope we don’t have any more wars.”

Amen.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Unfortunately, the places they visit are not very common among japanese, or if they are common, not because of the sins and immorals of the captors or to raise the voice of the victims, but because of the glory of the war.

There is a one way channel of "understand us" but sorry we will not or we will never understand you.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@ Sensato

I imagine the request was denied largely because the Yawata plant's World Heritage status does not cover the war years when foreign slave labor was used, and the bureaucrats don't want to sully the site's role as a source of pride for Japan by allowing/publicizing the the former POW's visit.

I have been actively involved with this program (not for US veterans) and your assumption is incorrect. There are many reasons why some veterans cannot visit such places, such as time constraints, mobility issues, healthy and safety issues, just to name a few.

Those on the Japan side who assist with this program do not white-wash anything and acknowledge what these men experienced, including the Government officials (despite ridiculous comments from time to time by a few politicians denying such history).

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@beams

I appreciate your thoughtful comment and particularly the work you have been doing for Japan's industrial heritage programs. And I also agree that if Mr. Rogers were to visit the Yawata site he would be treated well by those assisting with the program at the working level, and that they would properly acknowledge the hardships he experienced.

However, I have looked at several industrial heritage websites, and the chronologies conveniently end at around 1910, just before these operations started bringing in slave labor. The content conveys the glorious past of the sites, with none of the warts.

Those at the top overseeing these projects, and Japan's foreign ministry, obviously have an interest in sweeping the slavery aspect of these sites under the rug (they may condone dialogue at the personal level, but keep the dirty laundry from being aired in public). Plus, I have been involved in making arrangements for foreign VIPs before and have seen how these decisions (and lame excuses) are made — and I know that if the foreign ministry organizers had the inclination they could and would arrange a visit for Mr. Rogers, despite any "time constraints, mobility issues, health and safety issues."

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wish the surviving US former POW's good health.

But one should remember that the US policy in the Pacific islands during the war was not to take Japanese prisoners. The Americans usually gunned down surrendered Japanese soldiers instead of taking them prisoners. Wartime Journal of Lindberg tells us detailed stories.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I hope the can meet up with former IAJ soldiers that have survived and have good talks, perhaps mending any bad feelings they might still have. I am curious what they all would think of Abe's recent changes and policies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Didvthey pay their own trip here? It must have been expensive and and emotional trip. I hope they find closing. Must be hard to live with all that grudge.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

beams: "I have been actively involved with this program (not for US veterans) and your assumption is incorrect. There are many reasons why some veterans cannot visit such places, such as time constraints, mobility issues, healthy and safety issues, just to name a few."

I'm sure that's the case for MANY sites, but you're telling me that a site with World Heritage status does NOT let people go there to visit? I very much doubt that is the case. There is no way they could not have accomodated the man's request unless it was to hide the fact of what the place once was and not wanting to sully the World Heritage status.

Meanwhile the government still denies the harsh realities these men faced, from the Baatan Death March (where some female reporter took a hike part of the way with a camera crew, bottled water, and other luxuries and said, "Heck, this is a piece of cake! What are they complaining about?"), etc.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

@Sensato

Forces War Records of the UK notes that, "according to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians.

Surely context and truth are more important than this piffle.

Why would "Western" POWs be specified as a category, especially as the death rate is unrepresentative of German treatment of their other prisoners? Soviet POWs vastly outnumber any other category, and their death rate was astronomical. So why are you selecting the most favourable case and saying, this is how the Germans treated their prisoners?

A second point: the Germans singled out Jews among their POWs (including their Western POWs) for different treatment, including slave labour and extermination.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_IX-B

Are we supposed to overlook that fact, and on what grounds?

The only two reasons I can think of are 1) because they're just Jews or 2) because we must make allowances for the fact that the Germans had a bit of a thing about Jews.

Either of these reasons would be a hard sell, don't you agree?

There's a report from the Associated Press here on the liberation of Stalag IX-B (you have to scroll down a bit)

http://www.indianamilitary.org/German%20PW%20Camps/Prisoner%20of%20War/PW%20Camps/Stalag%20IX-B%20Bad%20Orb/History.htm

that describes the several thousand American POWs, most of whom had been taken prisoner in the Ardennes less than five months earlier, as "skin and bones". Does that suggest at all to you that they were having relatively good treatment?

On top of treating their POWs very badly, the Germans also maintained concentration camps where they sent civilians to slave, starve, and die, and were excessively brutal in almost every country they occupied, especially where they met any form of resistance.

The Germans were excellent at taking prisoners (for those who made it even that far), but millions of people in German captivity died.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You can be sure these men were handpicked. However we must respect the closure these victims of Japan have chosen, thetpre are other such victims who have neither to forget nor forgive.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Very happy to see so many japanese representatives, like the mayor of Yokohama and other ppl from the japanese ruling party on this picture..... Oh I was just dreaming and thought after 70 years Japan finally acknowledged their own history, but who am I kidding??!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Meiyouwenti --- There was an effort to take Japanese prisoners at first But their unfortunate habit of suicide outright, or waiting to take at least one American with them, tended to discourage the practice. Then too, finding American & other Allied soldiers tortured to death was a poor way to encourage the taking of Japanese prisoners. Now from time to time, Japanese soldiers did surrender, a few at first, but more towards the end. They were treated properly for the most part, though I imagine that, as in "Letters from Iwo Jima," attempts to give up were met with a bullet but I refer you to the above Japanese practice of false surrender. It was a hard & bitter war but Japan made it far harder than it had to be.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

These POWs were treated harshly and starved! Yet, here they are in their nineties revisiting their former enemies The huma spirit is really remarkably resilient......

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan does its usual war PR crap. While all the Hiroshima Nagasaki survivors can tell their stories to school kids when will the POW stories, be taught to the Japanese kids? When will they learn about the comfort women And other atrocities? Will any of these victims be brought to Japan to tell their stories or is it the JP gov picking and choosing who can come and tell a story of forgiveness, and making sure the reporters are there. Too much to face, me thinks,

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@beams

Well done. Keep up the good effort for the truth .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

While all the Hiroshima Nagasaki survivors can tell their stories to school kids when will the POW stories, be taught to the Japanese kids?

You can look and search until your face turns blue, but I guarantee you, you won't find anything about the Japanese abuses done to the POW's anywhere in the Japanese media, let alone their school system.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

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