Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A POW responds to Abe's Yasukuni visit

One Za of the Chinreisha
On December 26th, Christmas Day in the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine. At the Shrine, Abe also visited the Chinreisha, which is to pacify and acknowledge Imperial Japan's enemy combatants both domestic and foreign. This small shrine gated to the south of the main Yasukuni sanctuary is intended to keep the souls of these former adversaries, who are enshrined collectively, from causing mischief to the living.

I paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine and expressed my sincere condolences, paid my respects and prayed for the souls of all those who had fought for the country and made ultimate sacrifices. I also visited Chinreisha, a remembrance memorial to pray for the souls of all the people regardless of nationalities who lost their lives in the war, but not enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine.
While praying for the souls of the war dead, the preciousness of peace Japan enjoys today really came home to me. 
The peace and prosperity Japan enjoys today is not created only by those who are living today. The peace and prosperity we enjoy today is built on the precious sacrifices of numerous people who perished on the field wishing for the happiness of their loving wives and children, and thinking about their fathers and mothers who had raised them.
An American former POW sees this visit differently. He was not convinced that Abe's visit to the Chinreisha included contrition for the American soldiers. To be "pacified" is not enough.

Never should it be forgotten that Japan's victims were not all Asian. Westerners put in Imperial Japan's care, refugees, internees, laborers, POWs, all became victims of the barbarity of Japan's Armed Forces.

Lester Tenney, Survivor of the Bataan Death March, a Hellship, and a Mitsui coal mine; and Past National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor wrote his feelings to his local newspaper, the San Diego Times Union. Although the newspaper published the letter, it did not post it (text below) online.

“Leader’s war shrine visit raises questions.”

Letter to the Editor, December 27, 2013

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his visit to the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo was to pay respect to fallen soldiers. After reading about his recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, I felt that it is important that I share with you my thoughts and the thoughts of many survivors like me.

I assume he was are referring only to the Japanese soldiers, because if he had intended to include all soldiers then I ask what the respect would have included. Would you have included the Americans who died as a POWs on the Bataan Death March, or those proud American soldiers who perished while being transported to Japan on unmarked Japanese freighters, and those who died while forced to work for Japanese companies? If he thought of these soldiers, then we survivors thank him for understanding these sad events. On the other hand, if these Americans were not remembered then I ask, how dare he to say he paid respect to all fallen soldiers?

The Yasukuni war shrine you visited is known as The Tokyo War Shrine, a most unusual place to visit while preaching the need for Peace. I, like many others reading about the recent visit to the shrine, are confused. What is he trying to convey?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Past - 1942

By Des Bettany. Reproduced with kind permission of his family.
To see more images, refer to 

Food was the stuff of dreams for a POW of Japan. Starvation was a Japanese strategy of both intent and error to subdue their Western captives. British Lance Bombardier Bettany captured in Malaya after the fall of Singapore in February 1942 and imprisoned at the infamous Changi used a purloined brush and pen to help transcend the POWs despair to hope.

In contrast to much of the Western POW art which survives from this period, Bettany’s finds uplifting humor in the day-to-day existence of the POW. Much of his POW work is one of light-heartedness, helping keep a sense of optimism in the face of a brutal captor.

Bettany's survival as a POW of Japan was in no small part due to his not being sent to work on the notorious Thai-Burma Death Railway, which claimed the lives of some 16,000 allied POWs and a much greater number of forced labor Asian workers. Des was repatriated to England late September 1945

Other well-know artists of the POW of Japan experience are Ben Steele (United States), Murray Griffin (Australia), Jack Chalker (Australia) and Ronald Searle (United Kingdom).

More on painting the horror.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Marching orders

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) at their annual National Convention assembled in
Orlando, Florida, August 10-13, 2013 passed Resolution 183 (text below). It provides a mandate to its leadership and members to assist the American POWs of Japan in their efforts for acknowledgement and remembrance. The DAV's mission is to ensure that all veterans can live their lives with respect and dignity.

Nearly all former POWs of Japan are DAV members. They suffered the highest suicide and PTSD rates of all WWII veterans. These former POWs also have the most enduring PTSD effects, which tend to reappear with intensity during the retirement years.

The DAV's new "marching orders" provide a powerful "battalion" to the campaign to ensure that POW experience in the Pacific is remembered. Japanese government and industry is asked to join together to establish a permanent fund for remembrance, research, documentation, exchange, and, most important, to educate the next generation on the lessons of war, peace, and reconciliation.


WHEREAS, on May 30, 2009, the Government of Japan through its Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki offered an official apology to American POWs for their abuse, misuse, pain, and suffering caused by Imperial Japan; and

WHEREAS, in September 2010, the Government of Japan reinforced its apology by initiating a visitation program for former POWs to visit Japan, to return to the sites of their imprisonment, and to receive the apology directly from senior Japanese government officials; and

WHEREAS, the United States owes much to these soldiers, sailors, Marines, and air men, the majority of whom fought in the early heroic battles of World War II in the Philippines, on Wake Island, Guam, Java, and in the Sunda Strait; and

WHEREAS, the American POWs of Imperial Japan were forced into slave labor throughout the Japanese Empire in the most unjust, brutal, and inhumane conditions; NOW

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that DAV in National Convention assembled in Orlando, Florida, August 10-13, 2013, supports and commends the efforts of the American POWs of Japan to reclaim their dignity and attain full justice from the Government of Japan and those Japanese private companies that enslaved them; AND

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED DAV insists the Government of Japan provide and publicize an official transcript in English and Japanese of the Government’s 2009 apology to the American POWs; AND

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED DAV insists Congress and the Administration work with all parties involved to ensure the continuation of the POW visitation program to Japan, that it be expanded to include family members and descendants, and funds be provided for a dedicated program of research, documentation, exchange, and education; AND

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED DAV works with all parties involved in persuading the private Japanese companies that benefited from POW slave labor during WWII, especially those companies now doing business in the United States, to follow the Japanese government’s lead in acknowledging their use and abuse of American POW labor and join with the Japanese government to create a fund for remembrance, research, documentation, exchange, and education on the POW experience in the Pacific and its lessons for war and peace.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Appeal to Vice President Biden

Robert E. Thompson's POW Badge
Below is a letter sent to Vice President Biden last week by the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society. It suggests that the path being taken by the American POWs of Japan to achieve justice can be a model for Tokyo to pursue historical reconciliation with its other victims. The Memorial Society asks the Vice President to continue to press the Japanese to achieve full and meaningful contrition toward the POWs and work to preserve their history. The goal is the establishment of a permanent fund for educational and research activities on the POW experience in the Pacific.

November 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Vice President:

As you meet next week with members of Japan’s government to confirm the significance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, I hope that you will share with them the importance of remembering those American veterans who became prisoners of war of the Imperial Japanese during World War II.

With the help of President Obama’s Administration one aspect of Japan’s reconciliation with American POWs began. In 2009, a Japanese government Cabinet-approved apology was offered and in 2010 a program of understanding and visitation to Japan was initiated for former POWs. This year it was expanded to include widows. The visitation program’s success should encourage Japan to do more: educating future generations in Japan and the U.S. on the POW experience in the Pacific and its lessons for war and peace needs to be the goal.

How Japan addresses its responsibilities toward the American POWs can be a model for Tokyo on how the historical reconciliation process can proceed. The American POWs ask for respect and that history to be not revised, but preserved. They want Japan’s great multi-national corporations to acknowledge their use of POW slave labor. They ask the United States Government to aid and preserve their experiences under Imperial Japan for future generations

We ask that you take a moment in your talks in Tokyo, to speak up for those veterans who defended America in the Philippines, Java, and Wake Island and how, as captives, endured the horrors of the Bataan Death March, the “Hell Ships,” enslavement on the Thai-Burma Railway, and the brutal conditions in slave labor camps in Japan.

We ask that the United States Government express its strong desire for Japan to establish a permanent fund for education, remembrance, and reconciliation. The goal is to: continue the POW visitation program for former POWs, widows and descendants; a program for research, documentation, education, and people-to-people exchanges and national memorials to the POWs who slaved and died on Japanese controlled soil or aboard the “Hell Ships.”

Respectfully yours,

Ms. Jan Thompson
American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society
Daughter of PhM2 Robert E. Thompson USN, USS Canopus, Corregidor, Bilibid & Mukden

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Insult to injury

On Wednesday, October 30th, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner dedicated a bust of Winston Churchill in the rotunda ofthe Capitol. You can watch there ceremony above.

This is the result of a resolution he pushed through Congress in December 2011. Whereas Speaker Boehner did not allow any resolution to go forward to honor the 70th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack of Pearl Harbor nor did he issue his own statement of remembrance, he did honor Churchill’s Pearl Harbor December 26, 1941 speech to a Joint Session of Congress.

British Prime Minister Churchill was in the US to guarantee the Europe-first strategy that he had planned with President Franklin Roosevelt would be followed. The result was that thousands of American civilians and servicemen and women in the Pacific were abandoned to horrific fates. No reinforcements would come to the Marines of Wake Island, the tank brigades on Bataan, or the Coastal Artillery on Corregidor.

Boehner's tax-payer funded effort to honor Churchill was further an undisguised dig at President Barak Obama. The Speaker and many Republicans believe that the President returned a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office out of disrespect (code for not honoring the "white" Churchill). The truth is that there were two busts of Churchill in the West Wing; one was on loan from the British Government. This one was returned. No American hero was represented twice in the president's offices.

One can imagine that Churchill himself would have been taken aback by Boehner's unprincipled swipe at an American president. And for Americans, it is astounding that the Speaker should go so far to ignore citizens put in harms way, especially WWII veterans, for a racist fable about the President's character. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review of 4th American POW Trip to Japan

Four former POWs of Japan and three widows were guest of the Japanese government October 13 through 21. Theirs was a trip of healing and understanding. Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with the group and repeated the apology first delivered in 2009 by the Japan's Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki. He also noted that he hoped that these trips to Japan will continue.

The POW visitation program and apology were made possible by the direct involvement of the Obama Administration. In the past, the U.S. government had rebuffed the POWs' efforts for acknowledgement and justice.

For an excellent review of the trip, complete with pictures, see Kinue Tokudome's US-Japan Dialogue on POWs.

Here is a video of the presentation the delegation gave October 15th at Temple University, Japan Campus' Institute of Contemporary Japan Studies (ICAS).

Here is a video of the delegation's presentation to Japan's National Press Club on October 15th.

Friday, October 18, 2013

For the Record

On October 15th, Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) entered into the Congressional Record the names of the seven participants of the 4th American POW Delegation to Japan. He introduced the former POWs and the widows of former POWs with the following "extension of remarks":

  • Mr. HONDA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor veterans from America's greatest generation and thank the Government of Japan for recognizing the sacrifices of these men. On Sunday, October 13, seven former members or widows of former members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Air Corps, and U.S. Marines who fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II--and who were once prisoners of war of Imperial Japan--will travel to Japan as guests of the Japanese government. Marking an act of historic reconciliation and remembrance, this is the fourth delegation of U.S. POWs to visit Japan through this program.

  • Their first trip to Japan was on aging freighters called ``Hellships,'' where the men were loaded into suffocating holds with little space, water, food, or sanitation. The conditions in which they were held are unimaginable. At the POW camps in the Philippines, Japan and China, they suffered unmerciful abuse aggravated by the lack of food, medical care, clothing, and appropriate housing. Each POW also became a slave laborer at the mines, factories, and docks of some of Japan's largest companies. In the end, nearly 40 percent of the American POWs held by Japan perished; compared to two percent of those in Nazi Germany's POW camps. The POWs of this delegation slaved for Mitsubishi, Nippon Express, Sumitomo, Nisshin Flour, Hitachi, Dowa Holdings, and JFE Holdings.

  • In September 2010, the Japanese government delivered to the first American POW delegation an official, Cabinet-approved apology for the damage and suffering these men endured. Although the Japanese government had hosted POWs from the wartime Allies of the United States since the late 1990s, the 2010 trip was the first trip to Japan for American POWs. It was also the first official apology to any prisoners of war held by Japan.

  • I know that the American POWs fought hard for this recognition. Dr. Lester Tenney of California, a former POW who mined coal for Mitsui, was instrumental in persuading the Government of Japan to offer the apology and initiate the trips of reconciliation. He says he is ``honored to have had the opportunity of assisting the U.S. State Department and the Japanese Embassy in arranging this year's POW Visitation Program. Like the years past, the visit will no doubt yield many memories while at the same time erase many bad experiences that left its mark on the POWs. This year, for the first time, Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs has allowed three widows of former POWs to participate in the program and visit the sites of their husbands' Japanese prison camps located in various cities in Japan.''

  • I thank the POWs for their persistent pursuit of justice, and commend the U.S. State Department for helping them. I also appreciate the willingness of the Japanese government to pursue an historic and meaningful apology. It is my hope that the POW Visitation Program continues to expand, and that it will be a healing mechanism for the POWs, their families and communities.

  • Now, it is time for the many Japanese companies that used POWs for slave labor during World War II to follow the example of their government by offering an apology and supporting programs for lasting remembrance and reconciliation.

  • Mr. Speaker, I wish these men a fulfilling trip to Japan, and I hope that their trip contributes to securing the historic peace between the U.S. and our important ally Japan. 

  • [Biographies of participants follow in text.]

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    4th American POW Delegation in Japan this week

    From October 13 to 21, seven former members or widows of former members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Air Corps, and U.S. Marines who fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II and were taken prisoner by Imperial Japanese Forces will be guests of the Government of Japan. This is the fourth American POW delegation to visit Japan. Temple University in Tokyo will host a public event.

    Mukaishima POW Camp

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS)
    Tokyo, Japan

    The trip includes visits to sites of the former prison camps where the POWs were slave laborers. Many of the camps/mines/docks are in the regions that Japan would like UNESCO to designate as World Modern Industrial Heritage sites. Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Sumitomo, and Nippon Steel all originated in these regions. All used POW slave labor and forced labor from Japanese colonies. And today all also want to bid for American high speed rail projects.

    Japan’s historic official apology--one of only four that have been cabinet approved and the only one victim-specific--and continued support for the POW Visitation Program has improved our relations with Japan, established a viable path for reconciliation with other victims of Imperial Japan, and, most important, has had a positive effect on the former POWs and their families.

    It is in everyone’s interest that the POW Visitation Program continues. I hope that you will help the Abe Administration understand this as it is a program they want to end.

    The program needs to evolve by including children and other descendants of the American POWs of Japan as well as to expand to support research into the POW experience under Imperial Japan. These are worthy goals of our broadening alliance with Japan. As we know today, the legacy of torture and abuse affects generations of a family and society.

    Below is the list of participants, which include 3 Death March survivors, a Marine on Guam, and a Native American.

    4th Delegation of American Former POWs of Japan
    October 13-21 2013 

    Phillip W. COON, 94, is a full blood Muscogee Creek who grew up in Oklahoma. After graduating from the Haskell Institute (today’s Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence, Kansas, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 29, 1941. He was assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment and sent immediately to the Philippines Islands aboard the USAT Willard A. Holbrook arriving on October 23, 1941. At Fort McKinley he trained as a .30 caliber machine gunner (M1919 Browning). He fought on Bataan Peninsula against the invading Japanese forces and was surrendered on April 9th. Forced on the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March, he was subjected to capricious cruelty and abuse, denied water, food, rest and protection from the sun. Nearly all on the March had surrendered sick and malnourished causing thousands to die before they reached their destination of Camp O’Donnell. Coon credits his survival to God, or as he said, “We ran out of food, ammunition and men, but we didn't run out of prayer.” His first POW Camp was Camp O’Donnell where he worked burial detail. For the next two years, he was held at Cabanatuan, Camp Lipa-Batangas, Camp Murphy-Rizal, and Bilibid. On October 1, 1944, he was shipped via Hong Kong on the Hellship Hokusen Maru to Taiwan where he was held briefly at the Inrin Temporary POW Camp. From Taiwan he was sent to Moji, Japan via the Hellship Melbourne Maru arriving January 23, 1945. He was then shipped north to Sendai and became a slave laborer mining cooper for Fujita Gumi Kosaka Kozan (today’s Dowa Holdings Co. Ltd) at the Sendai-#8B Kosaka POW Camp. After his liberation in September 1945, he returned to the U.S. and was discharged from service as a Corporal on June 24, 1946. He returned home to work as Union Painter doing high-scaffold work. Helen, his wife of 67 years, died this spring. Mr. Coon lives with his son, Michael, a Vietnam vet who works with DAV Creek County Chapter #9 as a Service Officer helping veterans with their disability claims. Six members of the Muscogee Creek Nation became prisoners of Japan on the Philippines: five from Corregidor and Mr. Coon who was on Bataan.

    Lora CUMMINS, 87, is the widow of Ferron E. CUMMINS (1917-1990). She lives in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Cummins grew up in New Mexico where he graduated in 1938 from Tyler Commercial College in Texas and went to work as a bookkeeper for the First National Bank in Hagerman, New Mexico (today’s First American Bank). In November 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and had his Basic Training at Brooks and Kelly Fields near San Antonio, Texas. He was assigned to the V Interceptor Command, 24th Pursuit Group, 34th Pursuit Squadron at Hamilton Field, California. In November 1941, Cummins was transferred to the Philippines Islands aboard the USS Coolidge. He arrived on November 20th and was assigned to Nichols Field. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines on December 8th, he was sent to Aglaloma Point, Bataan to fight with the 71st Infantry joining men from all branches of the Armed Services. He was surrendered on April 9, 1942 and forced on the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March on April 10, 1942 from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell arriving on April 21, 1942. From Camp O’Donnell, he was moved to Cabanatuan, then Bilibid. At these camps he survived sunstroke, dysentery, malaria, denuge fever, wet and dry beriberi, yellow jaundice, and blindness. In August 1944, he was shipped to Moji, Japan aboard the Hellship Noto Maru. He was taken to Hiroshima and became a slave stevedore for Hitachi Shipyard (today’s Hitachi Zosen Corporation) at Mukaijima [Mukaishima] Hiroshima Sub-camp #4. A Japanese elementary school in Mukaishima today honors the memory of the men of this camp. On August 6, 1945, he felt the air warm and watched a three-mile high mushroom cloud rise above Hiroshima from the atomic bomb. He was officially liberated September 14, 1945. He returned to Lake Arthur, New Mexico where he remained in the Air Force and married the girl down the street, Lora Mae Lane. Upon retirement, he owned a laundry and vending machine business. In 1967, the family moved to San Antonio, Texas and where he worked for SEARS. He and Lora had one child, Glenda, and were married 43 years. Lora was a civilian employee of the Air Force. He passed away on March 26, 1990 of a heart attack just days after returning from his second trip to the Philippines with his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, Ferron. Mr. Cummins is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
    POW# 115

    Robert B. HEER, 92, lives in Sequim, Washington. He grew up in Iowa and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in June 1940 becoming a carpenter with the 30th Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bomb Group (Heavy), V Bomber Command stationed at March Field, California. He was stationed at Kirtland Field in Albuquerque, New Mexico before being ordered to the Philippine Islands in October 1941 He arrived on October 23, 1941 aboard USAT Willard A. Holbrook and was sent to Clark Field. On December 29, 1941, the 30th Bombardment Squadron was evacuated to Mindanao and he was sent to the Del Monte Airfield. He was surrendered on May 10th and sent to Camp Casisang, about five kilometers southwest of Malaybalay, Mindanao. On September 6, 1942 the Generals and Colonels were removed from Camp Casisang and sent to Formosa (Taiwan). Heer served as an orderly to Brig, General Joseph P. Vachon, the former C.O. of the Philippine Army’s 101st Division on Mindanao, with whom Bob Heer was sent to Karenko POW Camp via the freighter Suzuya Maru. At Karenko he wrote a message to his family that the Japanese broadcast to the U.S. over shortwave radio. In May 1943, he was shipped to Heito POW Camp to clear and work in sugar cane fields. He remained there nearly a year before being moved to Taihoku POW Camp #6 where he slaved at building a memorial park for Japanese soldiers and a man-made lake for the irrigation of rice fields. In early 1945, he was shipped to Japan, first to the port of Moji on Kyushu and then north to Hokkaido. There he was first a slave stevedore for the Hakodate Port Transportation Company at Hakodate 2-D POW. In late May 1945, he was moved north to become a slave laborer mining coal for Sumitomo Mining (today’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd) at Hakodate #2 Akihira POW Camp. He was liberated in early September 1945, when American Army records clerks arrived and told them the war was over. After liberation, Heer remembers eating well and gaining 40 pounds in Japan, making friends with post-war civilians there. “I was giving food to the Japanese,” he said, even eating dinner with one family who invited him in after he gave them matches and soap, which was in short supply. On April 20, 1946, Heer was honorably discharged from the Air Corps at Camp Beale (Beale A.F.B.) in California. He used the GI Bill to earn a degree in photography from the Fred Archer School of Photography in Los Angeles, California. Missing friends and the military life, he returned to active duty with the Air Force in 1950, retiring in 1966 as a Technical Sergeant. In retirement he has worked as an amateur historian of American POWs of Japan and embarked on a “third career” as a house husband. He has been married to Karen Harper since 1989, and has four children from two previous marriages.
    Oral History
    POW# 330

    Esther JENNINGS, 90, is the widow of Clinton S. JENNINGS (1919-2004). She lives in San Francisco, California. Mr. Jennings, a California native, served in the Civilian Conservation Corps before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1941. He was sent to the Philippine Islands the same year aboard the USS Republic (AP-33). On Corregidor, he joined Battery “K” 59th Coast Artillery Regiment where he helped man fixed 60" Searchlights No. 1 through 8, plus a number of 60" and 30" mobile seacoast searchlights. Surrendered on May 6, 1942, he was sent to a series of POW camps on the Philippines: Bongabong, Cabanatuan, Lipa- Batanga, and Bilibid. In July 1944, he was herded along with 1,600 other American POWs aboard the Hellship Nissyo Maru to be shipped to Japan. The nightmarish two-week voyage to Moji, Japan included an attack by an American submarine wolfpack on the unmarked transport. Jennings was first held in Fukuoka-23-Keisen as slave laborer mining coal for Meiji Mining [Meiji Kogyo] Hirayama Mine (The company was dissolved in 1969, but its exploration and research division became independent as Meiji Consultant Co., Ltd. in 1965, and still exists). He was then transferred to Fukuoka #9B, located near the town of Miyata (now the city of Miyawaka), again to be a slave laborer mining coal, but for Kaijima Coal Mining Onoura Mine (the company no longer exists). After the war, he spent 25 years in the Army working in finance. He retired in 1965 and worked in public finance at the Bank of America retiring again in 1985. Jennings was a dedicated volunteer: he spent 27 years at KQED; 24 years at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and 20 years for the San Francisco Opera Guild where he enjoyed being a supernumerary. He was a member of American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor; American Ex-Prisoners of War; Philippine Scouts Heritage Society; American Legion; San Francisco History Association; VFW; Military Order of the Purple Heart; Past President of Golden Gate Chapter #18 of National Sojourners; Native Sons of the Golden West, Guadalupe Parlor; The Great War Society; Past Master of Masonic Lodge San Francisco #120; Scottish Rite, Shriners; President of the National Assn. of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni; The Retired Officers Association and the Reserve Officers Association. He was married to Esther Bloom for 34 years and had three children from a prior marriage. He succumbed to cancer on October 28, 2004. Mr. Jennings is buried at Hills of Eternity, Colma, California.

    Erwin R. JOHNSON, 91, divides his time between Wynantskill, New York outside of Albany and Lacombe, Louisiana. He grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in September 1940. He was assigned to the 48th Materiel Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group (Light), V Bomber Command where he was trained as a mechanic for A-20 fighter planes. He was transferred to the Philippines Islands aboard the USS President Coolidge in November 1941, arriving on November 20th and was deployed to Fort McKinley south of Manila. When Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands in December 1941, though not trained as an infantryman, Johnson was issued a rifle and ordered to defend against the Japanese advance. He and all American and Filipino troops on the Bataan Peninsula were surrendered on April 9, 1942. Immediately, he was forced on the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March to Camp O'Donnell. He recalls many horrific events during the March; maybe the worst was a Japanese guard bayoneting to death a Filipino mother and her baby for trying to pass food to the starving, sick POWs. At Camp O’Donnell he volunteered for work duty building bridges and other projects. Later that year, he was transferred to Cabanatuan where he volunteered for work details outside of the Camp. He was among 500 other American POWs shipped from the tropical Philippines to the freezing Mukden, China (today’s Shenyang) in October 1942 aboard Mitsubishi’s Hellship Tottori Maru via Formosa and Korea to Manchukuo (Manchuria). None of the men had winter clothing. Johnson was housed at the Hoten POW Camp and became was a slave laborer at MKK (Manshu Kosaku Kikai or Manchouko Kibitsu Kaishi, which some researchers believe was owned by Mitsubishi and known as Manchuria Mitsubishi Machine Tool Company, Ltd.). The camp was liberated in August 1945 by Russian and OSS forces. Discharged in June 1946, he used his GI bill to obtain a mechanical engineering degree from Tulane University. He worked for a number of technology manufacturing companies in Southern California including North American Aviation (today’s Boeing) and eventually returned to Louisiana, retiring from the Port of New Orleans in 1993. In retirement, he and his wife Margaret traveled throughout the United States and were active in a number of veterans and POW organization. Margaret, his wife of 53 years passed away in 2010. Together they raised five boys. In 2011, he married Ann Wilbur Lampins whose brother, Staff Sgt Charles S. Wilbur, was also a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was with the 28th Materiel Squadron, 20th Air Base Group, Far East Air Force on the Philippines. He too became of prisoner of Imperial Japan and was also shipped to Mukden. He died of pneumonia soon after arrival on December 28, 1942. The Johnsons are active members of the Mukden POW Survivors group and other veterans’ organizations.
    Memoir By the Grace of God can be found at the Veteran's History Project of the US Library of Congress.
    POW # 277

    Marjean McGREW, 87, is the widow of Alfred Curtis McGREW (1922-2008). She lives in San Diego, California. Mr. McGrew grew up in Columbus, Ohio. After high school and briefly working with the Civilian Conservation Corps, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Hayes. In January 1941, his unit sailed to the Philippine Islands aboard the USS Republic (AP-33). He took Basic Training at the 92nd Garage on Corregidor and was assigned to Battery “D” (Denver) 60th Coast Artillery (A.A.). He was transferred to Battery “H” (Hartford), 60th, Coast Artillery (A.A.) at Herring Field, Middleside and was taken prisoner there on May 6, 1942 with the surrender of Corregidor and the Philippines. He was held in the following POW camps: 92nd Garage, Bilibid, Cabanatuan 2 and 1; Camp O'Donnell, Nichols Field. In August 1944, he was shipped to Moji, Japan aboard the Hellship Noto Maru. In Japan, McGrew became a slave stevedore for Nippon Express (same name, sam company today) at Omori Tokyo Base Camp; then a slave stevedore for Nisshin Flour Milling Dispatched Camp (Tokyo 24-D) (today’s Nisshin Seifun Group); and finally at Suwa Branch Camp (Tokyo 6-B) he was a slave laborer for Nippon Steel Tube & Mining Company (today’s JFE Holdings). He was liberated in Yokohama on September 6, 1945. He later became an Honorary Member and friend of the U.S. Army 503rd Parachute Regiment Combat Team (RCT) who liberated Corregidor from the Japanese in 1945, and the 4th Marine Regiment who had defended it. After returning to Columbus, he met and married Marjean Herres of Bellefontaine, Ohio (the love of his life for 59 years). They moved to San Diego to be nearer the ocean and raise their two children, Vicki and Steve. He retired from Control Data Corporation after 27 years when the manufacturing division left San Diego. In retirement, McGrew traveled back to Corregidor many times to collect photos, documents, and data from those who served on Corregidor. During his many trips back, he sat in the ruins of Corregidor thinking of the great times and the bad times as well as the many young friends he lost. As a long-time amateur historian, he assisted many family and friends in their search for information on their loved ones serving and/or captured on Corregidor. McGrew’s approach to life was to use humor as a base for survival and survive he did several times in his life. For fun, he enjoyed scuba diving, golfing, table tennis, camping, and traveling with his wife around the U.S. in their R.V. Mrs. McGrew was a nurse and an avid folk dancer. He succumbed to cancer on January 27, 2008 surrounded by his loving children and his wife. Mr. McGrew is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, California.
    Oral History

    Marvin A. ROSLANSKY, 91, lives with his wife Josephine in Mesa, Arizona. Mr. Roslansky grew up in Minnesota and enlisted in the Marine Corps in the spring of 1941. He was sent to Guam in September 1941. He was one of 153 Marines assigned to defend Guam, a U.S. territory administered by the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. As a member of the Insular Patrol Unit he fought in the brief defense of the island (December 8-9, 1941) and was captured by invading Japanese forces. On January 10, 1942, the American prisoners of the Guam garrison including five nurses and a civilian mother and child were shipped to prison camps in Japan aboard the MS Argentina Maru, what was Mitsui’s OSK Line’s fastest ship. Arriving in Japan on January 16, 1942, he was taken to Shikoku and imprisoned at the Zentsuji POW Camp (Zentsuji was originally built to house German prisoners of the Japanese in World War I). The camp was on an island about 400 miles west of Tokyo. He spent the rest of the war there as a slave stevedore for Nippon Express (still in operation under the same name) working 12-hour days at the Sakaide Rail Yards and the Port of Takamatsu. He was liberated September 27, 1945. After the war, he lived in Racine, Wisconsin where he owned an auto parts business. Retired in 1981, he volunteered at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee as well as doing veterans service work for the DAV, the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, and the Milwaukee Barb Wire, East Valley, and Prairieland Minnesota Chapters of AXPOW. With his first wife, Iva they raised four daughters and three sons. He married Josephine Plourde in 2010.
    Interview by Concordia University, St Paul
    POW# none

    Sunday, September 29, 2013

    Ted Cruz Compares His 21-Hour Speech To Bataan Death March

    By Ben Steele, survivor*

    One journalist was bolted alert toward the end of Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) 21-hour filibuster against the Affordable Care Act, when the Senator compared his tirade to enduring the infamous Bataan Death March.

    Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed on September 25th posted the video of the Senator making the comparison and wrote:
    “Now in 31 minutes we will be concluded,” Cruz said. “I don’t want to miss the opportunity within the limited amount of time is imperative that I do, which is to thank the men and women who have endured this, this Bataan Death March. And I want to take a little bit of time to thank by name. I want to start by thanking the Republican floor staff and cloakroom. I want to thank Laura Dove for her fairness, for her dealing with crises and passions on all sides and for her effectiveness in the job. And this is an interesting occurrence to occur so early in her job and I thank her for her service.”
    The Bataan Death March occurred in 1942 after the American defeat at the hands of the Japanese in the Philippines. U.S. government totals say 12,000 American troops were forced to march up the east coast of the Philippines to Camp O’Donnell, which would serve as a prisoner of war camp. Many died on the way because of beatings, executions, and malnutrition.
    For those of you who share Mr. Kaczynski's indignation, you can educate the Senator about the inhumanity and horrors of the Bataan Death March by emailing him directly HERE.

    *We have a number of signed poster copies of Mr. Steele's painting of the Death March available for those who donate $100 (tax deductible) or more to support our research. You may want to purchase one to send one to Senator Cruz. Email us.

    Saturday, September 21, 2013

    POW/MIA Recognition Day Events

    Above, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey deliver remarks at the Pentagon's National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony September 20, 2013.

    HERE you can listen to or read the reflections and advice of Edward Jackfert of West Virginia who was a POW of Japan where he was a slave laborer for Mitsui Corporation, Nippon Steel, Showa Denko, and Nisshin Flour. In 2010, Mr. Jackfert participated in the first American POW Friendship trip to Japan. He has worked tirelessly to create the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum in Wellsburg to preserve the history of the defense of the Philippines and to teach the lessons of war.
    UPDATE: Read here a moving POW/MIA ceremony in Wellsburg, West Virginia at the Brooke County Public Library. The Library houses an extensive collection of books, documents, and artifacts on defense and fall of the Philippines and the fate of the POWs of Japan. Mr. Jackfert was the keynote speaker.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    2013 National POW/MIA Recognition Day

    For more information Click here



    - - - - - - -


    Our country endures because in every generation, courageous Americans answer the call to serve in our Armed Forces. They represent the very best of the human spirit, stand tall for the values and freedoms we cherish, and uphold peace and security at home and around the globe. Today, we pay tribute to the service members who have not returned from the battlefield, we stand beside their families, and we honor those who are held captive as prisoners of war. We will never forget their sacrifice, nor will we ever abandon our responsibility to do everything in our power to bring them home.

    America remains steadfast in our determination to recover our missing patriots. Our work is not finished until our heroes are returned safely to our shores or a full accounting is provided to their loved ones. We must care for the men and women who have served so selflessly in our name, and we must carry forward the legacy of those whose fates are still unknown. Today, and every day, we express our profound appreciation to our service members, our veterans, our military families, and all those who placed themselves in harm's way to sustain the virtues that are the hallmarks of our Union.

    On September 20, 2013, 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 20, 2013, 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 nineteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


    Friday, September 06, 2013


    Sunday, September 8th
    3:00 PM
    Corner of 1st Avenue and Oak Street
    Maywood, Illinois

    In October of 1941, 89 men from Maywood, Illinois left the United States for the Philippine Islands with Company “B” of the Army’s 192nd Tank Battalion.

    Only 43 would return from the War.

    They had arrived in Philippine Islands on November 20, 1941 — Thanksgiving Day—and were stationed at Clark Field on Luzon, 60 miles to the north of Manila. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Clark Field in the Philippines.

    At Clark Field, Robert Brooks, of D Company became the first American “tanker” killed in WWII. He is likely also the first African-American killed in the War. Brooks Field at Fort Knox, Kentucky is named in his honor.

    The 192nd Tank Battalion fought for four desperate months against the invading Japanese. Exhausted, sick, starving, and out of ammunition, they were surrendered by their commanding officers on April 9, 1942. On the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March, the soldiers of Maywood made up the largest number of POWs from a single American town.

    >Maywood’s Bataan Day has been held every year since 1942, on the Second Sunday in September<

    As POWs of Japan, the Maywood men endured indescribable deprivation, abuse, and degradation. Many became slave laborers for prominent Japanese companies. One that used American POW slave labor was Nippon Sharyo, which manufactured the engines for the Thai-Burma Death Railway. The company still manufactures rolling stock on the same site that it did during the War. Nippon Sharyo passenger cars now cast daily shadows on the Maywood Veterans Memorial Park. A METRA (Chicago area) commuter rail track runs on one edge of the Park. METRA is a major client of Nippon Sharyo. American tax incentives and METRA contracts were used to encourage Nippon Sharyo to build manufacturing facilities in Illinois. The company is planning to benefit from upcoming high-speed rail contracts.

    Nippon Sharyo has never acknowledged nor apologized to the POWs it used as slave labor.

    Click here for more information on the memorial events and celebration.

    Contact Information:
    Col. Richard A. McMahon, Jr. (USA, Ret.), President
    Phone: (708) 366-8761
    Email: Ramcmahon1@aol.com
    Website URL: http://mbdo.org

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Documentary on POWs of Japan Screened LA

    Jan Thompson’s 

    Thursday, 15 August 2013

    Screening at the 

    Watercolor by British POW Des Bettany
    reproduced with kind permission of his family
    An arresting new documentary on the American POWs of Japan narrated by actress Loretta Swit. Her all-­star supporting cast is: Ed Asner, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Forster, Christopher Franciosa, Robert Loggia, Christopher Murray, Don Murray, John O'Hurley, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston.

    In this intimate and moving portrait of Americans who fought the first battles of World War II and became prisoners of Imperial Japan reveal their indomitable will to survive. Starved, beaten, sick, brutalized, and enslaved but always keeping a wry sense of humor, these amazing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines used gallows humor to beat the odds. Some of the men were artists, some wrote poetry and songs and many collected recipes.

    Jan Thompson is a three-time Emmy award winning documentary writer director, editor, and composer. Thompson was the creator of Hidden Journeys a series of primetime specials for PBS on food and cultures around the world. She also was the producer director of the interfaith program Ties That Bind, which was distributed by NETA for 9/11 anniversary programming. Jan is a professor in the Radio Television Digital Media Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She is also president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society.

    Attending the LA viewing with filmmaker Jan Thompson are possibly eight former POWs of Japan, several of whom participated in the Japanese government’s POW visitation program to Japan (noted with *). The fourth such program will take place this October.

    *Harold Bergbower, 93
    - Joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1939 and was part of V Bomber Command, 19th Bomb Group, 28th Bombardment Squadron, Far East Air Force. He was at Clarke Field when Japan attacked on December 8, 1941. He was knocked out in the bombardment and when he awoke he found himself in the morgue at Fort Stotsenburg. Bergbower crawled out and went back to his squadron to fight in the Battle of Bataan. By escaping to Mindanao after surrender, he avoided the Bataan Death March and was captured in May. On the Philippines, he was imprisoned at Malaybalay on Mindanao and the Davao Penal Colony. In August 1944, he survived the sinking of several Hellships only to end up on Mitsubishi's Noto Marti; a trip he has completely blocked out. He was a slave laborer scooping iron ore into an open hearth furnace at the Nagoya-6B-Nomachi (Takaoka) camp for the Hokkai Denka Company which was involved in ferro-alloy smelting. Today, the site remains in ferro-alloy business as Takaoka Works. It is, as was Hokkai Denka, still part of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd (JMC, Nihon Jukagaku Kogyo). Bergbower stayed in the U.S. Air Force and returned to Japan (1954-1957) to train Japan's Air Self-Defense Force. After retiring in 1969, he became a golf pro for Dell Webb's Sun City, Arizona. He is a past Commander of the American Defenders (2005-6). See his bio here.

    *Harry Corre, 90 - Joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and was sent to the Philippines as part of the 59th Coast Artillery Regiment, Battery C "Wheeler.'' He was captured by the Japanese with the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and began the infamous Bataan Death March. He escaped by swimming, with the assistance of a hastily improvised floatation device, the three-and-a-half miles to Corregidor, where he rejoined his unit. Corre was surrendered on Corregidor and imprisoned at Cabanatuan #1 and #3. He was shipped to Japan in July 1943 on Mitsubishi's Clyde Maru to mine coal at Omuta Fukuoka #17 Branch POW Camp for Mitsui Mining (now Mitsui's Nippon Coke & Engineering Company Co., Ltd., NB: Mitsui-aflliated companies now have a minority stake in this company, of which Nippon Steel and Sumitomo hold the majority of shares. (See FY2010 Annual Report, page 27, in Japanese only.) After the war he worked odd jobs for several years and then moved to California to work in the aerospace industry. He returned to school in 1971 and graduated from Western Electronic Institute in Los Angeles as an electronics engineer. He worked in the aerospace industry for 40 years with his last position at TRW. Corre presently works at the Los Angeles, California Veterans Administration Hospital as a Patient Advocate and as a Veterans Service Officer for the American Ex-Prisoners of War as well as a POW Coordinator for the Veterans Administration Hospital & West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Regional Office.

    *Jim Collier, 90 - Enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 at the age of 16. As a member of U.S. Army 59th Coast Artillery, Battery D “Cheney,” he was captured on Corregidor. Before being shipped from the Philippines to Japan on Mitsubishi's Noto Maru in August 1944, he was held in Cabanatuan and Clark Field. Collier was a slave laborer feeding iron ore into the open hearth furnace at the Nagoya-6B-Nomachi (Takaoka) camp for the Hokkai Denka Company, which was involved in ferro-alloy smelting. Today, the site remains in ferroalloy business as Takaoka Works. It is, as was Hokkai Denka, still part of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd (JMC, Nihon Jukagaku Kogyo). After WWII, he earned two master's degrees: one in the Teaching of English from San Jose State and another in School Counseling from the University of Oregon, Eugene. He taught English and Psychology and worked as a guidance counselor in a high school and community college. Upon returning to Takaoka, Jim was impressed by the site’s natural beauty, which he had never noticed as a POW.

    *William Eldridge, 91 – Was a member of the Army’s 31st Infantry, "M" Company, 3rd Battalion. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was assigned Nichols Field in the Philippines as part of the perimeter defense. After the Japanese bombed the airfield Bill was sent to Bataan where they set up and defended a command post at the entrance of the peninsula. Bill suffered his first attack of malaria as he began the Bataan Death March, of which he remembers very little. In July of 1943, he went to Japan via the Hellship the Clyde Maru. He became a slave laborer mining coal for Mitsui at Fukuoka #17 Branch POW Camp in Omuta (click here for more on Fukuoka), where he severely injured his leg. After his return to the United States, Bill had an operation on his leg and was discharged with full disability. In 1948, he waived disability and reentered the Army. He first worked as a recruiter and then volunteered for duty in Korea. He stayed there for two hitches and then spent time in Japan, Germany and France, and other stations in the U.S., where he retired in 1963. See his bio here.

    Warren Jorgenson, 92 – Among the last of the “China Marines”. He was with the 4th Marines stationed in Shanghai and deployed to the Philippines in November 1941. He fought in the defense of Corregidor where he was wounded. He was sent to Japan in 1944 aboard the Hellship Noto Maru and became a slave laborer at Sendai #6 (Hanawa) POW camp for Mitsubishi Goushi Company (today’s Mitsubishi Materials) The mine closed in 1978 and was turned into a museum, the Osarizawa Mine Historical Site that recounts the 1300-year history of mining the mountain. Visitors can also go through some of the main tunnels. An amusement park and museum opened in 1982 as “Mine Land Osarizawa.” In 2008, the site was renovated with the amusement section, Cosmo Adventure [Sic], focused on space-themed indoor shooting games. There is no mention of the slave laborers who worked the mine during the war. After the war, Warren graduated from Drake University and became a record industry executive. Warren reconnected with his high school sweetheart in 1995 and the two now live together in Pebble Beach.

    William Sanchez, 95 – Was a Army Sergeant with 59th Coast Artillery Regiment, Battery “I” assigned to Corregidor. He remembers he was in combat continually for five months until the island was surrendered on May 6, 1942. Battery “I” was the first to fire on the enemy. He was taken to Japan aboard the Hellship Taga Maru to become a slave laborer at Niigata 5-B POW Camp unloading coal ships for Niigata Kairiku Unso, now part of the Rinko Corporation, however, POWs remember Rinko as their “employer”). He was moved to Tokyo #1 Base Camp, Omori where he was a slave laborer for Nippon Tsuun (today’s Nippon Express). Omori was one of the first POW camps to be liberated as intelligence indicated the POWs were about to be executed. He and Harry Corre appeared in the famous staged photo at the entrance of Malinta Tunnel of the American surrender on Corredigor.

    *Lester Tenney, 93 – As the last National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, he successfully negotiated with the Government of Japan and the US State Department Japan’s 2009 offer of an apology to the American POWs of Japan and the program of reconciliation and visitation to Japan for former POWs. He was a tank commander from the famous?Maywood, Illinois National Guard, Company B, 192nd?Tank Battalion fought in the Battle for Bataan from December 1941 to April 9, 1942. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March, a Hellship, and slave labor mining coal for Mitsui at Fukuoka #17 Branch POW Camp in Omuta. Dr. Tenney is a professor emeritus of finance and accounting at Arizona State University. Japan’s rightwing has used anti-Semitic references to attack Dr. Tenney’s accounts of his torture by Imperial Japan’s Army and the horrors of the Bataan Death March. See his bio here.

    Houston Turner, 91
    – Was a rifleman in the 31st Infantry stationed in Manila. When the war started he fought on Bataan and fought with the guerillas after surrender on April 9, 1942. Suffering from untreated malaria and malnourishment, Cpl. Turner surrendered to Japanese forces at Mariveles in southern Bataan. He was among the last 50 POWs to make the Bataan Death March. This small contingent of POWs buried those comrades who preceded them on the March. In 1943 he was shipped to Japan on a Hellship. He first was a slave laborer for Nippon Seitetsu (today’s Nippon Steel) at Hirohata Osaka 12-B POW Camp. Then he was transferred to Nagoya Camp 9-B Jinzu Iwase, where he was slave laborer for Nippon Tsuun (today’s Nippon Express). Following the war he continued to serve in the Army until 1952 and worked for the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power September where he retired in 1988. See his bio here.

    *Don Versaw, 92 – Among the last of the “China Marines.” He played the French Horn in the 4th Marines Band in Shanghai before he transferred to Corregidor in November 1941. He became an infantryman in E Company Second Battalion, Fourth Regiment. When Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese on May 6, 1942, he spent the next 40 months as a POW in the Philippines and in Japan. During captivity he was held on Luzon Island mostly on a work camp near Clark Air Base for more than two years. In July 1944 he was moved to Japan on the Hellship Nissyo Maru owned by Tokyo Senpaku K.K. He was sent to Fukuoka-#7B-Futase on Kyushu to be a slave laborer mining coal at Nittetsu-Futase Tanko Kaisha (still Nittetsu Mining Co., Ltd). This company paid enlisted men 5 sen per day for their labor. [(A sen is one hundredth of a yen)(One yen was then equal to ten American cents)] Deductions were made at the rate of 50% deposited in Japanese Postal Savings Plan where today the funds remain. Following repatriation, he stayed in the Corps. In 1950-51 he served in Korea with the 1st Marine Division in a Photo unit. After retirement in 1959 he worked in the aerospace industry for 13 years on the Saturn and Apollo programs. He completed 10 years of Civil service divided equally between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force; he retired in 1984 with a total of 31 years federal service. See his bio here.

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    Victory at Bessang Pass, Book Launch


    cordially invite you to the

    of BEN CAL’s

    Wednesday, 14 August 2013
    5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Romulo Hall
    Embassy of the Philippines
    1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW 
    Washington, DC

     Seating is limited

    NB: There will be no actual selling or payment of the books at the Philippine Embassy.
    When you make your reservations, please also order the book and and send a check payment 
    of $12.00 payable to MHC at 3930 Walnut St. Suite 200, Fairfax, VA 22030 .

    Unknown to many, the triumph of our forces at Bessang Pass was the most dramatic victory scored by Filipino guerrillas against the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II that forced Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, the ‘Tiger of Malaya,’ to surrender later in Kiangan, Ifugao, liberating northern Luzon from the Japanese invaders and eventually ending Japanese occupation in the Philippines and concluding the war in the Pacific
    - -LtGen. Ernesto G. Carolina AFP (Ret), PVAO Administrator

    Ben Cal is an award winning reporter in the Philippines. He retired from full-time journalism in 2011 after a diverse career that began in 1963, having covered beat assignments such as presidency, defense and military, police, agriculture, local governments, agrarian and business. His first job was as a reporter of the Bohol Chronicle from 1963 to 1972. He joined the Philippines News Agency (PNA) initially as a reporter and rose to the ranks until his retirement as Managing Editor and Acting Executive Editor.

    According to Cal, his book was written from the perspective of heroes themselves who survived the battle.
    The book aims to make the readers appreciate the real-life experiences and heroic exploits of those who did the supreme sacrifice of defending our nation from its enemy and to share their glorious triumph to their fellow Filipinos as a perpetual source of national pride. It also underscores the triumph of all freedom-loving Filipinos – including the civilians, who never stopped believing in the guerrillas’ cause but rather took the risk to help them in all ways possible. These bespeak of selflessness, unity and patriotism - the character of our people that prevailed during the darkest days of oppression and adversity.

    Sunday, July 21, 2013

    Guam's Liberation Day

    July 21 is Guam's liberation day.

    Marine Landing first hour
    In 1944, after hours of Naval bombardment, American Marines and Infantry soldiers stormed the beaches. Marine Major General Roy S. Geiger, commanding general of III Amphibious Corps urged them forward saying "You have been honored. The eyes of the nation watch you as you go into battle to liberate this former American bastion from the enemy. The honor which has been bestowed on you is a signal one. May the glorious traditions of the Marine Corps' esprit de corps spur you to victory. You have been honored."

    The Battle for Guam, lasting 21 days, was as nasty and brutal as any had been in the Pacific. The Imperial Japanese forces put up a tenacious resistance exacting heavy casualties. Japanese stragglers fought for months after the defeat and the last one was not found until 1972.

    Soon, from airfields on Guam, as well as those on Tinian, B-29s were bombing the Japanese home islands. Hard fighting was yet to be experienced by Marine divisions on Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. But whether they knew it or not, the end of the war was less than a year away.

    The War in the Pacific National Historical Park is a memorial to the citizens and liberators of Guam. It was established in 1978 to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater of World War II and to conserve and interpret outstanding natural, scenic, and historic values and objects of the island of Guam. The National Park Service's website on Guam is an excellent historical resource including first person accounts and photos.

    Part of Japan's terrible cost on Guam were 10,971 battlefield casualties, and more than 8,500 Japanese were killed or captured on Guam between August 1944 and the end of war in August 1945. In the 21 days of the Guam campaign ending 10 August, American Marine units of the III Amphibious Corps reported 1,190 men killed in action, 377 dead of wounds, and 5,308 wounded. The 77th Division's casualties were 177 soldiers killed and 662 wounded.

    According to Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam, an account of the POWs from Guam, there were 414 civilian and military, men and women POWs (five Navy nurses and a civilian wife and infant). Somehow, despite desperate conditions and dismal leadership only three percent perished. They were all taken to Japan aboard the Argentina Maru in January 1942 and first held at the Zentsuji POW Camp on Shikoku. There they did agricultural and stevedore labor. Some reportedly were used for human experimentation.

    Today, of the more than 22,000 people who lived in Guam through World War II, less than 1,000 are still alive to share their memories. One constant, is the respect the people of Guam hold for their liberators, the US Marine Corps. The above video is from this past weekend's memorial ceremony.