Sunday, October 30, 2011

At Japan's National Press Club

The Japan National Press Club (JNPC) hosted a press conference with the seven American former POWs of Japan. They posted a brief report (Japanese only) of the press conference as well as a video. A video and summary of the press conference is below.

  • Seven former POWs during WWII were invited through “the US-Japan Grassroots Invitational Program for Peace Exchange” of the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is the second year of the program sponsored by the Japanese government.
  • Mr. Rober Vogler Jr., the chief spokesman for the former POWs, talked about his experience in the prison camp in Kamioka, where he engaged in the forced labor at a lead mine during the war [for Mitsui Mining, now Mitsui Metals & Smelting]. He introduced his story of meeting and talking with the family of a Japanese prison guard, who was kind to POWs at that time. Mr. Vogler said, in the conference, “I can forgive despite such an awful experience. I can turn it into a friendship although I can never forget it.” 
  • Mr. Roy Edward Friese, who was imprisoned in Omuta, mentioned, “my memory of Japan has not been a good one. However, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of Omuta in this visit, and my bad feelings about Japan have vanished. I think this is about the time to forgive.” 
  • Mr. Harry Corre said, “I appreciate the Japanese government, but the Japanese companies have had no sense or recognition of using us as salve labors and made money out of them.” [Mr. Corre was at Omuta at Mitsui's coal mine. Mitsui refused to meet with them or allow them on the property of which they are now minority owners with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Corp.]
  • Deborah, a daughter of Mr. Harold Bergbower, commented, “We talked with the people at the metal company [Japan Metals & Chemicals, JMC] in Takaoka about the camp as we tried to find it on the map [According to ariel photography of this site at liberation, it is same as today where Takaoka Works a JMC facility exists]. We have been able to communicate. That led to a peace in my father. I think this is the beginning of friendship and peace itself.” 
  • There were questions on several topics including the atomic bomb dropped by the United States. The POWs were sympathetic to horror and destruction of the bombs. They are, however, convinced that the bombs ended the war and saved their lives as well as the lives of millions of Americans and Japanese.

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