Monday, November 08, 2021

Remembering Dan Crowley - November 12, 2021


Nichols Field, Bataan, Corregidor, Palawan, Japan
Nippon Mining and Furukawa Mining copper mines

NOVEMBER 12, 2021, 2:00 PM followed by a reception
Simsbury, Connecticut (outside Hartford)

Service: Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, 22 Iron Horse Blvd, Simsbury, CT 06070. 

Reception: Maple Tree Cafe, 781 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, CT 06070
All welcome! Hope to see you there.  Have an IP on Dan.

All are invited Friday, November 12th at 2:00PM in Simsbury, Connecticut for the Celebration of Life for WWII vet and former POW of Japan Sgt. Daniel Crowley. The program will feature U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Pentagon, and White House officials as well as a color guard from the USS Bataan (LHD-5).

A lifelong Connecticut resident, Dan fought as an airman, infantryman, and Marine in the historic 1941-42 battle for Bataan and siege of Corregidor. He was a POW of Japan for over three years where he was forced to construct by hand with 300 other POWs the airfield on Palawan Island for the Imperial Japanese Army that is today the Antonio Bautista Air Base, which is instrumental in the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

This airfield was the site of the infamous Palawan massacre. Dan had been shipped to Japan in 1944 to work in copper mines owned by companies known today as JX Nippon Mining & Metals and Furukawa Company before his fellow POWs on the island were set afire and murdered. In 2003, he helped fund and dedicate a new new marker on the mass grave of 123 men massacred on Palawan who he had worked alongside building the airfield. Their remains were returned to the United States after the war and buried in a common grave at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.


The program will be livestreamed HERE.

A video of the event will be found HERE.

Learn more about Dan's extraordinary life HERE.

Tax-deductible Donations to the ADBC-MS HERE.

Honoring the Unknown Soldier


For the first time in nearly 100 years, and as part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration, the public will be able to walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza and lay flowers in front of the Tomb on Nov. 9 and 10, 2021, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

On Veterans Day the public is invited to observe a joint full honors procession, meant to replicate elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession followed by a flyover with aircraft from all the armed services branches.

Event Participation: What to Know.       Army Commemoration Website.

Registration is required at

Of the more than 72,000 American service men and women are still missing from World War II, 65 percent or more than 47,000 are missing in the Indo-Pacific. Most are presumed lost at sea, many dying as POWs in Japanese hellships.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

POW History Convention

11th annual American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society Virtual Convention 

THIS WEEKEND: October 23 and 24, 2021. VIRTUAL 
The convention is free, but only open to members. Membership is a mere $40! JOIN HERE.

If you are interested in the history of the war in the Pacific or POW history this is a must join organization.

Schedule Here

Click the links to order the books.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Telling Time

Took a licking and kept on ticking

‘Emotional moment’ to get watch for longtime WT supporters

by JON MARK BEILUE, West Texas A&M University

September 1, 2021

Photo: Bitsy Downing, longtime business manager and director of finance at WT, and son Stu hold the watch this summer of  late husband and father Scott Downing, who had it taken from him by the Japanese after he was captured in 1945.

The small package arrived on June 1, taking three months and 6,154 miles by way of ship and through customs from outside of Tokyo to the mailbox on Fulton Drive in Amarillo.

Stu Downing and his mother Bitsy knew what was inside. That only made carefully opening the package that much more poignant.

“It was an emotional moment for me,” Bitsy said, “because I kept thinking about Scott’s emotions at the time of his capture when he was tied to a tree near a village. I just imagined his emotions when he had to give up his possessions – his belt, his ring, and of course, his watch.”

His watch.

First Lt. Scott Downing of Canyon was a bombardier among a crew of 11 on a B-29 on what was his 20th – and as it turned out, final – combat mission on May 25, 1945. Only 2 ½ months remained of World War II, but they had no way of knowing that. They, like most, suspected a long protracted war with Japan.

They left the Tinian Islands on a six-hour flight to the heart of Tokyo. The objective was to bomb an industrial complex four miles southeast of the Imperial Palace. Dangerous? Was there a combat mission that wasn’t?

A Japanese Zero attacked the B-29 near Tokyo. The right engine caught fire. The crew bailed out 9,500 feet over Japan. Three could not get out of the plane and died. Downing was able to parachute down in a rice field 15 miles southeast of Tokyo.

His ordeal was just beginning. With 15 minutes, villagers ran toward him, carrying hoes, pitchforks, any crude implement they could get their hands on. Downing was tied to a tree until two Japanese soldiers arrived, one with a bayonet on the end of a rifle.

In his book A Ball of Rice and a Cup of Water, Downing said he was prepared to die, and die like a proud American. Instead, he was stripped of all personal possessions, blindfolded and marched to building with a dirt floor.

This was the beginning of three months as a prisoner of war. Nineteen soldiers were initially crammed into an 8-by-12-foot horse stall. There were beatings if Japanese soldiers saw POWs talking to each other and beatings anyway. Downing was beaten by a bamboo pole when an interrogation didn’t go the way the Japanese wanted. POWs were threatened with decapitation or a bullet in the temple.

Most POWs thought they would die at the hands of guards in retaliation of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945. On Aug. 15, Emperor Hirohito announced the unthinkable – the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces.

Two weeks later, on Aug 29 and four days before the Sept. 2, 1945, formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri, Downing was among those at the Omori prison camp who were released to the Americans. His roommate on a transport ship was James “Pappy” Boyington, decorated Marine pilot and Medal of Honor recipient. [Today, the Omori camp location, an artificial island built by American POWs, is Heiwajima, a motorboat racing revenue owned by the Sasakawa organization that supports Japanese government public diplomacy.]

Men returned home to restart their lives. For Downing, he found himself back in Canyon. He became a longtime building contractor. Scott and Bitsy were married on the West Texas A&M University campus at the Joseph A. Hill Chapel on Sept. 1, 1951.

WT became a key part of their lives. Bitsy was assistant business manager and director of finance at WT from 1957 to 1982. Scott helped build the presidential home of James Cornette. He and his brother Jack also helped build the original Pioneer Village at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.

Scott was the youngest of 10 children, and Bitsy was the youngest of nine, but Stu was their only child. He graduated from WT in 1978. There was no a bigger fan of WT athletics than the former bombardier. He had season tickets to football and men’s and women’s basketball games for so long that no one could remember when he didn’t. A WT flag flew in the front yard of their Amarillo home where they moved in 2004.

That was passed down to Stu. Even today, if anyone wants to find Stu, just go to a WT athletic event and holler out his name. He’s usually there.

Finding the watch, or the watch finds them

His dad didn’t dwell on his combat missions and never, to anyone’s knowledge, suffered from PTSD. But it was always a part of him. Like novelist William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”

Scott made four trips to Japan. The first was in 1947 to testify at a Japanese war crimes trial. He and Bitsy went on sightseeing tours there in 1986 and 1994. Then in 2015, just two years before his death at age 98, Scott and Stu were among an American POW contingent on a reconciliation tour sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. State Department [and the American Defenders of Bataan Memorial Society].

At one event was a PowerPoint presentation by a man named Nakazato. It was all in Japanese so neither Downing knew the man was saying his grandparents were among those who tied a parachuting American to a tree. He had a watch that was the man’s which had been handed down by his grandparents.

But Dr. Isao Arai, a researcher with the group who is fluent in English, relayed what Nakazato said. Wait a minute, a watch? Could it be Scott’s watch? What were the odds?

Then they did some digging. Only officers were issued military standard Bulova watches. There were four officers on that downed B-29. Two were captured nowhere near the site. A third didn’t land too far from Downing, but he avoided detection for six days and was captured along the coast.

Eventually the Downings were convinced the watch was Scott’s. They put that on the backburner as they returned home, but it would be nice to one day get that watch back if possible.

Nancy Samp, the historian of the 505th Bomb Group, agreed. She was instrumental in persuading Arai to take steps to return the watch. It didn’t take much persuasion. Arai was 12 when he witnessed the B-29 crash. He has spent much of his life researching B-29 crashes in Japan and bringing closure to families. The grandson also knew the watch belonged to someone else.

“Scott always told me and everyone he knew that the Japanese people were kind and considerate,” Bitsy said. “He only had fault with the military. They ruled the country at the time, and they were brutal. The citizens were not. The grandson needs to be commended for releasing it.”

The Downings were sent a photo last year of the watch. It was inscribed as a Type A-11 with a serial number of AF4380602. A Google search pronounced it from the 1940s.

Arai and Stu exchanged a series of emails to finalize the return. In one of his last emails, Arai wrote: “It is not just an old watch. I think of it as the spirit of a soldier returning home after 75 years.”

The watch was put on a boat in Japan on March 9, six years after its rediscovery and four years after Scott’s death. It finally returned home on June 1. But after 75 years-plus, what was another three months? Wife and son held the watch like a newborn. They were the first Downings to touch the band since May 25, 1945. The face read 12:07.

“The little second hand still runs,” Bitsy said. “We wound it up very carefully when we got it, and the second hand started running. It was like it was telling us, ‘I’m happy to be home. It’s good to be back in the United States.’”

The last Sunday in August was the 76th anniversary of Downing’s release. Sept. 2 marks the 76th anniversary of the formal end of World War II and the surrender of Japan.

The watch will not stay in the Downing home much longer. Sometime this fall, they will take it to the B-29 museum in Pratt, Kan., a restored World War II parachute building at Pratt Air Field. There it will remain among other artifacts from the war.

“We got it home and we got to touch it again,” Bitsy said. “That’s what’s important. I think Scott would want it up there.”

Sunday, July 25, 2021

UNESCO and Japan’s Rewriting of History

At UNESCO, Japan lays bare the difficulties of achieving shared values within the Quad.

By Mindy L. Kotler

Originally published in The Diplomat, July 23, 2021
This version is slightly revised for clarity

On July 22nd, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, comprising the United States, India, Japan, and Australia, faced its first test. Unexpectedly, it came at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The focus was on Japan, not China, and the result reveals how fragile the idea of shared, universal values is for this multilateral coalition. As things stand, Japan is a willful outlier.

At the World Heritage Committee’s 44th virtual session, there was a review of several previously designated Japanese World Industrial Heritage sites that were the scene of war crimes in World War II. Americans, Australians, and Indians were among the thousands of Allied prisoners of war (POWs) brought to Japan during the war. They became slave laborers in various private mines, chemical factories, and steel mills, and on docks critical to support Imperial Japan’s war effort.

These very mines, foundries, and wharves were selected by Japan to represent its “Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining.” The Japanese, however, left out any mention of this forced labor and abuse, which was the substance of the hundreds of war crimes trials throughout the postwar Pacific.

UNESCO approved the designations in 2015 but conditioned the designations on a promise to provide a “full history” of these sites. Yet, six years later, Japan has not fulfilled this promise. Japan’s forced colonial workers from Korea are given slight mention, although Japan refuses to admit they were unwilling or unhappy. The POWs, which included soldiers, civilians, and mariners from Ireland, Egypt, Norway, Argentina, Jamaica, Portugal, Italy, and Arabia are unmentioned in any official publications, whether at the particular sites or at the Tokyo Industrial Heritage Information Center, which was opened in March 2020.

On July 12, 2021, a UNESCO draft decision noted that Japan still had to improve its interpretive strategy. The reprimand of Japan’s unwillingness to tell the “full history” of these properties was approved July 22. The Committee believes measures are still necessary to “allow an understanding of a large number of Koreans and others” who were forced or slave laborers. 

Unfortunately, UNESCO identifies POWs only as “others. This euphemism affirms Japan’s effort to censor its war crimes and rewrite the history of World War II. UNESCO members Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Norway, and the Netherlands need to insist that “others” means their veterans.

To satisfy UNESCO’s directive to include “others,” it is implied that Japan must acknowledge that five of the UNESCO industrial heritage sites — Hagi, Kamaishi, Miike, Nagasaki, and Yawata — held 26 POW camps during the war and provided more than 13,000 POW slave laborers from over 16 countries to Japan’s industrial giants, including Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, and Nippon Steel.

The Miike Coal Mine (Fukuoka #17) warrants particular attention. The mine, owned by the Mitsui conglomerate, was Japan’s largest. Nearly 2,000 Allied POWs suffered capricious brutality and starvation in deadly and primitive conditions. Hundreds died. American POWs were so desperate for a respite from the coal pits that they traded their meager rice bowls for someone to break their arms or legs.

Kamaishi’s industrial area (Sendai #4B and Sendai #5B) is also illustrative of missing war history. The site was the first to be bombed by U.S. Navy warships off Japan’s unguarded coastline. The iron works at this site, still owned by Nippon Steel, were among Japan’s largest. On July 14, 1945, more than 40 American, Dutch, New Zealand, and British POWs as well as hundreds of Japanese were killed in the bombardment.

Nippon Steel’s Yawata’s steel works (Fukuoka #3) was Japan’s most important armament manufacturer. The workforce was primarily composed of POWs who endured intense manual labor shoveling iron ore and tending the furnaces. Yawata was the primary target for the second atomic bomb. Cloud cover from aerial bombing on August 8, 1945, shifted the mission to Nagasaki, close to the Miike Coal Mine.

Japan’s unstated history of Allied slave labor at its UNESCO sites is part of a larger trend of the government’s rewriting history. The narratives presented at Japan’s industrial heritage sites also diminish the use of Korean forced labor and Chinese slave labor. This all dovetails with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s quest to retell Japan’s story in an uncritical, more glorious manner. So important was the UNESCO heritage designation to the former Abe administration that one cabinet adviser had the sole job of shepherding the application through UNESCO.

Highlighting the effort to annul history was last August’s 75th anniversary memorial address for the end of World War II. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, unlike his predecessors, did not mention, “learning from history” or having “remorse.” Instead, he said “we will never forget that the peace and prosperity we enjoy today was built atop the precious sacrifices of the war dead.”

This ahistorical take on Japan’s disastrous war is not a reassurance to UNESCO that Japan will correct the histories of its industrial heritage sites. Nor does it comfort the Quad allies that their shared history will not be recognized and reflected upon. Upholding historical facts is a value of democracy now being undermined by Japan as rapidly as in authoritarian China or Hungary. Japan’s defiance of UNESCO’s recommendations to explain the “full history” of its cultural properties shows how fragile the Quad’s so-called unifying principles are.

Mindy L. Kotler
is director and founder of Asia Policy Point, a Washington think tank focused on Northeast Asia. She is also an adviser to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society that represents the American POWs of Japan and their families.