Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tom Uren, a man of letters: POW, MP, OA

The Fight 
The Age, January 26, 2013 reports on the award on Australia Day of Australia's highest honor given to former POW of Japan and politician Tom Uren. Mr. Uren was instrumental in persuading the Australian government in 2011 to give surviving former POWs of Japan and Korea additional compensation.

As The Age writes:

''I'VE been hit with open hands, closed fists, pieces of wood, iron bars and bamboo about two inches in diameter,'' Tom Uren says.

He was hardly more than a boy then - a prisoner-of-war and slave of the Japanese in his early 20s on the Burma-Thai railway.

But Tom Uren would take many more hits as his long, often controversial life wore on, and he rolled with them all and refused to lie down.

Today, aged 91, with most of his opponents fallen away - and a lot of them forgiven by him, including the Japanese - he will receive the highest honour his nation can bestow on a civilian: Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Others to be so honoured today include former Howard government foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer, astrophysicist and joint Nobel prize winner Professor Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory, and the director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, the Reverend Professor James Mitchell Haire.

Mr Uren's award states it is for ''eminent service to the community, particularly through contributions to the welfare of veterans, improved medical education in Vietnam and the preservation of sites of heritage and environmental significance".

All true, but it's an inadequate summation of the life of the Balmain-born man who, impoverished, left school at 13 years and seven months.

He fought for the heavyweight boxing championship of Australia at 19 (and lost), marched into the hell of the Burma-Thai railway at 21, served the Labor Party as member for the Sydney electorate of Reid for 32 years, became his party's deputy leader and a cabinet minister in the Whitlam government and later found himself consigned to the junior ministry for four years in the Hawke government.

As a whip-thin prisoner shipped from Thailand to Japan to labour in a copper smelter, he watched the sky discolour when the Fat Man atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

It stopped the war and freed him, but he became one of Australia's leading anti-nuclear campaigners. The Japanese, he insists, were as much victims of militarism and fascism as anyone else.

Long a man of the Left, Mr Uren's early excursions into the peace movement were so passionate that ASIO believed he was taking his instructions from the Soviets. When newspapers published the libel, he sued and eventually won enough for two holiday homes, which he took delight in calling the ''Fairfax Retreat '' in the bush and the ''Packer Lodge'' on the New South Wales south coast.

His insistence in marching against the Vietnam War earned him several stretches in jails, including Sydney's Long Bay and Brisbane's Boggo Road. Mr Uren was appalled by the dehumanising effect of the old jails, and used his influence to get at least one of his fellow prisoners a job in Canberra.

''So many people are crook on their fellows, but I just look for the love in people,'' he says.

Often Mr Uren found himself talking, he says ''to two-and-a-half dogs". He was one of the early proponents of self-determination for the East Timorese, but no one seemed interested. He simply kept at it until it became mainstream.

The defining period of his life was the Burma-Thai railway. Taken prisoner on Timor aged 20, he marched into his first prison camp on the railway aged 21.

Always a big, strong man, he became known for his willingness to put his body between furious Japanese guards and his comrades, figuring he could take the beating that might kill a mate weakened by hunger, disease and slaving.

It was the influence of the camp commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward ''Weary'' Dunlop, that stayed with him. Colonel Dunlop, a surgeon, taxed fellow officers to build a small bank to buy medical supplies and food, saving the lives of many hundreds of men, and he ensured that the strong looked after the weak, the young looked after the old and the relatively healthy cared for the sick.

It was, Mr Uren says, collectivism - a principle he adopted for life and which during the Cold War found him branded a communist, though he never was.

He never forgot his fellow POW survivors, and fought a battle over 23 years to grant them extra benefits, arguing that they died younger and suffered greater illness than other returned servicemen. In 2011, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that all remaining POWs would receive an extra $500 a fortnight.

Of the 22,000 Australian prisoners of the Japanese, only some 400 are alive now, but Mr Uren said Ms Gillard's action displayed compassion and justice, which he valued above all else.

And his elevation to Companion of the Order of Australia?

''I just want to thank my fellow Australians for their support, their warmth and their love in my evergreen years,'' he says.

See the full honours list here

The collective ordeal of the Allied POWs captured in Singapore is described in the book, The Prisoner List. The website for the book is HERE.

Shortwave radio memories

The January 26th Billings Gazette reports on one Wyoming woman's project to document the histories of the POWs mentioned in Japan's propaganda broadcasts. Ms. Val Burgess, an amateur historian, welcomes more information about the POWs interviewed on the Japanese broadcasts. You can contact her HERE. She has also written a blog about the experiences of POWs in Stalag Luft III in Germany and their famous forced march.

Voices of the Past: A suitcase full of letters helps tell stories of World War II prisoners of war
SHERIDAN, Wyo. -- The letters came from all over. They came from small towns like Keokuk, Iowa, and Rockland Ill., and big ones like St. Louis, Mo., and Philadelphia. Some arrived on fancy letterhead, others on postcards. Most start like this: Dear Mrs. Reed, thank you.

I wish to thank you for sending me the message from my husband, Col. Thomas Austin Lynch, who is a prisoner of war in Taiwan Camp on Formosa. I have not heard from him since Dec. 1941 and this is the first message I have had.
-- Grace C. Lynch, Chicago, Ill., March, 1943

We sincerely appreciate and thank you for relaying the message from our son… We thank God and may He bless you for your kindness in writing us.
-- Mr. and Mrs. Daniel S. Nugent, Hawesville, Ky., February, 1943

We have been writing since Jan. when the war department sent us instructions etc. but evidently the mail has not yet been received. I appreciate your interest in writing to me along with many others.
-- Minnie Woodward, Austin, Minn., April 1943.

Letters like these were all but forgotten -- stashed in an old suitcase found in an old house -- until last fall. They tell of the Americans captured by Japanese troops during World War II and the agony of their families, waiting for word of their loved ones.

They also tell of a woman sitting by her radio, scanning the airways for shortwave broadcasts from Japan, in hopes of hearing news of American POWs.

The suitcase
Val Burgess, a Sheridan resident, is an amateur historian with a longstanding interest in prisoners of war. Her uncle Vernon Burda was a navigator in a B-24 bomber crew shot down over Croatia during World War II. He survived 10 months in a German POW camp.
Burda expressed a desire in 1993 to return to the place where he was once held captive. Burgess was fascinated. It was the first time her uncle spoke of his experience in the war. A commercial designer, she offered to help organize the fundraising campaign helping Burda and other survivors of the camp go back. Soon her phone started ringing with people eager to learn more about the trip. Many were old POWs.

“They turned into these amazing people with these stories they were telling me,” Burgess said. “It was like ‘Are you kidding me? You did what?’”

She’s been interested in POWs and recording their stories ever since. Over time she has built up a reputation, interviewing POWs across the country. It was in this way that Burgess came by the suitcase.

A woman in the 1980s bought a home in Sheridan. There, she found an old, black suitcase stuffed with letters. She held onto it for years, waiting for the right person to give it to. Then Burgess came along.

A look inside the suitcase reveals a jumbled stack of 3-by 5-inch notecards tied with a red bow, scrolls of paper and stacks of letters and postcards.

Together they might tell a hundred stories, or a thousand.

Mrs. Reed

Mrs. Reed is Cora Reed.

Her obituary says she was born in 1897 in Denton, Texas. In 1932, she married George E. Reed in Hardin, Mont. George was a therapist with the Veterans Administration at Fort McKenzie. He died in 1978. Cora died in 1980. The couple’s two sons are also dead, each passing at a relatively young age.

During the war, the Sheridan Press interviewed Cora about her letter writing. She began listening to Japanese POW broadcasts in December 1942. Whenever she heard an American prisoner's name, she wrote to members of his family.

At that time, she had received 300 responses from families in every state in the union except Delaware, South Dakota, Mississippi and Wyoming.

She told the paper that it was sometimes difficult to hear the names of the soldiers because the Japanese broadcaster flipped his l's and r’s. Noise at a construction shop across the street from her home also made it difficult to hear sometimes.

“A name like Smith or Jones isn’t so bad, but when you try to get a name like Uczyuski or Kondrzsiewicz coming in Japanese phonetics with a little static mixed in, it’s a real job to get it right,” Reed told the paper.

She frequently used a postal directory with listings throughout the country to track down the right names. George filed the names of all the soldiers’ families to whom she wrote. On a large map of the United States, he placed a white pin for each card sent and a red pin for each card received.

Little else is known about the Reeds, Burgess said. She has researched the former Sheridan couple since October, when she acquired the suitcase, but has turned up little outside of the newspaper article.

It says the Reeds were longtime hobby radio listeners before they started listening to the Japanese broadcasts.

Shortwave nation
Theirs was a common hobby, said David Hochfelder, assistant professor of history at the State University of New York, Albany, who is researching wartime radio broadcasts from Germany, Italy and Japan.

It is unknown how many Americans tuned into these wartime broadcasts, Hochfelder said, but he knows of one family that received around 140 letters regarding an interned relative mentioned on Radio Tokyo.

Jerry Berg, an author of three books on shortwave radio, agreed.

“There were a lot of women,” Berg said in a telephone interview from his home in Massachusetts. “This was something they could do at home and feel they were doing to help the war effort.”

Many of the responses received by Reed mention other letter writers.

Soldiers sometimes spoke during the POW broadcasts, Hochfelder said. In other instances Japanese broadcasters read out letters composed by the prisoners. They typically listed the soldier’s name, his next of kin and a message for his family.

“The purpose of these broadcasts was to draw listeners,” Hochfelder said. “They would intersperse the POWs in with the slanted news items.”

The recordings appear accurate, he said, noting they were designed to boost the rest of the broadcast’s credibility. Listeners were urged to record the POW messages and inform their next of kin.

That made them unpopular with the U.S. government, who worried about citizens listening to enemy propaganda. Listening was not illegal, but disseminating the content was.
The Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service attempted to discourage letter writers like Reed. Sometimes they wrote writers asking them to stop. Other times they sent uniformed military personnel to writers’ homes.

“In the 1930s and ’40s radio was so new, people didn’t understand the social psychology,” Hochfelder said. “People attributed the fall of France to Nazi propaganda.”
Cora Reed received a letter from the War Department.

“Dear Mrs. Reed,” Col. Howard F. Bresee wrote in a letter dated April 17, 1943. “You may rest assured this government is greatful (sic) for your sincere desire to render a service to the relatives of prisoners of war.”

But, he added, “It is the policy of this office to discourage individuals in forwarding shortwave messages. To do so is a duplication of the service now rendered by government agencies.”

Reed told the Press she stopped writing after receiving the War Department message, but that responses from her previously written letters were still coming in from across the country. She never wrote the families back after hearing from them.
“Our family isn’t much to write,” she explained.

The Future
Burgess hopes to make an online database of all the soldiers and families listed in Reed’s letters. She spends her free time pouring over the documents and researching the men and women mentioned.

She has, for instance, located the descendants of a general and his wife who were captured in the Philippines. The family, who lives in Connecticut, was exhilarated at news of their forbearers.

Yet to catalog all the letters, research all the individuals involved and compile that information on a website is labor intensive. Burgess is writing grants she hopes will allow her to take on the work full time.

Building an online archive will allow people today to learn more about what their families went through during the war, Burgess said. These letters represent their family history.
“These are peoples’ lives,” she said. “Right now we are bringing so many thousands home.”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Will the POW's reconciliation tours to Japan end?

POW’s Japan reconciliation tours may end

George Summers of Riverside, California said he was captured shortly after the start of the war with Japan and spent nearly four years as a POW.

BY Mark   Muckenfuss
The Press-Enterprise, January 04, 2013

Riverside resident George Summers may be one of the last World War II prisoners of war to participate in a reconciliation tour with Japan.

Summers, 90, spent the entire war in Japanese prison camps. In October, he traveled to Japan with a group of other former POWs, visiting some of the sites where he was held captive and talking to school children and community leaders about his experiences.

The tour is meant to serve both as an apology by the Japanese government for how Summers and others were treated during the war, and as a way to educate younger generations about the culture of the time.

Four out of 10 Americans never made it out of Japan’s prison camps. The men were routinely starved and beaten at the same time they were being ordered to perform strenuous manual labor such as moving rocks, digging coal or unloading freight.

The Japanese government has apologized to those who were held as prisoners during the war and for years has sponsored reconciliation trips for former POWs. But not American POWs. Only in the past three years have groups from the United States been invited.

Lester Tenney, 90, a former POW who recounted his war experiences in a book called “My Hitch in Hell,” said he found out about the trips because of a close relationship he had with Ichiro Fujisaki, the former Japanese ambassador to the United States.

Tenney said he was upset when he found out that American POWs had been excluded.

Fujisaki passed along Tenney’s complaint, and the Japanese government responded. Tenney, who lives in Carlsbad, said he was asked to arrange a tour of American POWs. The first group of 14 went in 2010. He also organized groups in 2011 and 2012.

Now, he feels like he is getting to old to continue to substantial work it takes to keep setting up the tours.
“If they ask me to do it,” Tenney said, “I may just recommend somebody else.”

Finding someone may not be easy.

“There’s not a lot of people around that would be willing to do this,” Tenney said. “It can’t be a POW, because they’re all sick and old. They’re like me.”

Summers said he hopes the program will continue. He believes it’s beneficial for the younger generations to hear first-hand about the horrors inflicted on the 27,000 American POWs by the Japanese military. He especially wants to show youngsters how terrible war can be.

After sharing his experience with a group of Japanese fifth-graders, he said, he tried to relate it to their mindset.

“I told them, ‘What would it be like if you, who are 10 years old, just eight years later had to go through this?’” he said. “I said, ‘War is the curse of mankind.’”
Summers was 18 when he enlisted in the Marine reserves in his hometown of Pasadena. Activated later that year, he was one of the first Americans captured during the war. He was part of a small contingent on Guam when the island was attacked just minutes after the first wave of Japanese planes swept into Pearl Harbor. He was on guard duty at the time.

He recalled seeing villagers from the town below scrambling up the hill toward the base as they were strafed by Japanese planes. There was no order or coordinated counterattack by the Americans, he said. When a bomb blast at a barracks wounded him in the leg, he and a fellow Marine fled into the nearby coconut groves.

They hid for two days, believing that if they surrendered, they would be killed. In desperation, Summers took off his T-shirt and waved it as a flag of surrender. Instead of facing bullets, he said, they were treated kindly.

“We were the only ones that were treated good by the Japanese,” he said. The soldier guarding them gave them rice and corned beef. “I liked that Japanese guy.” It didn’t last.

Aboard a transport ship to Japan, he said, “they were throwing us rotten rice and radishes. A lot of it had maggots in it.” Dysentery was rampant.

“We lost two or three (men) on the ship,” he said. “I’m not sure.”

Many more were lost in the camps. He spent six months in the notorious prison camp at Tanagawa, near Osaka, known for the severe malnutrition and high death rate among its POWs.

“We were supposed to get a rice ball and a pickled radish at noontime,” he said. “If you got sick they gave you nothing but liquid rice.”

Bombing by allied planes forced a move to another camp, Umida Bonshu, also in Osaka. Conditions there were far better.

“I gained some weight there because things were good,” he said.

Of the nearly four years Summers spent in captivity, nearly three were spent working at Umida Bonshu [Umeda Bunsho, near Osaka run by Nippon Express, still a thriving company] as a stevedore, unloading freighters.

But six months before the war was over, he was moved again. He found himself in Fushiki, on the west coast of Honshu. The conditions were the most dire he had faced.

“The whole time it was a matter of getting food,” he said. “We were starving to death. There was nothing to eat there but raw soy beans.”
He resorted to desperate measures.

“We had to clean out the Japanese toilets,” he said.

Among the human waste, he said, were undigested soy beans that had been swallowed whole.

“I was picking out the soy beans and washing them off. I was eating them like crazy.”

Whether his fellow prisoners were doing the same when they had latrine duty, he doesn’t know.

“Nobody talked about stuff like that at the time,” he said.

Summers said he had a hard time readjusting to civilian life after the war.

He left the service and spent seven years in the Merchant Marine, going on to work for General Telephone [GTE] and as a financial clerk for the city of Anaheim. He has lived in his Riverside home, with an orange grove next to his house, since 1972 and still works in real estate investment.

Although a curio cabinet in his home is filled with Japanese figures, and a Japanese curtain hangs in the doorway of his office, his recent trip was the first time he had visited the country since the 1950s. He believes one of the docks he saw in a harbor might have been there during the war. If so, it was the only landmark he recognized.

“It’s all new,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place. The people are so kind.”

A few of the people he met there may not have felt the same way about him.

“The only ones that haven’t apologized are the companies that we worked for. To this day, they still don’t want to compensate the POWs for the slave labor we provided. I mentioned it to them when we met with officials with Mitsubishi.

“Everybody thought I was going to start another world war over there,” he said with a laugh.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Search for POW remains in the Philippines continues

Painting by Ben Steele
U.S. and Philippine Governments Partner to Investigate Remains of 
American service members in the Philippines from World War II
Manila, January 18, 2013 –This week, personnel from the U.S. and Philippine governments will begin preliminary investigations into possible locations of the remains of American Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs) in the Philippines.
 The effort is led by the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), based in Honolulu, whose humanitarian mission is to conduct global search, recovery, and laboratory operations to identify more than 83,000 unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts.  Alongside Philippine partners, the JPAC team will be searching for evidence of about 80 Americans who remain unaccounted-for from World War II.  A nine-member investigation team will work with Philippine partners to authenticate leads from eyewitnesses and conduct field research at numerous locations throughout the Philippines to determine whether a return visit for excavation is merited.
 “These investigations have the potential bring long desired closure for the families of American service members who went missing while serving their country in the second World War,” said Brian L. Goldbeck, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy.  “We are truly grateful to our Philippine partners for working closely with us to facilitate this project.”
 The joint investigations follow the signing of a Statement of Intent on June 3, 2011 between the United States and the Philippines to collaborate in researching, investigating, recovering, and conducting forensic reviews of American POW and MIA remains.  As part of the agreement, JPAC personnel are required to respect all Philippine national and local laws and regulations, local customs, traditions and courtesies.
 All activities are being closely coordinated with and facilitated by the Government of the Philippines, with involvement from the Philippine Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Health, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources; the National Museum of the Philippines; the Bureaus of Customs and Immigration; the Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement; the National Bureau of Investigation; the National Commission on Indigenous People; the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and the Philippine National Police.  
For press inquiries, please contact the U.S. Embassy Information Office at 301-2363 or email at

Lost Battalion's Compensation

Below is an excellent article from a Texas newspaper on the US government's compensation to the American POWs of Japan for their "undue hardships" and suffering. As Linda Goetz Holmes writes in Chapter 14 of her seminal account of how Japan's great companies benefited from slave labor, Unjust Enrichment: American POWs Under the Rising Sun, the US government was unsure as to how to compensate the POWs.

Thus, according to Ms. Holmes, they referred to a 1936 War Department field manual that gave soldiers on bivouac $1/day for lost meals. This compensation was approved under the War Claims Act of 1948. Following bitter complaints and the fact that the US in the San Francisco Peace Treaty had waived the right of its citizens to sue Japan, Congress in 1952 approved a second trance of $1.50/day for being "subjected to inhumane treatment." Many of the former POWs, however, never received the second payment as they had died, moved, or never heard of the offer.

In 2000, a number of countries--UK, Isle of Man, Norway, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand--granted their former POWs ex gratia benefits for their brutal treatment. In 2011, the Government of Australia approved for all surviving POWs of WWII and the Korean War a fortnightly grant of AU$500 (US$530) for the next four years. In 2001, Australia’s POWs of Japan had also been awarded a one-off ex-gratia payment of AU$25,000. In contrast, the US Congress has never allowed a vote for additional compensation to the American POWs.

Looking Back: Lost Battalion POW receives maltreatment compensation

DOUG McDONOUGH | Plainview Daily Herald Editor | Saturday, January 12, 2013

What is adequate compensation for 42 months of pain and suffering as a Japanese prisoner of war who was forced to work on the “Burma-Siam Death Railway” which connected with the infamous bridge over the River Kwai?

For several local veterans who were members of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, compensation for their compulsory labor and inhumane treatment during the darkest days of World War II amounted to just over $1,900, which was paid in 1953. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index calculation, that amount would have the same buying power today as approximately $16,500.

A photo and article in the Jan. 11, 1953, issue of the Plainview Sunday Herald shows Floyd R. Lamb receiving a $1,906.50 check from local Veterans Service Officer Harry McCain.

Lamb, a Plainview police officer at that time, was the first of less than a dozen local veterans from the same “Lost Battalion” to receive governmental checks as additional payment for compulsory labor and inhumane treatment suffered while being held in Japanese prison camps during World War II.

Lamb happened to be the first in the county to receive both the 1953 payment as well as another governmental check two years earlier, sent as compensation for the undernourishment he and his fellow POWs suffered during their captivity.

According to the article accompanying the 1953 photograph, Lamb and his comrades were captured March 8, 1942, while resisting the Japanese invasion of Java.

They were held 42 months in various camps from Java to French Indo-China. During that time he was starved, beaten and contracted beriberi, malaria and other tropical diseases.

“He was forced to work on a railroad in the Burma jungles covering over a thousand miles,” the Herald reported in 1953, “and for which he said more men died than the number of cross-ties laid in the roadway constructed entirely by hand labor.”

Lamb, who died Aug. 19, 1988, told the Herald that he weighed just 89 pounds when he was freed from a camp in French Indo-China — now Vietnam — by the U.S. Air Force and flown to Calcutta, India. From there he was sent to Washington, D.C., where he was admitted to Water Reed Military Hospital to recover.

According to the Herald, just nine survivors of the “Lost Battalion” still lived in the Plainview area in 1953. The A Battery of the 2nd Battalion was largely composed of National Guardsmen from the Panhandle-South Plains region, including Plainview and Lockney, who were activated a few weeks before the United States was drawn into the growing global conflict.

According to the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery was mobilized on Nov. 25, 1940, along with the 36th Infantry Division, Texas National Guard, and sent to Camp Bowie at Brownwood. Originally intended to be part of a force to be sent to reinforce American troops in the Philippine Islands, the battalion was detached from the 36th Infantry Battalion and sailed on the USS Republic on Nov. 21, 1941. The ship was diverted from the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, and landed on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies on Jan. 11, 1942, to reinforce Dutch, British and Australian troops already there.

The Japanese landed on the island and the Dutch surrendered on March 8, 1942, after token resistance. The entire battalion was taken prisoner.

The battalion (less Battery E) and the survivors of the cruiser USS Houston, which had been sunk off the Java coast, were sent to Burma, Thailand, or Japan to work for the Japanese as slave laborers. They worked on the “Burma-Siam Death Railway” building a railroad through the jungle and in the coal mines, docks and ship yards in Japan and other southeast Asian countries. They spent 42 months in captivity suffering humiliation; torture, both mental and physical; starvation and disease (without medication).

A total of 532 soldiers from the battalion, along with 371 survivors of the USS Houston, were taken prisoner. Of that number, 668 were sent to Burma and Thailand and 235 to other locations. Altogether, 163 soldiers died in captivity, and of those 133 died working on the railroad. Many more died as a result of diseases contracted while in captivity after the war.

For almost three years, no one heard from any of the members of the battalion, hence the name, “Lost Battalion.”

Lamb, who was 69 when he died Aug. 19, 1988, was a member of the Plainview Police Department for 13 years. Later, he was a sporting goods salesman for Gibson’s Discount Center.

He was a member of Seth Ward Baptist Church, Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Lost Battalion Association.

N.B.: An excellent book on the Lost Battalion is Hell under the Rising Sun: Texan POWs and the Building of the Burma-Thailand Death Railway (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Denier of the Bataan Death March

Photo by Jim
In the October 2012 issue of the popular Japanese monthly magazine, Seiron, is an unattributed commentary on the Bataan Death March. The author dismisses the brutality of the March by asserting that the Americans were racist cowards and prevaricators who willfully murdered civilians. Passages from Dr. Lester Tenney's book, My Hitch in Hell, on the battle of Bataan and the Death March are used as proof.

The Seiron writer emphasizes his point by identifying Dr. Tenney as Jewish, thus drawing on common prejudices against the Jewish people as villainous, lazy liars. Dr. Tenney, a former tank commander from Company "B" of the Maywood 192nd Tank Battalion and the last Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, persuaded the government of Japan in 2009 to issue a formal apology for Imperial Japan's abuse and misuse of American POWs.

Nearly 60, still existing Japanese companies, used American and Allied POWs as slave labor in horrific conditions to maintain war production. Companies such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Kawasaki, Toshiba, and Nippon Sharyo participated in the program to "employ white slaves." No company has yet to apologize. In the current Japanese Cabinet, the family companies of two Cabinet ministers, Taro Aso (Aso Group) and Yoshimasa Hayashi (Ube Industries) used slave labor during the war

The article's anti-Semitism is used to separate veterans like Dr. Tenney from other “Americans” and to imply that his quest for justice is corrupted and not mainstream. The point is to isolate those who want sincere apologies for the war by suggesting that they as not true Americans. If they were loyal Americans their interest would be on security in Asia and not "lying" about Japan. This article is part of the current greater effort, under the new Japanese government, to deny Japan’s war history and to undo Japan’s few war apologies of which one was to the American POWs of Japan. If the Murayama apology of 1995 is redone, upon which the apology to the POWs is based, then the latter apology would be undone.

Anti-Semitism aside, the Seiron article selectively quotes Dr. Tenney and employs false facts. It is similar to another denier article attacking Dr. Tenney that appeared in the December 23, 2010 edition of the Shukan Shincho by Masayuki Takayama entitled "Bamboo Strings?".

Below is a translation of the Seiron article followed by a correction of the facts and exact quotes from Dr. Tenney's book.

Commentary of the Season [Orifushi no Ki]

Unnamed author, Seiron, October 2012, pp. 35-37
Provisional Translation by Asia Policy Point

The bombardment on the Philippine’s Clark Field came almost at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two weeks later, on December 22, 1941, Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma and his 40,000 troops hit the shores of the Lingayen Gulf. Subsequently, they defeated the American and Filipino forces, which were three times stronger than those of the Japanese.

MacArthur was terrified and reported to Washington the abandonment of Manila and started withdrawing to the Bataan Peninsula. Cowards always run fast when they escape. Lester Tenney, a Tank Corps member who had just arrived at Luzon, was a coward equal to MacArthur.

His Tank Corps rushed to the Bataan Peninsula, avoiding any encounter with the Japanese. According to his book, the Bataan Death March, he wrote that he killed all residents and “indiscriminately shot at shops and huts because we could not distinguish Filipinos from the Japanese” when they passed by a small village.

He also wrote “we killed those who did not have identification” and “we fired the tank cannons to blow up four houses with their families because they tried to leak the American presence to the Japanese.” Though he is, in fact, a Jew, it seems he thinks that the whites have a special privilege to kill any colored people.

Six months later, he surrendered to the Japanese. The Japanese forced him to walk to a camp, which was only 120 kilometers away. Half of the march was actually “by freight train” (Ibid.). He exaggerated as if “it was a march from hell.” The foolish Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada invited him to Japan and apologized.

It would have been better to send him [Tenney] to The Philippines and try him for killing many innocent people.

[Here the article continues with examples of British and Korean inhumanity and "cowardice".]

Corrections to the Seiron’s history of the Battle of Bataan

These corrections were prepared in cooperation with Dr. Stanley Falk, former chief historian of the U.S. Air Force and a military historian specializing in World War II in the Pacific. He is the author of the authoritative history, Bataan: The March of Death.

On December 22, 1941, the Japanese 14th Army commanded by Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma landed at five spots along the Eastern part of Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf. Prior to the landing, American air and naval power had been virtually destroyed. The Japanese were established on Luzon airfields and Army short-range fighters were in position to support Japanese ground troops when required. All this had been accomplished in less than two weeks starting on December 8th.

The Japanese Lingayen force totaled 43,000 men (not 40,000 as noted by Seiron). Previously about 4,000 others had landed further north in Luzon, with another 2,500 landing at the southern tip of the island. Then, two days after Lingayen, another 7,000 landed in southern Luzon. Altogether, about 56,500 Japanese troops were on the Philippines by the end of December 1941.

American and Filipino forces on Luzon probably totaled about 80,000, but most of them were poorly trained and equipped Filipino troops. General Douglas MacArthur's air force had been all put completely destroyed in the first few days of the war, and he had no naval forces to oppose the Japanese fleet blockading the Philippines.

Mathematically, the American forces were not as the Seiron author states “three times as large as those of the Japanese.” They were less than 1.5 times as large. The defending forces outnumbered the Japanese invaders by approximately 3 to 2, but were a mixed force of non-combat experienced regular, national guard, constabulary, and newly created Commonwealth units; the Japanese used their best first-line troops at the outset of the campaign.

General MacArthur was not "terrified" by the Japanese invasion, as the author suggested. The evacuation of Manila and withdrawal to Bataan was part of a long-held plan to pull-back to Bataan in the face of vastly superior Japanese forces and to hold the entrance to Manila Bay, thus denying Manila harbor to the Japanese. The withdrawal was carried out in a very effective manner, while the Japanese concentrated on capturing Manila (practically unopposed since Fil-American forces were headed for Bataan).

The American tanks also did not "rush" to Bataan to avoid meeting the Japanese. Instead, they were tasked to engage the enemy and fought well as part of the covering force that shielded the forces as they withdrew into Bataan. They, in fact, helped hold off the Japanese assault for four months from an expected one.

The American troops on Bataan, exhausted, hungry, sick, and running out of ammunition for their antiquated weapons were surrendered by their commanding officers on April 9, 1942. This was four months after the start of hostilities, not the “six months” noted by the Seiron author. Corregidor was surrendered on May 6th.

The Bataan Death March was composed of three to four segments. Troops were rounded up at Bagac on the west side of the Bataan peninsula and Marvieles at Bataan’s tip. These groups converged at Balanga on National Road 54 on the east side of Bataan.

The trek from Bagac to Balanga was 27k (16.7 miles) and from Mariveles to Balanga 54k (33.5 miles). The 100 kilometers (65 miles; not 120k) mentioned by the Seiron author from Mariveles only took the prisoners to San Fernando. The POWs were then transported by freight rail about 25 miles to Capas (the train trip was not more than half of the Death March as the Seiron author notes). One hundred or more prisoners were stuffed into each of the trains' boxcars, which were unventilated and sweltering in the tropical heat—dozens died standing.

After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final seven miles to Camp O'Donnell. Sanitation, food, and medical care at Camp O'Donnell were abysmal. The survivors of the march continued to die, first at a rate of 30–50 per day to 300-500 per day by late summer.

Although many of the prisoners did leave Bataan on trucks, especially from Bagac or Balanga (maybe one-fourth), the great majority was forced to march under inhuman conditions in the hot sun, with little food and water, and subject to constant harassment, beatings, shootings, beheadings, bayoneting, and other forms of brutal and often sadistic treatment.

HERE you can find Dr. Lester Tenney’s description of the Death March from Chapter 4 in his book, My Hitch in Hell: The Bataan Death March (ISBN 0-02-881125-9, Potomac Books Inc., June 2007).

BELOW are quotes from Chapter 2 in Dr. Tenney book about his thoughts and feelings when his tank crew found them have to fire on civilian targets.

Page 27
...given that we had arrived in the Philippines only a few weeks before hostilities began and that most of us American soldiers came from traditional Midwestern Caucasian homes, we found distinguishing the Filipinos and the Chinese from the Japanese people very difficult. As a result, the constant infiltration of Japanese soldiers and civilians and the threat that Japanese sympathizers would give our position away caused us great anxiety. Our safety was in jeopardy.

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There were many times when we in fact did locate and eliminate some of these enemy sympathizers … On our march into this village, we had been bombed by enemy aircraft and precision shelling by Japanese artillery. Now we knew why they had their guns aimed so perfectly and how their aircraft was able to locate us in the middle of the juggle so easily. We were set up by spies or Japanese infiltrators. Some of the villagers were our enemies, and we wanted to know who they were.

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Our tank crew decided that with only four of us, we could not safely enter and search each of the four homes. Instead, when no one would admit who the guilty people were or where the three men were hiding, we proceeded to spray round after round of bullets into each of the homes in this small community. We knew we had to find these enemy spies, or we would face the same bulldog attack each day of our withdrawal into Bataan. When we finish shooting, we felt emotionally drained and guilty. We sat down and almost cried. Did we kill anyone in these buildings? Was anyone wounded by our gunfire? We never knew the results of our attacks. We felt that had there been people inside they would have answered our previous commands to come out. Did we act without concern for the people inside, if any? I do not think so. Our fear of being killed made necessary what might seem a brutal act.