Friday, December 07, 2012

Torpedoing Pearl Harbor Day

Churchill Mug
This essay by your editor first appeared 12/07/12 in The Hill, a newspaper and website focused on issues affecting Capitol Hill.

Last year, Congress stopped remembering Pearl Harbor. For nearly 50 years, the U.S. Congress had honored the survivors and fallen of Imperial Japan’s deadly attack through a resolution either asking the President to issue a proclamation designating December 7 as Pearl Harbor Day or issuing their own recognition of when the United States was pushed into World War II. This ended in 2011. America’s Greatest Generation was pushed aside to make a petty swipe at the White House about a surplus bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

A House rules change in 2011 did away with commemorative resolutions. As a staffer from the House Speaker John Boehner’s office told me, a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day resolution would be “frivolous.” The House Republican leadership of the 112th Congress had adopted new rules barring consideration of any measure that “expresses appreciation, commends, congratulates, celebrates, recognizes the accomplishments of, or celebrates the anniversary of, an entity, event, group, individual, institution, team or government program; or acknowledges or recognizes a period of time for such purposes” (Rule #28).

Speaker Boehner did not completely ignore December 1941 last year, however. That month served as the occasion to taunt the White House over a bust of Winston Churchill. He and many Republicans were upset that the President had returned this loaned presentation of Britain’s wartime prime minister to the British Embassy


On December 19, 2011, House Speaker Boehner allowed a resolution to pass that recognized the accomplishments of former Prime Minister Churchill. Boehner introduced H.Res. 497 commemorating the 70th anniversary of Churchill’s “The Masters of Our Fate” speech on December 26, 1941 before Congress, in which he urged Americans, barely two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to pursue the war first in Europe and not Asia. The resolution also requested the placement of a statue or bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the United States Capitol. 

No one regrets our efforts in Europe during the war, but Americans then fighting the first battles on the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and Java may have been somewhat circumspect about Churchill’s successful Europe-first lobbying. After Pearl Harbor, for four months through April 9, 1942, soldiers on Bataan tied up a better trained and equipped Japanese invasion force. On Wake Island, from December 8 to 22, 1941, less than 400 Marines held off a Japanese armada and amphibious assault. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in the Pacific were abandoned and never resupplied. They were thus condemned to hopeless battles with obsolete weapons and no provisions ending in death or over three years of unmerciful imprisonment in Japan’s notorious POW camps.

Naturally, any political and military decisions in 1941 would have had good consequences for some Americans and bad results for others. But, 70 years later, a decision to commemorate a speech of a foreign head of state coupled with an explicit decision not to commemorate American veterans in one of the critical chapters of WWII is unfathomable.

Sadly, there is no longer a constituency to hold the House leadership responsible for ignoring WWII veterans or their history. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-Ohio), who did not issue a personal Pearl Harbor Day statement in 2011, has the power to make exceptions to "Rule 28," but he has no incentive do so. This year the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded and other Pacific War veterans are considered too elderly to be an active political force.

In fairness, perhaps Speaker Boehner thought that Congress no longer needed to weigh on remembering Pearl Harbor. This was the president’s job. In 1994, Congress made permanent a tradition started in 1966 and passed Public Law 103-308) designating December 7th as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." It authorized and requested the President to: 1) issue an annual proclamation calling on U.S. citizens to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and 2) urge all Federal agencies, interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff in honor of those who gave their lives as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor. 

President Barak Obama, fulfilled his obligation 2011 by saying: “On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to the heroes whose courage ensured our Nation would recover from this vicious blow. Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II. As a Nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms.” He followed his words with a quiet visit on December 29th to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.”

This year Congress is again silent on December 7. It is unfortunate that our veterans were ignored to make an irrelevant point about whether a foreign leader’s bust should on display in the Oval Office. Resolutions honoring WWII veterans transcend politics. They provide these men and women with a national gesture of eternal appreciation for their sacrifices and valor on Pearl Harbor day and the nearly four years thereafter fighting tyranny. They remind us of the greatness of American leadership. Failure to do so sends a troubling message to present and future veterans on how they too will be forgotten.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

To you from failing hands we throw the Torch;
be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, 
though poppies grow in Flanders Fields

Returning to Japan after 70 years

This article appeared in the Ventura County Star on November 11, 2012, Veterans Day.
CARMEN SMYTH/SPECIAL TO THE STAR World War II veteran John Real survived the Bataan Death March. He returned to Japan in October to receive a formal apology from the Japanese government for the treatment American veterans endured.
Contributed photo 
 John Real as a prisoner of war.
Contributed photo John Real as a prisoner of war.
514. The numbers haunted him for years.
When John Real left Tokyo in September 1945, nearly every building was burned out. After four years of war, the city was in ruins.
Real never thought he'd return to Japan. He had spent more than three years as a prisoner of war, held captive by aggressive and abusive Japanese troops. He had survived the Bataan Death March — just barely — and was leaving the country weighing slightly more than 100 pounds. When he boarded the troop transport ship bound for San Francisco, he didn't look back. He returned to his home in Ojai, moved on with his life, married, raised three children, and only talked about the war when asked.
Then came the invitation.
In April, after being placed on a list, Real was contacted by a representative of the Japanese/American P.O.W. Friendship Program. The Japanese government was asking Real to travel to Tokyo to take part in a 10-day series of speaking engagements to educate area university students and civilians alike about a war that seemed to have been forgotten. And in the middle of it all, Real was to accept a formal apology for the treatment he received as a prisoner of war.
The opportunity seemed the chance of a lifetime, coming 70 years after he was first captured by the Japanese. Now 90, the idea of returning to Japan was something the Ventura resident felt he needed to do.
The fight to stay alive
Real volunteered for active duty in the Army Air Corps in April 1940, more than 18 months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was 18 at the time. He packed his bags and was sent to Fort MacArthur, Calif., as part of the 2nd Observation Squadron. The young airman had a few choices: Hawaii, Alaska, Panama, or the Philippines. He chose the Philippines.
After completing the required training, Real traveled to San Francisco and boarded a troop transport ship bound for Clark Field, approximately 80 miles north of Manila. Combat was a threat, and war was inevitable. The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor proved chaotic for the men already serving in the Pacific.
"When things started to get bad at Clark Field, they sent us to Bataan thinking we could recover and beat the Japanese there," Real said in a 2009 interview. "They were supposed to have supplies waiting for us, but when we got there, there was nothing. The Japanese knew exactly where we were and what we were doing."
The order to retreat to Bataan led to three months of heavy fighting and an eventual surrender from the American and Filipino troops. Real was stationed in an observation tower at the time of the surrender. After making the eight-mile walk down the mountain from the tower, all he could do was pray that he would survive. It was April 9, 1942.
"When I got down to the Japanese guards, they asked for everything I had," Real said in 2009. "They took my watch, my ring, blankets and my mess kit. Everything."
They began what was an approximate 60-mile walk to San Fernando. Any man that fell out of line was killed. For every one American killed, Real said, two Filipinos were killed.
The first stretch of what had become the Bataan Death March lasted five days. There was no food or water. Dysentery spread quickly, claiming the lives of many prisoners. Those who survived were packed like cattle into a boxcar on a train for a two-day trip to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp in Tarlac in the Philippines.
Real fought to keep his health so he could qualify for a labor assignment. If the Japanese could use him to work, his chances of surviving the war were much higher. But living conditions were poor, and intake was arguably worse. Real contracted Malaria, and was unable to continue labor assignments. He recovered, but was sent to Cabanatuan, a prison camp to the east of Camp O'Donnell. An assignment to Cabanatuan, for most, was a death sentence.
After recovering enough to work again, Real was ordered to board a ship bound for a prison camp in Niigata, Japan. Conditions were just as poor as the other camps. There was no medication, and food rations remained scarce. Three meals a day consisted of soybeans and barley. Real was assigned to work on nearby docks with a company called Rinko Coal. He'd unload ships, then load trains bound for inland destinations. The prisoners never saw a penny of the wages they earned. Rinko had seemingly made a deal to pay all earnings to the Japanese government.
Real stayed in Niigata for the remainder of the war. He has vivid memories of the day in August 1945 when he saw American B-29s flying over the camp. He never knew their mission until he and the other prisoners realized the Japanese guards had fled. The atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war had ended.
Contributed photo 
 John Real (center) is pictured in Japan with his son, Gregory, (left) and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos.
Contributed photo John Real (center) is pictured in Japan with his son, Gregory, (left) and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos.
Returning to Niigata
When Real headed to Los Angeles International Airport in October with his son, Gregory, they had only an agenda to give them an idea of what to expect in Japan. Between their first class seating assignments, and the warm welcome they received in Tokyo, Real was experiencing a much different Japan than he had seven decades before.
"They were wonderful in accommodating us," Real said. "It was over the top. They really went out of their way."
The city itself was unrecognizable. Broken and destitute when Real left in 1945, Tokyo was now thriving.
The third trip of its kind, seven former prisoners of war, including Real, were greeted by students at an extension of Temple University, and by guests at museums, all waiting to hear the firsthand accounts of events most knew nothing about. Some questions proved difficult. How do you justify the atomic bomb? Somehow amid the resentment from a much younger generation, Real found himself relating, responding with how he felt when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Gregory said that the comparison — and Real's understanding approach — seemed to ease the crowd. He admitted that there is no easy answer.
After a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japan National Press Club, and an apology from government officials, Real learned of a unique opportunity organized just for him — a trip to Rinko Coal and the docks of Niigata.
"No one from the company came out to talk to us," Gregory Real said. "I know it's a sensitive subject."
But even with the silence from Rinko Coal, Real stood overlooking the docks and was able to find peace in what had only been an unyielding supply of bad memories.
There were also the mortuary records.
For the first time, Real saw the official death notices of two friends from Ventura County with whom he enlisted. Bob Pierpont, who was killed on a Hell Ship en route to Niigata, and Lewis Hayes who died of malnutrition in Cabanatuan. He had run into both men in the beginning of their imprisonment. He saw Hayes just days before he died.
Between Niigata and the mortuary records, the trip had become more than an opportunity to rebuild a relationship with Japan. It thrust the realities of war back to the forefront of Real's mind, and provided proof that perhaps the memory of those who died, like Pierpont and Hayes, weren't lost when the war ended.
514 — the numbers that once identified Real as a nameless prisoner are now on file among Japanese historical documents — a permanent record of one man's fight to stay alive.
To read a more detailed account of John Real's experiences in World War II, visit

Friday, November 09, 2012

Remembering Bataan & Corregidor

In late April of this year, five former POWs of Japan who fought on Bataan and Corregidor visited Washington, DC to commemorate these historic battles. Congressmen Mike Honda (D-CA), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), and Bill Huizenga (R-MI) were the only members of Congress to greet these veterans.

However, these members of America's greatest generation made a big impression on the people they did meet at the National Guard Association, the Heritage Foundation, the State Department, and the World War II memorial. As you will see in this video, young people are eager to meet and learn from them.

We have extensive video footage of the visit to Washington former by these former POWs of Japan, which we would like to turn into a a short documentary. Your contributions to help make this happen are much needed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Dialogue with Former US Prisoners of War in Japan

On October 15, 2012, Temple University in Japan's Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS) hosted the seven former POWs of Japan during their visit to Japan hosted by Japan's Foreign Ministry. This was the third visitation program for American former POWs, which includes an apology delivered personally by the Foreign Minister for their abuse and suffering. You can find detailed biographies of these men HERE.

For an excellent review of this trip to Japan see the US-Japan Dialogue on POWs.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Elections and the POWs/MIAs

If you have wondered about where the various candidates for national office stand on issues affecting the American POWs/MIAs of Japan, HERE is a list of legislation that is related to issues affecting the history and memory of those involved in WWII in the Pacific. You can thus see for yourself how your incumbent member of congress voted or the legislation he/she was willing to co-sponsor. By clicking on the highlighted bill number, you can find all the details of the legislation including who are its co-sponsors.

For those who do not think they will go out and vote, HERE is some inspiration from several former POWs of Japan, who have a special appreciation of the American freedom to vote.

Overall, the record is pretty grim. The 112th Congress (a Congress is every two years) appears to have lost its memory. For the first time, Congress did not pass a resolution honoring the memory of the fallen at Pearl Harbor. This was particular disappointing as last December was the 70th Anniversary. You can find the President’s Proclamation HERE.

The award of a collective gold medal to the first African Americans of the Marine Corps known during WWII as the Montford Point Marines was achieved only by a roll call vote. This means every member had to put him/herself on the record. Overall there has been legislation introduced honoring those of America’s greatest generation, but few members of congress have been willing to support it and almost none of the legislation has gotten out of committee for a floor vote.

Some experts believe this is because there are few veterans now in Congress. In the House of Representatives there are only 92 veterans. The simple fact is that veterans no longer represent a large voting group. To ignore their issues consequently holds no political risk.

In regard to the presidential race, it should be noted that President Obama was the first president and first administration to ask (and insist) the Japanese to honor the memory of the American POWs of Japan. The President’s grandfather was a WWII vet. Governor Romney has not said anything about the POWs. Neither he nor any of his five sons are veterans. His running mate, Paul Ryan, hails from Janesville, Wisconsin that is home of the Janesville 99. This group of activated National Guardsmen fought on Bataan and suffered the Bataan Death March. Less than half of men returned home.

Neither Romney nor Ryan issued a Pearl Harbor Day statement. It should be noted that those mentioned as advising candidate Romney on Japan are the same people in the Bush II Administration who actively blocked compensation for the POWs of Japan as well as a joint Congressional commemorative statement for the 60th anniversary of the end of Pacific War.

In pulling together the data for the above, I decided to see, as an example, how the incumbent congressional candidate for my newly redrawn home district in upstate New York Chris Gibson (R-NY-20, redrawn as the 19th) voted.

I found that although one of the few decorated Iraq war veterans in Congress, he has supported Republican vice presidential candidate Rep Paul Ryan’s budget that cuts benefits and jobs programs for veterans. The same budget reduces funds for diplomatic security, putting veterans in harm’s way, as we have seen with the deaths of former Navy Seals in Libya. Even when dollars are not involved, he ignores the history of those soldiers who came before him, especially from America’s “greatest generation.”

He, as many, loyally followed the House Republican leadership’s refusal to consider commemorative bills. Thus, for the first time in history, on December 7, 2011, Congress did not pass a resolution recognizing Pearl Harbor and its seminal moment in American history. Gibson, a retired Army colonel, was not even a co-sponsor of the bi-partisan H.CON.RES.89 introduced to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor.

However, ten days later, he allowed Speaker of the House John Boehner to ram through H. RES. 497 honoring British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for his December 26, 1941 Pearl Harbor speech to Congress urging Americans to pursue the war first in Europe. The resolution even requested taxpayer money to place this foreign leader’s bust in the Capitol Rotunda.

Americans then fighting the first battles of WWII in the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and Java are less sanguine about Churchill’s successful Washington lobbying for a Europe-first strategy. The abandoned soldiers, sailors and Marines in the Pacific were condemned by this policy to hopeless battles ending in death or over three years of imprisonment in Japan’s notorious POW camps.

Colonel Gibson has also failed to support resolution, H. RES. 333, honoring those men who survived the torture, abuse, and slave labor as POWs of Japan. Nor did he co-sponsor H.RES.636 to designate April 9, 2012 to May 6, 2012, as “Bataan-Corregidor Month” recognizing one of the most historic battles of American history. And he did not stand up for H.R.3712 awarding a gold medal to those who defended Bataan in the first months of WWII. Although an Army Ranger, he also did not appear at any event held on Capitol Hill this April for the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Defense of the Philippines with survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and Battle of Corregidor.

He is among the 204 co-sponsors of H.R.719 to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol. However, he was not among the 308 (out of 435) members who cosponsored H.R.2447 to grant the congressional gold medal to the first African Americans of the Marine Corps known during WWII as the Montford Point Marines. He did carefully vote "yea" on the bill in an unusual roll call vote—bills with so many cosponsors rarely face a roll call and are passed by unanimous consent.

An official, black and white MIA/POW flag stands beside the door of Congressman Gibson’s Washington office. However, on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, September 21, Gibson, like many of his colleagues, did not issue so much as a Tweet acknowledging the day’s significance. By ignoring yesterday’s veterans, Congressmen like Chris Gibson send a discouraging message to today’s veterans. Congress is missing in action for their interests.

Monday, October 22, 2012

American POWs Visit Osaka, Hitachi

On Wednesday and Thursday, October 18 and 19, three American former POWs of Japan visited Osaka, the site of their imprisonment and slave labor. They visited Takami Elementary School, which sits atop the ruins of the POW camp, Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka, at which two of the POWs were held.

The POWs had lunch with the children and shared their stories with them.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just Compensation

Secretary of State Clinton at the
American Cemetery in Manila
honoring the fallen of World War II
November 2009
The letter below appeared online in the Japan Times the same day the 3rd delegation of American POWs of Japan  met with the Japan's Foreign Minister Gemba and received their personal apologies for the torture and abuse they endured during WWII. Japanese-language publications had refused to print Dr. Tenney's reflections.

Remembrance is 'compensation'


Past National Commander, American Defenders of Bataan And Corregider
Carlsbad, California
Japan Times, October 14, 2012

This week, seven former American POWs of the Japanese will travel to Japan and revisit former campsites where they were held during World War II. Some of them will also visit the companies for whom they were forced to work. Although their memories of Japan from 68 years ago are still painful, they know that they will be welcomed by today's Japanese citizens and that they will enjoy a beautiful autumn in Japan.

For the third straight year, the Foreign Ministry is inviting former American POWs to Japan under the "Japanese/American POW Friendship Program."

In 2009, Japan's Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki traveled to Texas to attend the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (a national organization of former POWs of the Japanese), of which I was the last National Commander. He stood before the surviving POWs and their families and apologized for Imperial Japan's abuse of POWs.

The following year, Ambassador Fujisaki and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell worked together to have six former POWs, including myself, invited to Japan, where Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada directly delivered Japan's formal apology to us. In 2011, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba graciously repeated the same apology to that year's POW delegation.

These sincere apologies played a vital role in our regaining the dignity once taken from us. Official Japan reached out to us POWs with respect and the invitation program has been so successful in bringing former POWs and today's Japanese citizens closer.

Today, I feel assured that our wartime experience will be remembered by the Japanese people through this invitation program, which I hope will continue not only for former POWs but also for their widows and descendants in years to come.

I have been hearing that so-called comfort women are still waiting for the Japanese government to offer them a sincere apology. I hope they will receive it soon. As someone who also had freedom, health and dignity taken away, I know how much a genuine apology like the ones we received will mean to them.

Most important, Japan needs to demonstrate its sincerity by remembering all its histories as a proud nation. To be remembered is our "compensation."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ten Days in October

FM Gemba with American former POWs of Japan
For the third time in as many years, seven nonagenarian veterans of World War II become "guests of Emperor." These men were tortured, starved, beaten, and forced to work in dangerous conditions by Imperial Japan as prisoners of war. Unlike their first trip to Japan, which was by Hell Ship or parachute, they traveled by a first class ticket on a Japanese airline.

For the third time, Japan's Foreign Minister faced the American POWs and apologized for his government for their suffering under Imperial Japan (photo above). The men and their caregivers are touring Japan and visiting the sites of their incarceration and slave labor. They slaved for well-know Japanese firms such as Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Nippon Express, Rinko, and Ube Industries.

Initiated in 2010, the visitation program for American former POWs of Japan is a model for Japanese government war apologies. There is a formal presentation of an apology and a concerted act of contrition. It is unfortunate, however, that the Japanese Government does not publicize this successful program and has not pushed the Japanese companies that were complicit in the torture and abuse of the POWs to also acknowledge and apologize. Indeed, the companies have been largely silent and some have refused to allow these elderly men to revisit the sites of their first stay in Japan.

Here are brief biographies of the men in Japan from October 12 to 21.

>Randall S. Edwards, 95, lives in Lakeland, Florida. Born in Wyoming, he grew up in Nebraska and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1935 after high school to see the world. He was sent to the Philippines in 1940 and assigned as a Radioman 1ST Class to the submarine tender, the USS Canopus, which had been ordered to stay in Manila Bay after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Bombed and strafed continually, the ship was finally scuttled in Mariveles Bay on April 8, 1942 with the crew escaping to the fortress island of Corregidor in the mouth of Manila Bay. On Corregidor, the crew served in beach defense with the Fourth Marines. He was a POW at Cabanatuan 3 and shipped to Mukden, China (today’s Shenyang) in October 1942 on Mitsubishi’s Hellship Tottori Maru via Formosa and Korea to Manchukuo (Manchuria). Edwards was a slave laborer at MKK (Manshu Kosaku Kikai, which some researchers believe was owned by Mitsubishi and known as Manchuria Mitsubishi Machine Tool Company, Ltd.). He worked on multiple machines from grinders to lathes, carefully sabotaging each task. Toward the end, he was made to haul pig iron to the company’s foundry. He believes that the multiple shots and blood tests that he received while at Mukden were part of human medical experiments conducted by the Imperial Army’s 731st Biological Warfare Unit. After the war, Edwards remained in the Navy where he received over 40 medals during his service and retired in 1955 as a Warrant Officer. From 1948-1950, he was with U.S. Occupation Forces in Yokosuka, Japan in charge of the Base’s radio station. He found there that the Japanese were “not all demons.” After the Navy, he received his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida, Gainesville and went to work as a research engineer on fusion energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. After retiring in 1982, he became a National Service officer for American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and American Ex-Prisoners of War to help his fellow veterans with their VA claims. He enjoys golf and international travel with his wife Rose Mary.
POW# 104
Member of: DAV, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War

>Robert W. Ehrhart, 89, lives in Carmichael, California. He grew up in Oakland, California and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve during high school. His unit was activated November 6, 1940 and sent to the Philippines in April 1941 to join the Marine Detachment at Cavite.  On May 1, the 1st Separate Marine Battalion, unique in that it trained to function either as infantry or antiaircraft artillery, was activated. Relocated fall 1941 to the Olongapo Navy Yard near Subic Bay, the unit was moved during December 1941 to Corregidor Island. On January 1, 1942 they were redesignated the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines and joined the Battle of Corregidor through surrender on May 6, 1942. Ehrhart was sent to the Cabanatuan POW Camp where he was on a burial detail, burying as many as forty men a day. He remembers that the “bodies were like skeletons and when you lifted them onto the window shutters, which were used for litters, their skin would peel back and stick to your hands.” To bolster his morale and that of his fellow POWs, he started to draw cartoons, risking severe punishment if discovered. He had a pencil, but paper was almost impossible to obtain. He bartered for whatever writing material anyone had with the rare Carnation Milk can label his greatest canvas. In September 1943, Ehrhart was transferred to Japan aboard the Hellship Taga Maru (aka Coral Maru). He was sent to Osaka 4-D Sakurajima were he was a slave laborer at Hitachi Zosen’s Sakurajima Shipyard (today’s Universal Shipping Corporation). He worked as a riveter helping build military ships and oil tankers. Today, the site of this POW camp is the Universal Studios Japan theme park. After the camp was bombed in May 1945, he was sent to Osaka 6-B, Akenobe, POW Camp where he was a slave laborer working as a stope driller in a copper mine for Mitsubishi Mining (today’s Mitsubishi Materials Corporation). When the POWs realized that the war had ended, they pieced together an American flag to fly on the camp flagpole, which they believe was the first postwar U.S. symbol in Japan. After recuperating in military hospitals from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, and various tropic diseases, he was discharged April 29 1946. He then studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, he worked for the Navy and eventually joined the State of California’s Department of Water Resources as a hydroelectric engineer. Since retiring in 1983, he has pursued his passions of travel and fine photography. The Veteran’s History Project of the U.S. Library of Congress holds a recording of his oral history.
POW# 221
Member of DAV, VFW, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War

>David G. Farquhar, Jr., 90, resides among orange groves in Redlands, California where he has lived all his life. He joined the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942. He trained in Nebraska and was assigned as a Technical Sergeant to General Curtis LeMay’s 20th Air Force, 24th Squadron, 313th Bomb Wing, 6th bomb group, Crew #2404. He was sent with the 6th Bomb Group to Tinian in the Northern Marianas in January 1945. Farquhar participated in 18 missions over the Pacific and Mainland Japan. On May 23, 1945, he was a turret gunner when his B-29 was shot down over Tokyo by flak and fighter planes. He and his 11 crewmates all bailed out safely and were captured. They were taken to the infamous horse stalls outside of the Kempeitai (military police of the Imperial Army) Headquarters in Tokyo near the Emperor’s palace. They were not considered POWs but “special prisoners” who were war criminals. Beaten, starved, and tortured, they were denied clothes, basic hygiene, and medical treatment. On August 15th, the day Japan surrendered, he was transferred to a cell at Tokyo Base Camp #1 Omori where he was liberated August 28, 1945. Omori was the first POW camp liberated. After a series of hospital stays he was discharged in 1946 and returned to San Diego State College (today’s San Diego State University) for a BA in Engineering. He then obtained an MA in Education from the University of Redlands. From 1950 to 1993, Farquhar taught both junior high and high school mathematics and science. He has been married to Jacqueline for nearly 66 years. He currently tends his orange grove, serves on various boards, and participates in community activities.
POW# Not known to “special prisoners” 
Member of American Ex-Prisoners of War 

>Douglas Northam, 93, lives in Reno, Nevada. Born in Morris County, Texas, he grew up in nearby Naples, Texas. After graduating from high school in 1937, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and in 1940 in the U.S. Navy. He was transferred to China in February of 1941 and assigned to the USS Oahu (PR-6), a Yangtze River Patrol boat ported in Shanghai. The USS Oahu, never designed for open sea operations, was sent to Manila Bay in November 1941, arriving two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The gunboat operated in and around Manila Bay and Cavite Navy Yard on inshore patrol and in support of U.S.-Filipino forces on Bataan until after its fall April 8, 1942 and then continued to operate about the island fortress of Corregidor until sunk by enemy gunfire May 5th. Northam was then assigned to an artillery group on Corregidor, which was surrendered on May 7th when Corregidor fell. As a POW of Japan he was sent to Bilibid POW Camp in Manila and then moved to Cabanatuan 1 and 2. In November 1942, he was sent to Japan aboard Mitsubishi’s Hellship the Nagato Maru. He worked for Nippon Express as a slave stevedore in the freight yards in and around the city of Osaka at Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka (Osaka 2-D UMEDA). In March 1945, after his POW camp was firebombed, he was transferred to Osaka POW Camp 5-B TSURUGA were he was a slave stevedore again for Nippon Express and Tsuruga Transportation Company. After the war, Northam utilized the GI Bill to study geology at the University of California, Berkley. He joined Shell Oil Company in 1951 as a laboratory technician and retired 1977 as research technician. He has been married to Hazel for 64 years. In retirement he was a volunteer at a local elementary school and the VA Hospital. His hobbies include gardening, horse racing, and cooking.
POW# 117
Member of DAV, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War, AMVETS 

>John Leroy Mims, 90, lives in Aberdeen, North Carolina. Born in Ashburn, Georgia, he grew up in Florida and enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1938, but was discharged a year later after it was discovered that he was underage. Still hungry and jobless, he re-enlisted February 15, 1941 and was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion of the famous 31st Infantry Regiment sometimes referred to as the “American Foreign Legion.” In April 1941, he was sent to the Philippines aboard the USAT Republic and stationed at Cuartel de España in Manila. He fought in the Battle for Bataan and as a POW forced on the Bataan Death March. During the war, his Filipino fiancée Juanita worked as a secretary for a Japanese general and bravely aided the resistance by sending shortwave radio messages to Allied forces in the Pacific. As a POW, the Japanese repeatedly beat and tortured Mims . Although they were able to break his body, they could never come close to breaking his spirit. During his captivity, the Japanese broke his back, neck and both of his legs and shattered many of the bones in his face. The beatings briefly left him a paraplegic on two separate occasions and he retains a limp. Mims lost over 120 pounds as a POW dropping from 190 pounds to 67 pounds. Of the 1,600 soldiers in the 31st Infantry Regiment who surrendered, less than half survived Japanese captivity. In September 1944, he was sent to Japan on board Mitsubishi’s Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Hellship Sekiho Maru (Canadian Inventor [the Mati Mati Maru or slow slow ship]). Mims became a slave laborer mining coal for Ube Kosan’s Sanyo Muen Kogyo Sho (Ube Industries’ Sanyo Smokeless Coal Work, which is still known today as Ube Industries Ltd.) at Hiroshima #6B - Omine (Sanyo) POW Camp in Omine-machi, Yamaguchi Prefecture. After the war, Mims remained in the Army for the next 27 years, attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class. He returned to Japan from 1952-54 to be in charge of the Tokyo Quartermaster Depot. He retired in 1963 and involved himself in real estate, construction, and mining. He and Juanita were married 59 years until her death in 2004. They are parents of three biological and 22 adopted children. He remarried in 2009 to another beautiful Filipina, Nena Sabal. His hobbies include reading and recounting his history story as a POW of Japan, especially on how he survived the infamous Bataan Death March. The Veteran’s History Project of the U.S. Library of Congress holds a recording of his oral history.
POW# 429
Member of DAV, VFW, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and National Order of the Trench Rats, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor

>John Real, 90, lives in Ventura, California. A California native he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1940. He was sent to the Philippines in April 1941 and assigned to aerial reconnaissance at Clark Field with the 2nd Observation Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group, V Bomber Command, 20th Air Force. Real and his unit manned an observation tower on top of Mt. Mariveles, Bataan during Japan’s invasion of the Philippines where he tracked Japanese ship movement around the Olongapo Navy Yard. He walked down the mountain to surrender on April 9, 1942 and was stripped of all his belongings before being forced on the Bataan Death March. At the start of the march, he and others were used as human shields by being forced to walk in front of seized American 155mm calibre field guns (Long Toms) that the Japanese were firing at Corregidor. He was a POW at both Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan 1. He avoided a certain death at O’Donnell by volunteering for a work detail on Bataan. In September 1943, he was sent to Moji, Japan aboard the Hellship Taga Maru (aka Coral Maru) via Formosa. At Tokyo 5-B POW Camp in Niigata he was a slave laborer unloading coal ships for Niigata Kairiku Unso, now part of the Rinko Corporation (however, POWs remember Rinko as their “employer”). After the war, Real received a BA in Business Administration from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a MA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he met his wife with whom he had three children and was married to for 49 years until she passed away in 2006. After graduation, he pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales with various companies, retiring with Berlex Labs, at the time a division of Schering AG. In retirement, he has been an active member of the Museum of Ventura County and the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu.
POW# 514 
Member of DAV, VFW, American Legion, American Ex-Prisoners of War, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, AMVETS 

>George R. Summers, 90, lives in Riverside, California. Born in the Philippines, he grew up in California where he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in February 1941. Activated in June 1941, his unit was sent to Guam, an American territory, in September 1941. Japan invaded the island on December 8, 1941 and he was taken prisoner upon the surrender of the island on the 10th--the first American territory to fall. Summers was on the first transport of Allied POWs to Japan, the Argentina Maru with 420 American POWs from Guam to Tadotsu on the north coast of Shikoku. After arriving in Japan on January 16, 1942, the POWs were transported to Zentsuji (Hiroshima Branch #1), a POW camp about eight kilometers from Tadotsu. He spent six months there clearing a mountainside to plant apple trees. He was then transferred to Tanagawa Osaka Area POW Command #4B Camp. At Tanagawa, he helped to manually tear down a mountainside building a breakwater for a primitive dry-dock and submarine base. This camp was noted for its severe malnutrition and extreme death rate. Six months later, he was sent to Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka (Osaka 2-D UMEDA), Japan where he worked for Nippon Express as a slave stevedore. He was transferred to a total of six POW camps due to American bombings. His last camp was the Nagoya 10-B Fushiki Camp, where he worked as a stevedore slave unloading soybeans from Korea for Fushiki Kairiku Unso until Japan’s surrender. After his release, he was hospitalized for six months at the Long Beach Naval Hospital. Like many veterans, he then shifted between various odd jobs and classes. In 1947, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine. From 1955 to 1968 he worked for General Telephone Company, which later became GTE and is today’s Verizon. After GTE, he served as a financial clerk for the City of Anaheim from 1968 to 1978. Married to Juanita Louise Summers since 1970, he has two children from his first marriage. In retirement, he has focused on real estate investment and his hobbies of collecting Koi fish and exotic birds.
POW# 347 
Member of DAV, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Military Order of the Purple Heart

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Forgotten Army

An ocean away from the United States, the British held their own ceremony to honor their POWs and MIAs. In London, a memorial to the thousands of civilian and military prisoners who suffered at the hands of Japan's Imperial Armed Forces was unveiled at Mornington Crescent on September 21, 2012.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2012

For more than two centuries, Americans have bravely served our Nation as members of our Armed Forces. Many have made profound sacrifices to uphold the ideals we cherish, carrying wounds that may never fully heal and dark memories that will never fade. Today, we pay solemn tribute to service members who bore war's tragic costs as prisoners of war and those missing in action. We stand with the families who have known the lingering ache of a loved one's uncertain fate. And as a Nation, we reaffirm a most sacred obligation: that we must never forget the men and women who did not come home, and that we must never stop trying to return them to their families and the country they fought to protect.

As long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, America will bring our fullest resources to bear in finding them and bringing them home. It is a promise we make not only to the families of our captured and our missing, but to all who have worn the uniform. Our Nation continues to recover the remains of fallen heroes we lost in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, World War II, and other conflicts. And as these patriots are finally laid to rest, we pray their return brings closure and a measure of peace to those who knew and loved them. During this day of recognition, let us honor their sacrifice once more by expressing our deepest gratitude to our service members, our veterans, our military families, and all those who have given so much to keep our country safe.

On September 21, 2012, the stark black and white banner symbolizing America's Missing in Action and Prisoners of War will be flown over the White House; the United States Capitol; the Departments of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs; the Selective Service System Headquarters; the World War II Memorial; the Korean War Veterans Memorial; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; United States post offices; national cemeteries; and other locations across our country. We raise this flag as a solemn reminder of our obligation to always remember the sacrifices made to defend our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 21, 2012, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. I urge all Americans to observe this day of honor and remembrance with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Calling for an apology

Above is New York State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein's Message to Japanese Government for an Official Apology to the "Comfort Women," Filmed by the Korean American Voters' Council at the Holocaust and Comfort Women Survivors Calling for Justice Together event at the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives at Queensborugh Community College in Queens, New York on December 13, 2011. Mr. Braunstein represents Queens.

There have been multiple apologies by Japanese government officials to the Comfort Women. A private fund was established (ended in 2007) to offer atonement payments to some surviving comfort women. However, there has not been a Diet resolution nor a Cabinet Decision affirming that the apologies are official Japanese government policy and assuming responsibility. The apologies leave doubt; they are equivocal.

This is not the case for the American POWs of Japan. The apology was a Cabinet Decision and followed up by a government-funded program of visitation to Japan by former POWs.

There is, however, more to be done. The apology still  needs to be followed by efforts to research and preserve the history of the POWs of Japan. And it must include contributions by Japan's private sector that benefited by using POWs for slave labor.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Louis Zamperini on the Tonight Show

Sadly, NBC took down its links to Mr. Zamperini's appearance on the Tonight Show and blocked others from displaying the now-historic interview. [Update 7/13/14]

However, here see a better, longer piece by CBS Sunday Morning (produced by a high school classmate of mine) May 27, 2012.

 Louis Zamperini, the subject of the best-selling book Unbroken, was interviewed by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show Thursday, June 7, 2012. Zamperini talks about how he was tortured and experimented upon by the Japanese on a Pacific island after he was captured having survived 47 days on a life raft. He was eventually shipped to Japan for further torture and ended up as a slave laborer for Japanese corporations. He survived the infamous Ofuna Naval Interogation Center in Kamakura and was then shipped to two of Japan's most horrific prison camps near Tokyo: Omori where he slaved for Nippon Express and then Naoetsu where he labored for Shin-Etsu Chemical and Nippon Stainless (NSSC). These multi-national companies still exist with their same names.

Unbroken will be translated into 23 languages worldwide. Japanese is not one of the languages as no publisher in Japan has shown an interest in this bestseller.

Unbroken will be released as a movie sometime in 2013 by Universal and directed by Francis Lawrence.

Later: Here Mr. Zamperini is interviewed back stage at the Tonight Show and adds a bit more about his 1936 Olympics roommate, Jesse Owens.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Exhibit “We Can Forgive But Never Forget” Opens at Andersonville National Historic Site

Press Release

Date: May 11, 2012

Contact: Bridget A. Beers, 229 924-0343

A new temporary exhibit We Can Forgive But Never Forget is on display at the Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville National Historic Site. This exhibit coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the fall of the Philippines. The objects displayed are from prisoners held by the Japanese during World War II who fought on Bataan and Corregidor.

Seventy years ago the men on Bataan and Corregidor fought to preserve our way of life in World War II.These men, living on less than half rations, suffering from tropical diseases and low on ammunition, were surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942 on Bataan. On May 6, 1942 Corregidor and the rest of the Philippines were surrendered. Their valiant fighting delayed the Japanese invasion of the Pacific for six months, long enough for Allied Troops to regroup, train, and prepare for the systematic retrieval of Pacific islands and countries lost to the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Though hopeful that they would be treated as prisoners according to the Geneva Convention at surrender, the troops instead were considered captives. The Japanese did not abide by the Geneva Convention in regards to feeding, housing, and humane care. Men died by the thousands from starvation, dehydration, and illnesses like dysentery and malaria. Many men who survived a grueling march to Camp O'Donnell would only succumb to death due the lack of food, water, sanitary conditions, and shelter. Many did not survive this perilous march, known now as the Bataan Death March.Thousands died from the grueling march and at the hands of Japanese guards.

Thousands of American prisoners of war were eventually transported on "hell ships" to other locations including Japan where they were used as slave labor in mines, manufacturing plants, and shipyards. Americans and other prisoners of war were also used to construct the Thai-Burma Railway, made famous in the novel The Bridge On The River Kwai and the subsequent movie.The exhibit documents the life of American prisoners of war in the Philippines and Japan through photographs, diaries and items used in the daily struggle to survive.

Andersonville National Historic Site is located 10 miles south of Oglethorpe, GA and 10 miles northeast of Americus, GA on Georgia Highway 49. The site features the National Prisoner of War Museum, Andersonville National Cemetery and the site of the historic Civil War prison, Camp Sumter. ­Andersonville National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park System and serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war. Park grounds are open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. with the museum opening at 9:00 a.m. Admission is free. For more information on the park, call 229 924-0343, visit on the WEB or find us on Facebook.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Commemoration April 24&25

70th Anniversary of the Defense the Philippines, Bataan Death March and the Fall of Corregidor to be Held in Washington


April 9th 2012, Washington, DCCommemorative events will be held in Washington, DC April 24-25 to remember the heroic American defense of the Philippines against Imperial Japan in the early months of World War II. Survivors from the Bataan Death March and the battle of Corregidor will attend.

The 70th Anniversary of the infamous Bataan Death March is today, April 9th, and the surrender of Corregidor marking the fall of the Philippines is May 6th.

The veterans from the Battle of the Philippines coming to Washington include past national commanders of the now-disbanded American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC) who traveled to Japan in 2010 and 2011 to receive an official apology from the Government of Japan for their maltreatment and to visit their former POW camps. The death rate and incidence of post-traumatic stress for American POWs of Japan was the greatest of any American conflict.

Participating is Bataan Death March survivor Dr. Lester Tenney of California, the last national commander of the ADBC and instrumental in persuading the Government of Japan to offer American former POWs an apology and a program to visit Japan. He is the founder of Care Packages from Home for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also participating is Death March survivor Mr. Ben Steele of Montana who has chronicled the horrors of the Death March and Japan’s POW camps through his award-winning paintings and drawings. Mr. Donald Versaw of California is the last of the “China Marines” (4th Marine Regiment who were stationed in Shanghai, China) who fought on Corregidor. Mr. Rolwand Towery of Texas, who fought in the battle for Corregidor, is a Pulitzer prize winner. Mr. Joe Alexander of Texas at 14 was the youngest member of the Army Air Corps on Bataan and became a POW of Japan at 15.

Veterans attending:

Dr. Lester Tenney, 92, San Diego, CA. Bataan Death March, Illinois National Guard, Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion from Maywood Illinois

Mr. Joseph Alexander, 85, San Antonio, TX. Bombing of Clark Field, Army Air Corps 440th Ordnance Aviation Bombardment Squadron

Mr. Donald Versaw, 91, Lakewood, CA, Corregidor, 4th Marines Band (China Marines), 2nd Battalion E Company

Mr. Ben Steele, 94, Billings, MT, Bataan Death March, Army Air Corps, 7th Material Squadron, 19th Bomb Group

Mr. Roland Towery, 89, Austin, TX, Corregidor, Army, Battery C, 60th Coast Artillery

Special Guest: Ms. Kinue Tokudome, Kagoshima, Japan. Founder of the US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, who accompanied the POWs on their return to their POW camps.

The schedule of events includes a wreath laying at the World War II Memorial, a roundtable discussion on the legacy of the Bataan Death March hosted by Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Mike Honda (D-CA), a luncheon hosted by the Disabled American Veterans association and The Heritage Foundation with today’s Wounded Warriors, a dinner hosted by the VFW, and a reception hosted by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). There will also be meetings with Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell.

According to Mindy Kotler of Asia Policy Point, a Washington research center, the Commemoration “will be unique and likely last opportunity to honor these heroes.” These men “made history during World War II by participating in the defense of the Philippines as well as recently by accepting one of the very few official, specific Japanese government apologies for its wartime atrocities.” These veterans now hope that the Japanese companies that used them as slave labor while they were POWs will follow the example of their government.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Unfinished business for Bataan survivors

Seventy years have passed since Gen. Edward King, commander of all U.S. armed forces on Bataan, announced to his men, “We have no further means of organized resistance, we are low on ammunition, have virtually no medical supplies, and our food is all but gone. With our front lines nearly destroyed and both flanks severely weakened, the situation is hopeless. If I do not surrender all forces to the Japanese today, Bataan will be known around the world as the greatest slaughter in history.”

Monday, April 09, 2012

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Proclamation National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, 2012

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For more than 200 years, members of our Armed Forces have upheld an oath to protect and defend. In times of war, generations have answered our country's call with courage and valor, braving the peril of combat and pressing onward in the face of tremendous adversity. Their extraordinary service reflects our highest ideals, and their sacrifice will forever live on in our national memory. On National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we pay solemn tribute to those patriots who gave their freedom to preserve our own.

Thousands of America's sons and daughters have suffered unspeakably as captives in foreign lands. Many prisoners of war experienced physical torture and profound anguish, subjected to inhumane treatment and cut off from their comrades, their country, and their loved ones. Some would never return. Yet, in the direst circumstances, these service members demonstrated indomitable courage and unbreakable resolve. They stood fast for what they believed in, making immeasurable sacrifices for the millions they protected. At home, spouses, children, parents, and friends called upon that same spirit of perseverance to sustain them through long periods of prayer and uncertainty.

When he chronicled the experiences of our GIs during World War II, Ernie Pyle wrote that their world can never be known to the rest of us. Though the sacrifices they made and the burdens they bore may defy our full understanding, it is our moral obligation to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and their families -- to honor their service through the support of a grateful Nation. Today, we recognize heroes who endured one of war's most tragic costs. For them, and for all who have served, let us rededicate ourselves to fulfilling the sacred trust we share with all those who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 9, 2012, as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day of remembrance by honoring all American prisoners of war, our service members, and our veterans. I also call upon Federal, State, and local government officials and organizations to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.