Saturday, August 01, 2020

Remembering a POW legend, Ed Jackfert

Ed Jackert with Senator Barbara Boxer
With sadness, I report that on July 24th, Sgt Edward Jackfert, 98, of Wellsburg, West Virginia and Tampa, Florida passed away. 


His funeral was Saturday, August 1, 2020. The West Virginia (WV) Patriot Guard Riders escorted the WWII hero from the Chambers Funeral Home to a public graveside service at Franklin Cemetery, Wellsburg, WV, held with Military Honors by the WV Army National Guard. Ed was with the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Philippines where he was surrendered to become a POW of Japan for more than three years. He was liberated in Japan 75 years ago this August. You can leave a note, send flowers or plant a tree HERE.


Ed graduated in 1939 from Wellsburg High School and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on September 11, 1940. He was sent to aircraft engineers’ school, and then to the Philippine Islands, arriving in June 1941. He was assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron which later became a part of the 19th Bombardment Group.  The unit was based at Clark Field as the bomber command of the Far East Air Force.


Ed was a mechanic at Clark Field when Imperial Japanese Navy planes attacked on December 8, 1941. The airfield was destroyed in less than an hour. Clark Field as a tactical base was virtually destroyed. The casualties were very high, about 100 wounded and 55 dead. Survivors were evacuated on December 24th to the Bataan Peninsula and Mindanao island.


Ed fought as part of a provisional infantry formed on Mindanao. First, he was assigned to guard Carmen Ferry near Davao and the newly constructed Del Monte Air Field. In mid-April 1942, he was sent to the new Maramag Field in central Mindanao to help put up a last-ditch offense, known as the Royce Mission. Mindanao was surrendered to the Japanese on May 10th. (Mother’s Day 1942. The POWs captured on Mindanao were consolidated at Camp Casisang, about five kilometers southwest of Malaybalay, Mindanao. They were miles away from Bataan and the infamous Bataan Death March.


On October 3, 1942, he and 268 POWs at Camp Casisang were transported by the hellship Tamohoko Maru from Bugu, Mindanao to Manila.  They were loaded aboard the hellship Tottori Maru for a month-long trip via Formosa (Taiwan) and Chosen (Korea) to Japan arriving November 11, 1942.


In October 1942, he was transported to Japan aboard the hellship Tottori Mari arriving November 11, 1942. He was primarily a slave laborer at Tokyo-2B-Kawasaki POW Camp (Mitsui Wharf Co., Ltd. known as “Mitsui Madhouse” for its brutal and chaotic conditions as well the language problems created by the many nationalities at the camp). There he was used as stevedore and day laborer for the Mitsui Senpaku KK [today’s Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd], Mitsubishi’s NYK Line (name unchanged today), Nisshin Flour (today’s Nisshin Seifu Group), Kawasaki Railroad Electric Power Plant, KYK Brick Factory (Kojima or Kawasaki Yogyo Co., Ltd., today’s Shinagawa Refactory), and Nippon Steel (name unchanged today). He was also traded around the Kawasaki, Kanagawa area spending time as a slave laborer for Nisshin Flour Milling (Tokyo 24-D)Showa Denko Chemical (Tokyo-16-B- Niigata [Kanosetoday’s Showa Denko K.K.where he mixed chemicals for ammunitionand Japan Steel Pipe [Japan Kokantoday’s JFE Holdings] (Tokyo 5D Kawasaki). Starting in January 1945, the camps came under constant air attack from American bombing raids. On July 25, 1945, Tokyo-2B was destroyed and 22 POWs were killed.


The camp was liberated on August 30, 1945. Among the 139 POWs in the camp, there were 59 Americans, 25 British, 6 Australians, 44 Italians and 5 Norwegians. He was evacuated to the hospital ship USS Benevolence (AH-13) for processing and then eventually on to a plane to Manila. There, on September 18, they boarded a troop transport and arrived in Los Angeles [possibly] on October 3.


Ed returned home to West Virginia to heal and reconstitute his life. He went to Bethany College and received a degree in economics. From there he joined the Internal Revenue Service as a Criminal Investigator and worked primarily in the field of organized crime and corruption of public officials. He retired from the government in February 1977.


Ed was a valiant and tireless advocate for the American POWs of Japan. He was one of five POWs who testified in person on June 28, 2000 to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on how the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan abrogated the right of former POWs of Japan to sue Japanese companies for compensation for their forced labor or on how the POWs were mistreated by their Japanese capturers in violation of the Geneva Convention.


In September 2010, he participated in the first delegation of American POWs on a “friendship” trip to Japan. There he met with Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada who offered an official apology to the POWs of Japan. This apology appeared as a Cabinet Decision in February 2009 making it one of only four official Japanese government apologies.


He was twice elected National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC, today the ADBC Memorial Society), in 1984 and 1999. His passion has been to ensure the legacy of the POWs by creating the ADBC Museum, Education & Research Center in Wellsburg, WV to preserve the history of the defense of the Philippines and to teach the lessons of war. 

The Museum received in 2015 the only atonement payment from a Japanese company, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, for the company’s wartime abuse of POW slave laborers in its mines. You have to dig deep into the company's 2016 social responsibility report on page 70 to find mention of the apology on the Mitsubishi Materials website. There is one sentence. It mentions an "apology made to former US prisoners who were forced to work." In other words, the apology is not "offered" as reconciliation experts suggest; non-US POWs are not included (British, Australian, South African, Irish); and the rightwing euphemism "forced to work" is used. 

Ed wrote a memoir of his time as a POW called, Service to my Country



Requiescat in pace

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Things Japanese in DC

Japan in DC
Click to purchase book

JAPAN IN DC is a 128-page full color, high-quality paperback, based on the writing, photography, and creative expressions of Washington, DC students who spent their summer 2017 investigating the presence of Japan in their own hometown. The adventure was coordinated by Globilize DC. It is a quirky, curious albeit heart-felt addition to Washington's travel literature. The students encounter not just the obvious, but discover Japan's complex involvement in the nation's capital.

They visit memorials, museums, theaters, gardens, nonprofits, exchange programs, Japanese markets, Japanese restaurants, veterans groups, foundations, think tanks, companies, and the Embassy of Japan. There are a surprising number of WW II-focused sites visited and described.

One stop they make is to the Navy Yard where in 1860 the first Japanese delegation to the U.S. arrived to visit Washington. At the Yard's National Museum of the U.S. Navy the students marvel at the WWII guns. Yet, missed was the 14 foot model of the USS Houston (CA-30). The sinking of this heavy cruiser in the Sunda Strait off Java on March 1, 1942 marked the end of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. Only 368 of the total complement of 1011 men of the Houston managed survive the sinking and machine gun attacks.The survivors became POWs of Japan and most were sent to the Thai-Burma Death Railway as slave laborers. Of this group, 79 died of maltreatment and starvation.

USS Houston (CA-30)

JAPAN IN DC is destined to be a significant artifact of Abe Administration public diplomacy. Tourists and historians are encouraged to purchase a copy. A bargain at only $16, your purchase is also a good deed. All proceeds from the sale of the book support Globalize DC's Japanese language and culture programs. which are offered at no cost to DC public high school students.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

April 9 1942 - Never Forget

Today, is the 78th Anniversary of the fall of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. Within hours of Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Japan's planes descended upon the Philippines knocking out the critical airfields and naval facilities. By mid-December, American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and whoever signed up, retreated to the Bataan Peninsula or to the fortress island of Corregidor in Manila Bay.

While Singapore, Hong Kong, and Batavia were occupied, the Asiatic Fleet was destroyed, and the Far East Air Force was annihilated, the Am-Fil forces on the Philippines fought on against the Japanese invaders. In February 1942, Japanese subs and aircraft bombed Darwin, Australia and Santa Barbara, California. By March, Am-Fil forces found their supplies and ammunition nearly gone. But they fought on.

After 99 days in battle, with no hope of reinforcement, out of food, medicine, and ammo, Major General Edward P. King Jr. surrendered his troops on Bataan—against General Douglas MacArthur’s orders and on the anniversary of the Gen Robert E Lee's surrender at Appomattox (1865). Thus, approximately 78,000 troops (66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans), the largest contingent of U.S. soldiers ever to surrender, are taken captive by the Japanese.

The men and women on Corregidor and the other fortress island in Manila Bay fought on for another month. Those soldiers and sailors in the outlying provinces hung on a bit longer. By mid-May, all of the Philippines had been surrendered. Although, none of these men in arms were on the Death March, they suffered and died the same in the POW camps on the Philippines and in the hellships to Japan.

The prisoners surrendered on Bataan on April 9th were at once led 65 miles from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan peninsula, up to San Fernando and then another 20 by miles by packed standing in steaming train cars and by foot to Camp O'Donnell on what became known as the “Bataan Death March.” Estimates vary, with 300-600 Americans and 2,000-5,000 Filipinos dying on the infamous March because of the extreme brutality of their captors, who starved, beat, and kicked them along the way; those who became too weak to walk were bayoneted, beheaded, or shot. 

At Camp O'Donnell, the survivors had little water, food or medicine. There the death rate far exceeded the toll from the March. By June, nearly a third of the POWs had died.

After the war, the International Military Tribunal, established by MacArthur, tried Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu, commander of the Japanese invasion forces in the Philippines. He was held responsible for the death march, a war crime, and was executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946.

Efforts were made after the war, to retrieve as many bodies as possible left along this infamous trail. The ghosts of many remain.


Sunday, March 08, 2020

POWs of Japan testify to Congress

click for testimony
Every year, for at the last 10 years the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society has submitted testimony for the record at one of the annual joint House and Senate Veterans Committees hearings for Veterans Service Organization.

On Tuesday, March 3, ADBC-MS testimony was part of the Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (AXPOW, PVA, SVA, GSW, MOAA, FRA, IAVA)..

Jan Thompson, President of the ADBC-MS called on Congress to do the following in this 75th Anniversary of Liberation:
  1. Award, collectively the American POWs of Japan the Congressional Gold Medal.
  2. Instruct the U.S. Department of State to prepare a report for Congress on the history and funding of the “Japan/POW Friendship Program” began in 2010 and how it compares with programs for Allied POWs and Takahashi groups.
  3. Encourage the Government of Japan to continue the “Japan/POW Friendship Program.”
  4. Encourage the Government of Japan to expand its “Japan/POW Friendship Program” into a permanent educational initiative.
  5. Request the Government of Japan to include the history of POW slave labor in the information provided about the sites of Japan’s “Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” on the UNESCO World Industrial Heritage list.
  6. Work with the Government of Japan to create a memorial at the Port of Moji on Kyushu where most of the POW hellships docked and unloaded their sick and dying human cargo.
Included in the testimony is a Timeline of events during 1945, the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019




Monday, December 16, 2019 

Mr. COX of California. Madam Speaker, today, I ask my colleagues to pause in memory of 139 soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors who perished 75 years ago this month. On December 14, 1944, in the midst of World War II, on the Philippines island of Palawan they were massacred as prisoners of war (POWs). They had just completed building a Japanese airfield that is used today as the Antonio Bautista Air Base, an important anchor of the U.S.-Philippines alliance. 

One of the men murdered, Water Tender 2C Carl Ellis Barnes, hailed from the Central Valley in California. He had arrived in the Philippines from China aboard the Yangtze River gunboat USS Ohau (PR-6) days before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. During the next five months of combat, the warship operated in and around Manila Bay on inshore patrol. Barnes became a POW on May 6, 1942 when the island fortress of Corregidor was surrendered. 

In August 1942, he was taken to Palawan Island on the Sulu Sea with over 300 POWs, most of whom had survived the infamous Bataan Death March. The POWs were tasked with building an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. They endured arduous manual labor while being starved, denied medical care, and routinely and capriciously beaten. By December 1944, only 150 POWs were still held on the island and American forces were beginning to liberate the Philippines. 

At noon on December 14, 1944, the POWs were sent to their recently constructed air raid trenches. Quickly, the Japanese troops doused them with buckets of airplane fuel and set them afire with flaming torches, followed by hand grenades and machine gun fire. Miraculously, 11 men escaped to the sea and were rescued by Filipino guerrillas. 

Thus, today we remember these brave souls who labored and perished so far from home. The airfield they built is one of the sites of our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines that helps bind our historic alliance with the Philippines. WT2c Barnes is buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri with most of his fellow POWs from the Palawan Massacre. Never Forgotten.

Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 203 [Page E1595]


Thursday, December 12, 2019

75th Anniversary of the Palawan Massacre and Oryoku Maru Sinking

This coming Saturday marks the 75th Anniversaries of the Palawan Massacre and the sinking of the hellship Oryoku Maru off Subic Bay.

At noon on December 14, 1944, 150 POWs on Palawan Island in the Philippines were herded into their recently constructed air raid trenches. Most had been on the island since the summer of 1942 to build by hand an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. Quickly, the Japanese troops doused them with buckets of airplane fuel and set them afire with flaming torches, followed by hand grenades and machine gun fire. Miraculously, eleven men escaped to the sea and were rescued by Filipino guerrillas.

The airfield that the POWs built is used today as the Antonio Bautista Air Base, an important anchor of the U.S.-Philippines alliance. In a letter to Assistant Secretary of State David R. Stillwell, I suggested that the U.S. use this anniversary to memorialize the POWs with our Filipino allies to highlight our deep and historic military ties. I have not heard back.

On the same day, 600 miles north of Palawan, off Subic Bay, US Navy aircraft from the USS Hornet attacked the hellship Oryoku Maru. The day before, December 13, 1944, the ship had left Manila with 1,619 POWs in its cargo holds. Two hundred POWs died in the attack. Survivors swam ashore dodging bullets and sharks to endure a week on an abandoned tennis court in the tropical sun with limited food and water. The ordeal of the surviving POWs continued through a hellship voyage on the Enoura Maru and Brazil Maru from Luzon to Takao Harbor, Formosa (Taiwan). The Enoura Maru upon arriving at Takao on January 9, 1945 was sunk by aircraft again from the USS Hornet

Survivors were eventually consolidated on the Brazil Maru for the voyage from Takao to Moji, Japan. About 600 POWs reached Japan, but many of those died soon after arrival. Most of the remaining POWs were shipped to China via Korea and liberated at Mukden. One of the men who died en route to Korea in April 1945 was the father of the Smothers Brothers, US Army Major Thomas Bolyn Smothers, Jr He was a West Point Graduate and a member of the 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts. In the end, barely 400 POW made it liberation.

Thus, today we remember these brave souls who suffered and perished so far from home. The airfield they built is one of the sites of our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines that helps bind our historic alliance with the Philippines. Most of the POWs murdered at Palawan are buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri. In Hawaii, there is a memorial stone to the Enoura Maru dead at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and a memorial to all who endured the hellships stands at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Never Forgotten

Put a virtual flower at the graves of some of the men massacred on Palawan HERE.

Put a virtual flower at the graves of some of the men who died during the Orokyu Maru's multiple ship voyage to Japan HERE.