Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mitsui's Liberation Dinners

Today, Mitsui family members and corporate officials refuse to meet with the former slave laborers that kept their business profitable during World War II. This was not always the case.

During the War, Mitsui, Japan's oldest and largest trading company, transported and used the greatest number of Allied POWs as slave laborers. Their mines, factories, and docks were considered among the most hellish for non-Japanese. At the postwar war crimes tribunals, former POWs identified many Mitsui employees as sadists, torturers, and murderers.

In the War’s immediate aftermath, hoping to temper these POWs' feelings, Mitsui’s leaders appear to have held a series of "parties" for senior officers from their POW camps. The thoughts of the attendees, unfortunately, are not readily available. Holocaust scholars I have talked with cannot recall any similar farewells between German corporate officials and their recently-released slave laborers.

As this photo in the Australian War Memorial archives shows, Baron Takaharu MITSUI is hosting a party in early September 1945 with Allied officers who had been held in Fukuoka Camp #17, a POW camp at Omuta located at the Mitsui Kozan Miike Kogyo-Sho coal mine and Mitsui Zinc Foundry.

Although the mine is long closed--it was the site in 1960 of Japan's worst and most violent labor dispute--Mitsui facilities  remain at the location and are part of Mitsui's Nippon Coke & Engineering Co. Ltd., one of the successors of Mitsui Mining.  The Japanese government has recently submitted an application to UNESCO to designate this Miike mine as a World  Industrial Heritage Site.

In the photo ABOVE, from left to right are Baron MITSUI; Captain Richard Parker, Australian Army Medical Corps; Padre C. Hamel, Royal Netherlands Army; Lieutenant Theodore Bronk, United States Army Medical Corps; Scotty Howell, Australian Army; and Lieutenant Gerit Bras, Royal Netherlands Army Medical Corps.

In this photo to the LEFT, also from the "party," are: Left To Right: Lieutenant (Lt) Gerit Bras, Royal Netherlands Army Medical Corps; Lt Harold Proff, United States Army Medical Corps; and Captain Ian L. Duncan, Australian Army Medical Corps.

Baron MITSUI, a Dartmouth (1915) graduate, was the owner of the coal mine where these POWs slaved. He took a peculiar interest in their existence at his largest mine. Many former POWs remember seeing the Baron visit both their camp and the mine in his open touring car. He even attended a burlesque show the POWs were allowed to stage in the fall of 1944.

He, thus, knew that the mine was so dangerous that it had been shut down for years and that the injury rate among the POWs was very high. He saw the emaciated POWs and he knew that food, heat, medicine, and clothing were withheld. And he did nothing.

Prior to this "party," up north in Hokkaido, the mine managers of the Mitsui mine at the Hakodate #4, Nishi-Ashibetsu POW camp held their own "celebration." On 20 August 1945, three days after they informed their slave laborers of Japan's surrender, the officials of the Mitsui Mining Company invited POW commander, Colonel William Ashurst and several other officers to a dinner at the local Mitsui Company Club House. The picture BELOW is of some of the attendees. The following POWs, nearly all North China Marines or Wake Island Marines, attended:

Americans: Maj L A Brown, Maj J P S Devereaux, Capt J A White, Capt H C Freuler, Lt W M Kessler, Lt W W Lewis, Lt M L Lewis (All Americans were Marines except for M Lewis who was Army Air Corps).
Australians: Col J J Scanlon, Maj J R P Clark, Maj J Edmonds-Wilson, Capt S G Nottage, Capt R A McDonald, Capt P H Brown, Lt E R Almond, Lt J RBadham.


  1. Typical Japanese "denial" in order to save face. Literally, every Japan Airlines hub is/was the location of an atrocity: Guam, Manila, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Singapore, etc.

    This is a deep seated problem with the Japanese: worshiping their war dead, denial of comfort women, Biological and Chemical warfare on the civilian population of North China, the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, the wholesale slaughter of Chinese in Singapore, the Burma railway....the list is endless. Their History Books make absolutely no mention of these events.

    Note however, that the Western governments, to wit: Great Britain, Australia, Holland, the United States, etc, never tie these festering wounds and their subsequent admission to trade agreements, imports from Japan ( an ex-POW Tariff ??)or any other form of recompense.

    The Japanese are clever: Japanese Peace Memorials sprout like Bougainvilla throughout the Pacific rim: Hawaii, Wake, Guam, Iwo, Saipan, The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, etc. Their Empire now consists of financing Pacific resorts, hotels, construction firms, mini-vehicles, motorcycles and scooters for the natives. Absolutely NO investment in schools, medical facilities, or self subsistence projects. In essence, The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere has been reborn.......

    Very unfortunately, each former POW will go to his grave without receiving a single Yen for the brutality they endured.

    Write Hillary Clinton....see if you receive a detailed reply and action plan from the US State Department......

    Dr. Ernst Gebauer II

  2. Japan is not alone in this. While on Sakhalin Island recently, I visited a museum and was treated to an account of how the Russians drove the Japanese back into the sea in 1905. And at the Hanoi Hilton, the guide was shocked when I asked what happened to the POW/MIAs. "We released and accounted for every one of your airmen", he said. "We treated them with the utmost respect. The only ones who did not return to America are living here today with their Vietnamese families of their own free will."


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