Thursday, February 01, 2024

Nippon Steel's Legacy of POW Slave Labor

‘Zero ethics’? Japan-US war wounds reopen over POW abuse as Nippon Steel buys American rival

Relatives say they are disappointed the US government failed to pressure Tokyo to face up to the historic abuses of prisoners by the Japanese firms during WWII
Americans would be shocked if they knew of the ‘inhumane’ treatment suffered by US prisoners at Japanese companies supporting the war effort, the relatives add

Relatives of American prisoners who were used as slave labourers during World War II have expressed anger at the purchase of US Steel by Nippon Steel Corp, claiming the Japanese company has made no effort to atone for or even admit the brutal treatment that was meted out to POWs.

They are also disappointed at the US government’s failure to pressure Japan to face up to the historic abuses of tens of thousands of POWs at the hands of companies that are today among the wealthiest in the world.

Workers at US Steel, union members and American consumers would be outraged if they knew what the forerunner of Nippon Steel had put captured servicemen through, they add.

The agreement for Nippon Steel to acquire the 122-year-old US firm for US$14.9 billion was announced in December, immediately triggering opposition from the United Steelworkers union and members of Congress.

Those complaints, however, were focused narrowly on concern over the “dire implications for the industrial base of the United States”, according to a letter signed by three Republican senators addressed to Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary and chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2024, subject to regulatory approvals.

Relatives of men who endured years of abuse and appalling conditions as they laboured in mines, shipyards and other industrial plants that supported Japan’s war effort say they are still waiting for a meaningful apology from industrial giants like Nippon Steel, which merged with Sumitomo Metal Industries in 2012 to form one of the largest steel conglomerates in the world.

Historians estimate that Nippon Steel and its ancillary companies used at least 4,000 American and Allied POWs at its industrial sites.

Nippon Steel is also embroiled in a bitter legal fight in South Korea, where courts have repeatedly ruled that it must pay compensation to the descendants of former forced labourers.

“I am disappointed to learn of Nippon Steel’s attempted acquisition of US Steel and I remain irate that Nippon Steel still has not apologised for or even acknowledged the use of POW labourers during World War II,” said Patrick Regan, 51, from Bolingbrook in Illinois.

“A company that cannot at least admit past misdeeds cannot be believed or trusted to do the right thing going forward,” said Regan, whose grandfather, US Army Air Corp Technical Sergeant Donald C Regan, was captured during the fall of Bataan in the Philippines in April 1942. “Its monetary value may be immense, but its ethical value is zero.”

Regan was held in the Philippines for 18 months after his surrender and “exploited as a slave labourer by Nippon Steel” at the 12-B Osaka camp, also known as Hirohata, for the last two years of the war, his grandson told This Week in Asia.

“He suffered from malaria, optic atrophy, severe malnutrition and other ailments during his time as a POW … As a labourer at Nippon Steel, his fingers were crushed while moving a heavy piece of equipment,” he said.

“The physical scars from that injury were still visible when I saw them as a young boy, and the emotional scars of his treatment as a POW remained until his death in 1984.”

Patrick Regan travelled to Japan with his father in 2023, visiting the site of his grandfather’s POW camp and the steel mill where he was put to work.

“The camp is now a quiet suburban neighbourhood,” he said. “There’s no mention of the POW camp that once stood there. The security gate outside the Nippon Steel complex … makes no hint of that history.”

Teresa Goodell, 64, from Beaverton in Oregon, echoes that anger over the mistreatment of her father, Commander Zemo C Tarnowski, in Japanese captivity and forced to labour as a stevedore at docks in Japan.

“The cruelty he suffered while imprisoned morphed into suffering for his family, despite his good intentions to the contrary,” she said. “This is what trauma does; it lives on.”

Expressing her “strong opposition to the US Steel purchase”, Goodell added that “Americans who were directly and indirectly harmed by Japanese cruelty deserve a greatly overdue formal apology from Nippon Steel prior to approval of the acquisition”..

Jan Thompson, president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, said: “I am shocked this is happening. US Steel symbolised America’s strength during World War II … The unions at US Steel also symbolise America’s ideals – fair wages, fair treatment and looking out for the welfare of workers.

“However, the POWs who were slave labourers for Nippon Steel or Sumitomo … were inhumanely treated as slave labourers and if they did not slave, they were not fed,” she said. “Work conditions were unsafe and beatings happened every day.”

Thompson’s father, Robert E Thompson, was a US Navy medic who spent three years in a prison hospital in Manila after the fall of the Philippines before being placed on a “hell ship” to Japan. After a journey during which both “hell ships” he was put on were sunk, his third transport finally arrived at the Japanese port of Moji. Only around 600 individuals from the 1,619 men who had left Manilla survived.

After his repatriation, Thompson would never allow any Japanese product into the family’s home.

“I do not think ordinary Americans know anything about the history of our POWs in Japan,” Jan Thompson said. “If they did know, I believe there would be blowback. I believe our veterans’ organisations would be outraged. I wonder why our government would allow this to happen.”

Mindy Kotler, director of Washington-based Asia Policy Point and a historian of Imperial Japan’s Allied prisoners of war, said no Japanese steel company had acknowledged POW slave labour or offered an apology.

“Many ordinary Americans do not even know that Japan was an enemy in World War II,” Kotler said. “And there is some surprise the Japanese companies have never done what German companies have, which is to apologise, pay compensation and teach the history of slave labour.”

In 1999, European steel giants Thyssen AG and Krupp agreed to a merger, subject to a condition requiring the creation of a foundation to make “humanitarian payments” to former forced labourers and other victims of the Nazi regime.

While ThyssenKrupp has contributed generously to the foundation, Tokyo has resisted efforts to encourage Japanese companies to take a similar path and insists that all claims were settled under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Kotler also noted that Tokyo’s position was contrary to that of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who in September began advocating “human dignity” as a key principle alongside the “rule of law” in Japanese foreign policy.

“Here is an opportunity for Nippon Steel to do the right thing, to live up to its current corporate principles and Japan’s new efforts to ask its companies to engage in responsible business conduct by respecting human rights,” Kotler said.

“Maybe the company will finally acknowledge its use of American and Allied POW slave labour.”

Julian Ryall never expected to still be in Japan 24 years after he first arrived, but he quickly realised its advantages over his native London. He lives in Yokohama with his wife and children and writes for publications around the world.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

January 9, 1945 and The Smothers' Brothers

Pacific War historians usually remember January 9th, for General Douglas MacArthur's 1945 return to the main island of the Philippines, Luzon. In October 1944, the liberation of the Japanese-occupied archipelago had begun with the Battle of Leyte. On January 9th, the campaign moved to Luzon's Lingayen Gulf with 60,000 American troops landing to cheering Filipinos.

The last time MacArthur walked on Luzon was January 10, 1942. It was his one and only visit to the front on the Bataan Peninsula from his command center on the island of Corregidor. It is possible that this one day was chosen as the Bataan battlefield would have been relatively safe. Just days before, Japan's experienced 14th Army 48th Division (15,000 men) on Bataan had been transferred to the Dutch East Indies and replaced with the untrained reservists of the IJA's 65th Brigade (6,600 men).

Task Force 38
As MacArthur planned his return, Adm William Halsey's Third Fleet was tasked with disrupting Japanese shipping in the South China Sea, especially the Empire's resupply of the Philippines. Led by Vice Admiral John S McCain (yes, the grandfather of Senator McCain) Task Force 38 attacked Japanese shipping and air fields throughout the region. Historians call the Task Force's January 1945 operations a "rampage" toward Formosa, Luzon, and Indochina. By the time the Task Force exited the shipping lanes of the South China Sea, over 300,000 tons of enemy shipping and dozens of Japanese warships had been sunk. With follow-up air strikes against Japanese harbors and airfields in Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands, the success of the sweep was unprecedented.

This "carrier rampage" had dire consequences for the American POWs. It was on January 9th, that the Enoura Maru, a hell ship carrying 1,070 POWs from the Philippines, was bombed by planes off the USS Hornet (CV-12). The ship carrying mainly the last officers held in the Philippines was docked in Takao Harbor, Formosa and moored next to a tanker. One-third of the POWs onboard were killed or wounded. The survivors were put aboard the Brazil Maru on January 14 and transported north to the port of Moji, Japan. Only 600 or so survived the 16-day trip. MORE ON THE ENOURA MARU

Major Thomas Smothers
One of those survivors in Moji, Japan was Major Thomas Smothers, the father of the Smothers brothers. Major Smothers was CO of the 3rd Battalion of the 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts. Major Smothers survived the Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March. It is possible he was among a number of 45th Inf. officers to have made the journey to the POW death Camp O'Donnell by truck. He then endured harsh captivity for nearly three years in Cabanatuan, a POW camp in the Philippines.

On 13 December 1944, he was among 1621 prisoners, the majority officers, who were marched from Bilibid Prison to Pier 7, Manila. At dusk, they were herded aboard the Oryoku Maru, divided into three groups, and forced down into three dark holds. What followed was probably the most infamous of the Hell Ship voyages. American bombers off the USS Hornet and USS Cabot sank the Oryoku Maru barely out of Manila near Subic Bay. Nearly 200 POWs died. The survivors were kept for five tortuous days on an abandoned tennis court, exposed to the tropical sun with little water, food or medical care .

On December 27, the men were packed aboard two freighters, the Enoura Maru and Brazil Maru to Formosa. The ship's holds were not cleaned of its previous cargo, horses and other livestock. Men picked through the animal waste looking for oats to eat. Although they arrived in Takao, Formosa on New Year's Day, they were not allowed to disembark, On January 9, planes from the USS Hornet again bombed the hellships. The Enoura Maru with Major Smothers aboard took direct hits. Days passed before the Japanese remove the dead or help the wounded. Four hundred or so were buried in shallow graves near the harbor's shore.

Badly wounded and suffering from the cold, starvation, and lack of medical care, Major Smothers was eventually taken to a Fukuoka #22 POW Camp administered by Sumitomo Mining to provide slave labor for one of its coal mines (the company is now part of Nippon Steel). At the Sumitomo camp medical care was poor or nonexistent during the historically cold winter of 1944/5.

On April 25, 1945, he was transported by stretcher from Fukuoka #22 to the Fukuoka City docks (Moji) for transport to Fusan, Korea [today's Busan, South Korea], and then on to Mukden, China. Some speculate that the Japanese were consolidating the American officers at Mukden to use as hostages. Smothers perished that night on the dock.

According to an oral history by British Lt. Geoffrey Pharoah Adams (available online through the Imperial War Museum. See Reel #11 with the key part of the story beginning at about 10 min 40 sec.), on April 25, 1945, he and a group of POWs were put aboard a ferry, but taken off around midnight after an air raid alarm. Adams and some 15 other comparatively healthy officers were tasked with taking off the ferry the American stretcher cases. Adams and his friend, British Lt. John Vincent Bowen, took an American Major (Smothers) off the ship. They and two of their friends from Fukuoka Camp #17 (Mitsui's Omuta coal mine), Americans Lt. Charles P. Christie, and 2nd Lt John Allen, who were also stretcher bearers, decided to stick together. "We carried the man off who was a Major, so emaciated and thin." Since they were the last off the ship the other prisoners were out of sight.

Those carrying the stretcher cases were told to lay down on the concrete beside the walls of a warehouse. It was very cold. The Major on the stretcher had a blanket over him. Because he said he felt so cold, the four men (Adams, Bowen, Christie, and Allen) laid down all around him, one on either side, one on the top, one across the bottom. "During the course of the night he died." "He just expired from hypothermia, from despair...I don't know, but he died anyway."

The next morning there was a bit of a row, because the man had died and upset the roll call figures. "We were ordered to take the dead man with us." "The Japan Japanese had handed us over to the new Japanese and we had to have the right count aboard the ferry. So we carried the poor Major back on board with us." The ship set sail. "Some of these people who had been sunk and who had had these terrible trials were hysterical." (Col. Ben Skardon, Clemson University alumnus and professor, corroborated this detail about the men being hysterical). After the ferry arrived at Pusan, Korea, "We got off the ship. We still had to take our stretcher with the Major off." Shortly, after roll call, they were told to leave him on the dock. Smothers had been assigned the Mukden POW Camp number of 2006 and appeared on the Mukden death roster with that number. There is no record indicating that his body ever left Fusan, Korea.

USS Hornet (CV-12) was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for the its operations: January 3 – January 22, 1945 — Philippines, Formosa, China Sea, Ryukyu


You can read more about the Task Force 38 campaign in the new (February 28, 2023) book, South China Sea 1945: Task Force 38's bold carrier rampage in Formosa, Luzon, and Indochina (Air Campaign, 36) by Mark Lardas (Author), Irene Cano Rodríguez 96 pages.

See HERE for an interesting diary account of the USS Hornet during January 1945. An official Navy history is HERE.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Who Bombed Pearl Harbor

n December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous "day in infamy" speech describing Imperial Japan's "dastardly attack" on Pearl Harbor and condemning Tokyo's "surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area."

Immediately following the speech, the U.S. Senate declared war on Japan. A state of war with Germany was declared December 11, hours after Germany had declared war on the United States.

There was no official, national remembrance of the tragedy at Pearl Harbor until 1994. The 103rd Congress passed a joint resolution in 1994 designating December 7, 1993, as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." President Bill Clinton signed it into law (Public Law 103-308) on August 23rd. The law states: December 7 of each year is designated as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day" and the President is authorized and requested— (1) to issue annually a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and (2) to urge all Federal agencies, and interested organizations, groups, and individuals, to fly the flag of the United States at halfstaff" each December 7 in honor of the individuals who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.

Historians will wonder why the law identifies the nonexistent Japanese "Air Force" as the aggressor and is not specific about the number of casualties at Pearl Harbor. At the time, Japan did not have an independent Air Force. It was the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service that attacked Hawaii. In addition, unlike in President Roosevelt's speech, there is no mention of Japan's other lightning strikes throughout the Pacific on December 7th. These attacks famously destroyed the American Asiatic Fleet and the Army's Far East Air Force while cutting off U.S. outposts in the Pacific from the mainland and resuplly.

The Proclamations
The first proclamation was issued by President Clinton on November 29, 1994, 53 years after the Pearl Harbor attack. His 1994 proclamation, as all that followed, did little to enlighten Americans about the day's history. Notably, it began the "tradition" of not identifying who "attacked" U.S. Forces in Hawaii that day. All that we learn is that the attack "involved America in a worldwide battle against the forces of fascism and oppression."

In an examination of the 30 Pearl Harbor Presidential proclamations made since 1994, 11 have no mention of Japan. In other words, the "enemy" who attacked the American territory is not identified. It could have been any of the Axis powers. Thailand had a modern, able air force, albeit no aircraft carriers.

President George W. Bush (43) recognized Japan in only two of his eight Pearl Harbor Day commemorative statements. His administration had a close relationship with Japan and notably squashed a joint congressional resolution remembering the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII and the defeat of Japan. President Biden, who lost his uncle and a cousin to the Japanese, has mentioned Japan in only one of his three statements. Here is the link to this year's Proclamation. (I have a memo outlining all 30 statements. If interested, email me.)

California Governor Gavin Newson's 2023 Pearl Harbor Day proclamation clearly mentions Japan. His grandfather, Arthur Menzies, was a soldier on Corregidor with the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment (AntiAircraft) K Battery and endured a hellship and nearly four years in Japanese POW Camps. He was not on the Bataan Death March as some reports say. Sadly, while experiencing a flashback in 1973, he threatened to kill Newsom's mother and her twin sister. When he realized that they were not Japanese prison guards, he turned the gun on himself.

I have not found any member of congress, even members of the Veterans Affairs Committees in the House and Senate who have publicly remembered Pearl Harbor Day. If you find one, please tell me.

Also missing in the proclamations is mention of all the other attacks Japan made that day throughout the Pacific, especially against the American territories of Wake Island, Guam, Midway, and Howland Island. I leave to my loyal readers to figure out how many other Americans died that day in battle (tell me if you run the numbers). President Roosevelt, in contrast, was quite clear in his speech to Congress that December 7th was a day of multiple Japanese attacks in the Asia-Pacific (territories in continental Asia were bombed as well as islands in the Pacific).

To be sure, Pearl Harbor saw the greatest number of casualties and Medal of Honor (MoH) honorees among the American territories in the Pacific attacked that day. For their actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 15 sailors in the U.S. Navy (from seven ships and one Naval Air Station) and 1 Marine were awarded Medals of Honor. The 16 recipients held a wide range of ranks, from seaman to rear admiral. Eleven (69%) received their awards posthumously.

The first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II was killed on Midway, December 7, 1941. First Lieutenant George H. Cannon, USMC, from Michigan, remained at his post until all of his wounded men were evacuated, though severely wounded himself. His selfless action and concern for his men was an inspiration.

When war began, the American Embassy rushed to burn documents before the Kempeitai arrested and interned them. Niles W. Bond was a consular officer in Yokohama, Japan from 1940-1942 and was there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His accounts of the time make interesting reading.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

December 14, 1944, Palawan Massacre

Plaza Cuartel Park
main square next to
the Palawan Survivors
Memorial (POW Camp 10A).
It was not rain that dampened their skin. It was airplane fuel. Buckets of it were tossed on the 150 emaciated POWs hunched down in narrow air raid trenches. The Japanese guards quickly followed with torches to light the men on fire.

The trench with the officers was the first to be set ablaze. The POWs in two other trenches tried to escape. But if grenades did not stop them, then the machine guns that had been positioned outside did. Wounded survivors were tortured by having their fingers and toes set afire. Their begging to be shot provoked more laughter from their tormentors.

If a man somehow made it past all the attacks, he was hunted down and killed. Of the 30-some who tried to escape the conflagration, only 11 actually were able to swim across the bay to be rescued by Filipino guerillas.

Such was the December 14th afternoon at Puerto Princesa, on the Philippine island of Palawan facing the South China Sea. The POWs had been there since August 1942. They were Marines, soldiers, tankers, and airmen captured months before when Bataan and Corregidor fell.

With only hand tools and one wheelbarrow they cleared the jungle and broke up the coral to build an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. Today, the airstrip they constructed rests below the Antonio Bautista Air Base, an important anchor of the U.S.-Philippines alliance and focal point for joint maneuvers with Japan.

It may be by coincidence that the Japanese selected December 14th to murder the POWs. And maybe not. For on December 14, 1799, George Washington died at his Mt. Vernon home after five decades of service to his country.

To learn more about the Palawan Massacre read Last Man Out or As Good as Dead.

Most important, please leave a tribute or a flower at the Find A Grave site for the Palawan Massacre. Most of the men are buried in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri. Click here for the virtual memorial.

Never Forget

Sunday, September 10, 2023


Do not forget National POW/MIA Recognition Day Friday, September 15, 202

Annually, the Secretary of Defense holds a ceremony at the Pentagon remembering POW/MIAs. Rarely do members of Congress attend (they are all invited and they all have a POW/MIA flag planted at their office doors on the Hill.). Thus, ask your congressperson and senators to join the Friday ceremony at 10:00am on the River Terrace Parade Field at The Pentagon. The ceremony will be broadcast live on the Defense Department website.

The Defense Department POW/MIA Recognition Day Website highlights recovery stories and you can download from the site the annual Recognition Day Poster poster.

For past POW/MIA Posters and to order free copies of this year's poster see here on  the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) website. The DPAA also has National POW/MIA Recognition Day 9-page Tool Kit to help you conduct a meaningful memorial ceremony for POW/MIAs.


>1898: U.S. IMPERIAL VISIONS AND REVISIONS SYMPOSIUM. 9/8-9Join the National Portrait Gallery on September 8 and 9 for the 2023 Edgar P. Richardson Symposium, organized around the landmark exhibition 1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions, the Smithsonian's first major exhibition on U.S. imperialism and the pivotal conflicts of 1898. The symposium will convene over 40 scholars and artists from Cuba, Guam, Hawai‘i, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States for two days of panels, roundtables and gallery talks, and a keynote address by 2022 Pulitzer Prize Winner Ada Ferrer. The keynote address will take place Friday, September 8 at 5pm, and will be followed by an audience Q&A and public reception. The Museum's Portal Website will soon post the conference.

>MASTER CHIEF PETTY OFFICER OF THE NAVY, JAMES M. HONEA. 9/12, 1:00pm (EDT), ONLINE. Sponsor: US Navy Memorial. Speaker: James M. Honea, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. Discusses the Navy's recent Three Calls to Action: 1) Warfighting Competency, 2) Professional and Personal Development, and 3) Quality of Life. 

>THE USS HOUSTON: A SURVIVAL STORY. 9/14, 7:00-8:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Loudoun County Public Library. Speaker: John K. Schwarz, Executive Director USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors’ Association and Next Generations®. 

>ROAD TO SURRENDER WITH EVAN THOMAS. 9/14, Noon (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Alexander Hamilton Society. Speaker: author Evan Thomas, writer, correspondent, and editor for 33 years at Time and Newsweek
>VIRTUAL CONFERENCE ON WORLD WAR II. 9/16,10:00am-1:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Friends of the National World War II Memorial. Speakers: “The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II"with author Edward Aldrich; “A Woman's View of the Pacific Ocean Theater” with Lorissa Rinehart who writes about women, art, war, and their points of intersection and is author of First to the Front: The Untold Story of Dickey Chapelle, Trailblazing Female War Correspondent; and “The Merchant Marine in WWII” with Dave Yoho served in World War II in the Merchant Marine and later built a highly successful career as an entrepreneur and business leader. Moderator: best-selling author and Friends’ Resident Historian Alex Kershaw. 

>OCCUPATION: THE LEGACY OF THE ASIATIC PACIFIC WAR. 9/16, 9:00am-5:00pm (CDT), In person and online. Sponsor:  The Admiral Nimitz Foundation.  Speakers: Richard B. Frank, internationally recognized leading authority on the Asia-Pacific War; Dr. Xiaobing Li, professor of the Department of History and Geography and the Don Betz Endowed Chair in International Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO); Ricardo Trota Jose, professor of history at the University of the Philippines, Diliman; Mindy L. Kotler is founder and director of Asia Policy Point. Special guest, Marie Vallejo, author of Dauntless, a book about the First and Second Filipino Regiments. 

>. WAR CRIMES - FROM WWII UNTIL TODAY: 6TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON WWII IN THE PHILIPPINES. 9/23, 10:00am-4:00pm (PDT), In person, Facebook Live. Sponsor: Bataan Legacy Historical Society in partnership with the University of San Francisco's Philippine Studies Program, Memorare Manila 1945 and USF Kasamahan. Speakers: James Zarsadiaz, Director, Philippine Studies Program, University of San Francisco; Prof. Mark Hull, Professor of War Crimes, U.S. Army Command & General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth; Philippine Consul General in San Francisco Neil F. Ferrer; Father Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco; Benjamin Hall, Fox News State Department Correspondent, Eyewitness to War Crimes Today (Via Zoom); Jose Custodio, Fellow, Consortium of Indo Pacific Researchers; Christopher Capozzola, Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Richard Frank, Pacific War historian, author, Tower of Skulls; Marie Vallejo, author of Dauntless, a book about the First and Second Filipino Regiments; Kate LaFerriere, daughter of Frank Innis, former civilian POW in Los Banos; Cynthia Bonta, survivor of the Los Baños massacre, mother of California Attorney General Rob Bonta; and Richard Foye, author of Foye And The Filipinos Bailout, Escape, And Rescue Of A Navy Fighter Pilot In World War Two Luzon, is the son of Ensign William Foye, an F6F Hellcat Pilot and a member of the Air Group Twenty assigned to the USS Enterprise (CV6). 

>WWII: AIR WAR, THE PACIFIC THEATER: ONLINE CONTINUING EDUCATION COURSE. September 4–November 6, ONLINE. Sponsor: National WWII Museum and Arizona State University. Speaker: John Curatola, PhD, Military Historian at the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy. 

>EXHIBIT OPENING: THE PRICE OF UNPREPAREDNESS: POWS IN THE PHILIPPINES DURING WORLD WAR II9/30, 10:00-11:30am (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY*. Sponsor: MacArthur Memorial. Speakers: Dr. Frank Blazich, Jr., Curator of Modern Military History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and author of Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II; Mary McKay Maynard, she and her family spent two years hiding from occupying Japanese forces in the jungles of Mindanao before being rescued by the USS Narwhal as chronicled in My Faraway Home: An American Family’s WWII Tale of Adventure and Survival; and MacArthur Memorial Archivist James Zobel  *For the virtual option Email  and ask to be added to the post-event email list. This list will be used to send a one-time email with a link to the digital exhibit guide and a recording of the exhibit opening event.

>VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY DENIS MCDONOUGH. 11/6, 12:30-2:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON (LUNCH AND FEE) AND ON C-SPAN. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speaker: Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough delivers an update on the state of America's veterans and their families, and on the implementation of the PACT Act.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

August 15th and Beyond

On August 15, 78 years ago, Japan's Emperor Hirohito broadcast to his subjects "that our empire accepts the provisions of their [the Allies] Joint Declaration [of the Powers, Potsdam Declaration]." The fighting was to stop. Whether he believed this was a surrender or not, is still subject to debate. What the Japanese people heard that day was a recording of his statement made the night before. The Emperor's voice maintained its divine distance from his subjects as he explained "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest." He concluded by asking the nation "to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable."

Memories have faded and most Americans are surprised to learn that Japan was an enemy during WWII. One result of this fugue is that governments East and West find little opposition to their rewriting of WWII history and its aftermath. Generally, this has not been for the better and always for personal political gain. Worse, Washington counts many of these countries as allies and remains silent.

These revisionist histories have undermined the values that have shaped the postwar "liberal democratic order."  Authoritarian regimes now erode individual freedoms, human rights, and humanitarian cooperation. Glorifying strongmen, dismissing war atrocities, identifying perpetrators now as victims, and co-opting the victor's history as one's own is upending the legacy and lessons of WWII. A new "glorious history" is being promulgated in Poland, Hungary, China, Japan and other places. Unashamedly, the Polish government claims that Poles were uninvolved with the persecution of Jews and a Japanese diplomat praises the "Bushido Spirit" of the famed Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team to their sons.

Thus, it is welcome that this fall there are a number of seminars and conferences examining the immediate postwar period

In Japan, the revisionist, denialist history has become normalized by two decades of conservative nationalist governments. Western Alliance Managers consequently do not recognize that nationalist populism has consumed the body politic and they have concluded incorrectly that Japan is "stable" and "unscathed from the populist wave" around the world. Little attention is given to how Japan's official war apology has been diminished, voting districts are unconstitutional, or to Japan's well-funded history disinformation campaign. 

Prime Minister Kishida's 
address at the Seventy-Eighth National Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead yesterday repeated his predecessor Abe's 2015 statement that makes no mention of apology or remorse to Japan's victims. He, like Abe and Suga before him, promises only: "We will not forget, even for a moment, that the peace and prosperity that Japan enjoys today was built atop the precious lives and the history of suffering of the war dead." Ceremony photos and documentsKishida marks 78th anniversary of World War II end without mentioning Japan's wartime aggression, Associated Press, Aug. 15, 2023.

As a new book by a Brookings scholar supports this celebratory view of contemporary Japan, The author sees the Japanese government as having reinvented itself to encourage more political engagement with the world and a greater military presence in the region. This is a new self-confidence that will award Tokyo with credibility and global leadership. To be sure, I have not read the book (then again neither have the folks who recommend it on the dust jacket). I have, however, heard this argument repeatedly over the decades that Japan has changed and it is in our image. Someone once observed that Western efforts to "fix" Japan always result in the tutor being broken-hearted.
See: Japan’s Quiet Leadership Reshaping the Indo-Pacific by Mireya Solis, (release August 24, 2023).

Or watch the book talk: Japan's Quiet Leadership: Reshaping the Pacific, Wednesday, September 6, 89:30-10:30am EDT, Washington, DC, Hybrid. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Mireya Solís, Director - Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies; Kurt W. Tong, Managing Partner - The Asia Group (grandson of Philippine internee Rev Walter Curtis Tong); Yuichi Hosoya, Director of Research, API & Professor, Keio University; Demetri Sevastopulo, U.S.-China Correspondent, Financial Times.

But not everyone forgets: Memorial service for POWs in Yokohama passed down to next generation, August 12, 2023, Mainichi Shimbun

Here are a number of talks and conferences this fall that examine Japan's Pacific War and its aftermath. I hope you can attend in person or virtually. 

A. Friday September 8
MJHA Distinguished Annual Lecture
Tessa Morris-Suzuki on Writing War: History in Occupied Japan and its Echoes for Today

Hosted by The Modern Japan History Association
Speaker: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Professor Emerita of Japanese History, Australian National University . 

Date/time and registration information:
Online, free.
Saturday, September 9, 2023 | 9:00-10:30 AM Australian Eastern Standard Time
Friday, September 8, 2023 | 7:00-8:30 PM (EST) 

As the world edges into a new Cold War, rising political tensions in East Asia are reflected in growing conflict over memories of history, and particularly of the history of the Asia-Pacific War. Increasing nationalism in all the countries of the region finds expression in rewritings of that history. In Japan, a central feature of recent waves of historical revisionism has been a focus on the shaping of historiography in the post war occupation period. The period from August 1945 to May 1952 was the era when historians first struggled to give meaning to the disastrous events of the war which had ravaged East Asia during the previous decade or more. The diverse ways in which they did this has had an enduring effect on the way in which the war is remembered to the present day. In the context of contemporary controversies over history, it is important to return to that occupation era and to reassess the possibilities and limitations of the way in which the history of the war was written by those who had just experienced it in their own lives.

B. Saturday September 16
Annual Symposium
Occupation: The Legacy of the Asiatic Pacific War 

Hosted by The Admiral Nimitz Foundation.  
 Richard B. Frank, internationally recognized leading authority on the Asia-Pacific War; Dr. Xiaobing Li, professor of the Department of History and Geography and the Don Betz Endowed Chair in International Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO); Ricardo Trota Jose, professor of history at the University of the Philippines, Diliman; Mindy L. Kotler is founder and director of Asia Policy Point. Special guest, Marie Vallejo, author of Dauntless, a book about the First and Second Filipino Regiments.

Date/time and registration information:

In person and online. Fee.
Saturday, September 16, 2023, 9:00am-5:00pm (CDT)

The Admiral Nimitz Foundation is excited to welcome you back to this year’s Annual Symposium. The focus this year will be on Japan's occupation of Asia. Titled, “Occupation: The Legacy of the Asiatic Pacific War,” the symposium will explore the nuanced ramifications of the Japanese occupation.

C. Saturday September 23
6th Annual Conference on WWII in the Philippines
War Crimes - From WWII Until Today

Hosted by: Bataan Legacy Historical Society in partnership with the University of San Francisco's Philippine Studies Program, Memorare Manila 1945 and USF Kasamahan
Speakers: James Zarsadiaz, Director, Philippine Studies Program, University of San Francisco; Prof. Mark Hull, Professor of War Crimes, U.S. Army Command & General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth; Philippine Consul General in San Francisco Neil F. Ferrer; Father Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco; Benjamin Hall, Fox News State Department Correspondent, Eyewitness to War Crimes Today (Via Zoom); Jose Custodio, Fellow, Consortium of Indo Pacific Researchers; Christopher Capozzola, Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Richard Frank, Pacific War historian, author, Tower of Skulls; Marie Vallejo, author of Dauntless, a book about the First and Second Filipino Regiments; Kate LaFerriere, daughter of Frank Innis, former civilian POW in Los Banos; Cynthia Bonta, survivor of the Los Baños massacre, mother of California Attorney General Rob Bonta; and Richard Foye, author of Foye And The Filipinos Bailout, Escape, And Rescue Of A Navy Fighter Pilot In World War Two Luzon, is the son of Ensign William Foye, an F6F Hellcat Pilot and a member of the Air Group Twenty assigned to the USS Enterprise (CV6).

Date/time and registration information:
In person, Facebook LiveTaped, fee
Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 10:00am - 4:00pm (PDT)

The conference aims to present the war crimes the invading Japanese perpetrated upon soldiers and civilians in the Philippines. A compelling discussion on war crimes in the Philippines and its effects on subsequent generations as well as similarities in today's world.

D. Thursday December 7 to Saturday December 9
16th International Conference on World War II
Finding Hope In A World Destroyed: WWII Liberations & Legacies

Speakers: [there are no affiliations listed on the website and your editor simply did not have the energy to track everyone down]: Jason Dawsey  ; Francine Hirsch  ; Robert Hutchinson  ; Günter Bischof  ; John Curatola, Military Historian at the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy; Rana Mitter, University of Oxford; Yuma Totani, University of Hawaii; Yoshikuni Igarashi, Vanderbilt University; William Hitchcock  ;Blanche Wiesen Cook  ;Jeremi Suri  ;Lizabeth Cohen   ; Krewasky Salter, Pritzker Military Museum & Library; Marcus Cox  : Kara Dixon Vuic  ; David Davis  ;Jeremy Black   ; Robert Citino, National WWII Museum; Richard B. Frank, Pacific War historian, author, Tower of Skulls;  Craig Symonds, Distinguished Visiting Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History for the academic years 2017–2020 at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island; Trent Hone, a Vice President with ICF and an award-winning naval historian, author of Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945; Allan R. Millett   ;Keith Lowe   ;Ronald Spector, professor emeritus, George Washington University; John McManus  : Conrad Crane  ; Steph Hinnershitz  ; Catherine Musemeche  ;Dave Gutierrez  ; Jim McNaughton  ; Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD,   ;William Hitchcock  ;Jeremi Suri  ;Major General Peter Gravett  ;Cameron McCoy  ;Robert Edsel  ;Alexandra Richie  ;Wendy Lower  ; Paul Hilliard  ; Kirk Saduski   ;Donald L. Miller  ; John Orloff

Panel of particular interest (December 7):
Aftermath in Asia
Chair: John Curatola, Military Historian at the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy
“The War That Never Really Ended: WWII’s Long Legacy”: Rana Mitter, University of Oxford
“Justice in Asia and the Pacific Region, 1945-1952: Allied War Crimes Prosecutions”: Yuma Totani, University of Hawaii
“Japan’s Decade After Defeat: Occupation and Democratization”: Yoshikuni Igarashi, Vanderbilt University

Date/time and registration information:
In person only in New Orleans, LA, fee

The International Conference on World War II is the premier adult educational event bringing together the best and brightest scholars, authors, historians, and witnesses to history from around the globe to discuss key battles, personalities, strategies, issues, and controversies of the war that changed the world. The agenda, speakers, and times are not yet set.

Saturday, April 15, 2023




FEBRUARY 11 TO 16,  2023

This past February, the Japanese  government again invited children of POWs of Japan to the country to work on reconciliation and their parent's ordeal with Imperial Japan's armed forces. This was the first trip that included a daughter of a female Army officer, a nurse on Corregidor. It is also the first trip that highlighted a POW camp where POW slave labor was for a company, Ube Industries, owned by the current Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. His great grandfather founded the conglomerate.

They met with the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel. They also visited with Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, president of the America-Japan Society, who helped initiate the program in 2009 while he was ambassador to the United States. Sadly, he was unwilling to host a program for his visitors with his members or at the Nakasone Peace Institute where he is president.

This may also be the last trip the Japanese feel necessary to host. Its multi-million dollar kakehashi program to bring Americans to Japan is focused on Japanese-Americans, high school students, and cultivating the next generation of American Japan experts. As American policymakers are now reluctant to mention that Japan was an enemy or an unrepentant perpetrator of war atrocities, it seems likely that this reconciliation program will disappear. 

The following children visited Japan. For fuller biographies of their POW parent, see this LINK.

Ms. Margaret A. GARCIA , 72, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is the daughter of CPL Evangelisto “Evans” R. Garcia (June 19, 1913 – January 29, 2011), a corporal in New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery. They were the first to fire on the invading Japanese on December 8, 1941. He fought in the Bataan Peninsula and endured the Bataan Death March. He was sent to Japan in 1943 to be a slave laborer in Mitsui’s Omuta coal mine outside Nagasaki. Today, the mine is a UNESCO World Industrial Heritage site.

Ms. Sandra Harding, 70, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the daughter of two U.S. Army officers who were prisoners of war of Japan surrendered in the Philippines: Lt. Earlyn Black Harding (September  8, 1918 – August 16, 2007) and Lt. Col. Harry J. Harding (March 22, 1919 – October 30, 1987). Lt. Black was an Army Nurse on Corregidor who was interned at Santo Tomas in Manila. Lt. Col. Harding was with the 63rd Infantry Regiment (Philippine Army) on Panay. He was sent to Japan and imprisoned in Kobe House POW Camp, Zentsuji, and Rokuroshi. Ms. Harding was an elementary school art teacher for the Santa Fe Public Schools and recently retired as a freelance graphic artist.

Mr. Thomas J. Hoskins, Jr., 75, lives in San Antonio, Texas. He is the son of Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Hoskins (April 6, 1918 – April 18, 1995) who was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. His father operated one of the two working radar units in the Philippines when Japan attacked on December 8, 1941. As a POW, his father was forced to build an airfield on Palawan Island in the Philippines. He was taken to Japan to be a slave laborer in various Kawasaki area POW camps near Tokyo. After the war, his father continued to serve in the military until his retirement in 1959 as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

Ms. Linda McDavitt, 76, lives in Austin, Texas where she is President/CEO of the Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation and Sail Training Commander of the Austin Yacht Club. She is the daughter of Capt. Jerome A. McDavitt (February 10, 1912-May 3, 1982) the 24th Field Artillery Regiment (Philippine Scouts). Surrendered on Corregidor, he was sent to Japan in 1944 where he was the POW commanding officer at the Hiroshima #6B - Omine POW camp that provided slave labor for a coal mine owned by Ube Industries. He was one of 89 Texas Aggies (graduates of Texas A&M) involved in the defense of Bataan and Corregidor.

Ms. Lorna Nielsen Murray, 64, lives in South Jordan, Utah. She is the daughter of PFC Eugene P. Nielsen, (January 23, 1916 - February 3, 2011) a member of the 59th Coast Artillery who fought on Corregidor. Nielsen was one of only 11 survivors of the 1944 Palawan Massacre of 139 American POWs. They were on Palawan Island in the Philippines to build an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. Today, this airfield is the foundation for the island’s Antonio Bautista Air Base. On November 22, 2023, Vice President Kamala Harris laid flowers at the memorial to the victims of this Japanese war crime. Ms. Murray is also a cousin to Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the famed “Tokyo Doolittle Raiders” and one of the eight who were captured by Japan. He was one of the four POWs who survived.

Dr. Gail Yoella Small, 68, lives in Reno, Nevada and is the daughter of Major George Small (February 28, 1908 – December 15, 2007) who was with the Chemical Warfare Service, 7th Chemical Company, Aviation, at Clark Field in the Philippines. After the Far East Air Force in early December 1941 was destroyed, he was assigned as an officer with the 31st Infantry Division, Company F of the 2nd Battalion that fought on Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March, Camp O’Donnell, and the Cabanatuan POW Camp in the Philippines. In Japan, he was imprisoned at Osaka POW Camp 2-D UMEDA, Zentsuji, and Rokuroshi. 

Ms. Karen Brady Smith, 73, lives in Kent, Washington. She is the daughter of Major Jack E. Brady (February 26, 1921 – August 11, 2008) who was a member of the 228th Army Signal Company in the Philippines. He survived the Bataan Death March, Camp O’Donnell, and Cabanatuan POW Camp. He was on one of the first hellships, Tottori Maru, to Japan, enduring a 38-day journey via Formosa, Mako, and Korea to Japan. He was held at the Omori POW Camp in Tokyo, used as stevedore for Nippon Express and worked at an iron smelter in Iwate at Sendai #10-B for Tokyo Shibaura Denki K.K. (Tohoku Denki Seitetsu Kabushiki Kaisha)