Thursday, February 21, 2013

Notes for Congress

In an update of their periodic report on Japan-US Relations: Issues for Congress the Congressional Research Service (CRS) included background on the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe's history views and the American POWs of Japan.

U.S. World-War II-Era Prisoners of War (POWs)
For decades, U.S. soldiers who were held captive by Imperial Japan during World War II have sought official apologies from the Japanese government for their treatment. A number of Members of Congress have supported these campaigns. The brutal conditions of Japanese POW camps have been widely documented. [22] In May 2009, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki attended the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor to deliver a cabinet-approved apology for their suffering and abuse. In 2010, with the support and encouragement of the Obama Administration, the Japanese government financed a Japanese/American POW Friendship Program for former American POWs and their immediate family members to visit Japan, receive an apology from the sitting Foreign Minister and other Japanese Cabinet members, and travel to the sites of their POW camps. Annual trips were held in 2010, 2011, and 2012. [23] It is unclear whether the Abe government will continue the program. It is also unclear if Abe and other LDP politicians’ suggestions that past Japanese apologies should be reworded or retracted include the apologies to the U.S. POWs.

In the 112th Congress, three resolutions—S.Res. 333, H.Res. 324, and H.Res. 333—were introduced thanking the government of Japan for its apology and for arranging the visitation program. [24] The resolutions also encouraged the Japanese to do more for the U.S. POWs, including by continuing and expanding the visitation programs as well as its World War II education efforts. They also called for Japanese companies to apologize for their or their predecessor firms’ use of un- or inadequately compensated forced prison laborers during the war.

[22] By various estimates, approximately 40% percent held in the Japanese camps died in captivity, compared to 1%-3% of the U.S. prisoners in Nazi Germany’s POW camps. Thousands more died in transit to the camps, most notoriously in the 1942 “Bataan Death March,” in which the Imperial Japanese military force-marched almost 80,000 starving, sick, and injured Filipino and U.S. troops over 60 miles to prison camps in the Philippines. For more, see CRS Report RL30606, U.S. Prisoners of War and Civilian American Citizens Captured and Interned by Japan in World War II: The Issue of Compensation by Japan, by Gary Reynolds, currently out of print but available from the co-authors of this report. Estimates of the death rates in German prison camps for POWs are in the low single digits, compared to rates near 40% for Imperial Japanese camps.

[23] For more on the program, see Since the mid-1990s, Japan has run similar programs for the POWs of other Allied countries.

[24] S.Res. 333 (Feinstein) was introduced and passed by unanimous consent on November 17, 2011. H.Res. 324 (Honda) and H.Res.333 (Honda) were introduced on June 22, 2011, and June 24, 2011, respectively, and referred to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Appeal to Japanese Prime Minister Abe

The Letter below was sent by the ADBC (American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor) Memorial Society President Joseph Vater to Mr. Joseph Y. Yun, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs on February 15, 2013 asking the Obama Administration to continue to press on the Government of Japan to honor its apology and commitments the American POWs of Japan and their descendants.

Unless the White House and the State Department hear from members of Congress and the American people, they will allow the Japanese government to end its remarkable program of reconciliation with the American and Allied POWs. It has the potential to be the model for other programs of sincere contrition and confidence building between Japan and its former adversaries.

Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on the record saying that he wants to reconsidered Japan's past apologies and free Japan from its "masochistic" history of false blame. The apology to the American POWs is thus in jeopardy along with all other Japanese apologies.


 Dear Mr. Yun:

As representative of the surviving POWs of Japan, their families, and descendants, the ADBC Memorial Society asks you to encourage Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit next week to continue and expand his government’s visitation program to Japan for American former POWs.

The POW/Japan Friendship Program only initiated in 2010 has brought immeasurable benefit to the former POWs, their families, and to the U.S.-Japan relationship. As you can see from this representative note to our newsgroup, it has brought closure and peace of mind to its participants:

This program has really helped my Dad.  For years, Dad would have nightmares after any talk, show, or sometimes just because of his years as a POW.  Since our visit his nightmares have gone.  I cannot really put in words what that day at the Japanese Factory in Takaoka, Toyama, Japan did.  He has not forgotten or totally forgiven but there is now a peace to his remembrance. If you are able please consider participating in this program.  My Dad's memory is failing on his daily activities but he continues to recall his trip to Japan.  Now when he talks about his POW experience he can now add closure.  The audience is amazed at his story.  I was honored to go with Dad to Japan.  If you are a descendant please talk with your parent about the program.  It truly is a life changer.
                                                Debra Bergbower-Grunwald
                                                Daughter of Harold Bergbower,
            Past National Commander, ADBC

Impressions of former POWs who have participated in the POW/Japan Friendship Program are on the Outreach section of our website at  The program is a solid example of a successful acknowledgement by Japan of Imperial Japan’s injustices. The Japanese government offered an official apology and followed it up with a program that confronts the past while preserving the dignities of both Americans and Japanese. 

It concerns us that the Abe Administration wants to limit the program to former POWs and possibly end the program this year.  Widows, children, and other descendants have also been affected by the former POW experience of their relative in Japan and they should be included in future programs.  We are concerned about how little the Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicizes the program’s accomplishments.  Most important, we are troubled by the Japanese companies that have refused to allow our nonagenarian POWs to visit the sites of their imprisonment and slave labor.

The success of this visitation program should encourage Japan to do more.  Still we wait for Japan’s great multi-national corporations to acknowledge their use of POW labor.  Still we wait for Japan to create national memorials to the POWs who slaved and died on Japanese soil.  And still we wait for Japan to establish a fund to continue this visitation program and expand it, as it did for other Allied POWs in 1995, to include research, documentation, and people-to-people exchanges.

We are grateful for the State Department’s past efforts to encourage the Japanese government to do the right thing by initiating a process of reconciliation.  This issue is even more poignant today as two Abe Cabinet members have family ties to companies that used POW slave labor during the war.

We ask that the Obama Administration insist that Japan preserve its visitation program for former POWs and expand this remarkable program to include family members and to initiate a plan to preserve their history.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Robert A. “Bob” Bonadio, Col. USMC

Requiescat in pace

Robert A. “Bob” Bonadio, Colonel USMC (Ret) of Murrieta, Calif., a tireless advocate for American veterans, especially the American POWs of Japan, passed away January 19, 2013 surrounded by his family after an extended illness. He was 83.

Bob was born in Utica, New York on December 27, 1929 to parents Frank and Rose Bonadio. In 1948, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, and in 1949 the Marine Corps sent him to Subic Bay, Philippines. In 1950 Bob went to Korea where he served in combat with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, participating in the Chosin Reservoir “Breakout” in Korea, forever linking him to an elite group of soldiers called “The Chosin Few.” Nine Marines would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during the 17 day campaign, November 26 to December 13, 1950. This was the the most ever in the history of the Marine Corps in any one battle. The Marines had fought in sub-zero temperatures surrounded by the Chinese, outnumbered more than 10:1.

In late 1953, he was assigned to Camp Pendleton with the MP Battalion, and later as an Infantry Company Commander. In 1954 he was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro, California, serving as the Assistant Personnel Officer and Atomic, Biological and Chemical Defense Officer. During 1957, he participated in the last atmospheric nuclear tests within the continental United States at Camp Desert Rock, Nevada. He then commanded the only Marines Corps Reserve Artillery Regiment in the United States, the 14th Marine Regiment (14th Marines).


Bob retired from the Marine Corps after 42 years of active and reserve service. He was a member of the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) since 1976, plus a member of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). After moving to San Diego in 1994, he became the ROA Membership Chairman of the San Diego Chapter, then appointed to the National Membership Committee. From 1996-97, he served as the Navy Sections West Membership Coordinator, with responsibilities for the 24 states west of the Mississippi.

In 1977, Bob and Admiral Martin “Red” Carmody were instrumental in the opening of the Treasure Island Museum in San Francisco, depicting the American experience as lived by the men and women of the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

In civilian life he was the Advertising and Marketing Manager with Pacific Bell for California and Nevada. Retiring after 26 years, Bob continued working as a consultant and even traveled to South Korea where he was contracted to put together the Yellow Pages for the city of Seoul, which flourishes today.

Bob was devoted to helping veterans find jobs. He co-authored the Jobs Partner Training Act of 1982, which gave jobs to unemployed veterans and minorities. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan commended him for his efforts with the Blind Ski Training Program in the Lake Tahoe area for all residents in California and Nevada. He often helped veterans receive their service medals.

Bob discovered WWll Navy and Marine Corps POW’s never received their back promotion pay and contacted U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who introduced legislation for these POW’s to receive their money. When Bob found out it would only be in 1942 dollars, he again appealed to Senator McCain who reintroduced legislation for the POW’s to receive their back promotion pay in current dollars. It was enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2008

POWs of Japan
Bob was an inspiring advocate for the American POW’s in the Pacific who suffered horribly in Japan's slave labor camps. His last campaign was trying to persuade Congress to provide compensation to American POWs of Japan for their inhumane imprisonment. He wanted the US government to thank the POWs for their extraordinary service just as other allied governments have by providing ex gratia payments to their former POWs (for example, see recent compensation to Australian POWs). He also worked to alert California legislators of the unacknowledged use of POW slave labor by nearly all Japanese companies (Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Hitachi, Kawasaki, Toshiba, Nippon Sharyo) that plan on bidding for the state's high-speed rail projects [see his 2011 letter to Governor Jerry Brown]. Bob was an Associate life member of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

Bob's friend Don Versaw shared
 the view that you should "not be discouraged"

Marine Master Sergeant Donald Versaw, a former POW of Japan who fought on Corregidor 1941-42 and one of the last of the China Marines, is one of the POWs who Bob worked so hard to help. Don said, upon hearing of Bob's passing that "Col Bonadio's great effort has been a great benefit to me and my family. All of us fortunate survivors of POW experience owe him every so much." Don was a member of the China Marine Band and played the French horn. He had to destroy "his precious best friend" upon surrender to the Japanese and has never again played an instrument. As a POW, he was sent to Japan aboard a Hellship Nissyo Maru to Fukuoka-7B-Futase on Kyushu to be a slave laborer mining coal at Nittetsu-Futase Tanko Kaisha (still existing as the Nittetsu Mining Co., Ltd.). Don, like Bob, served with the 1st Marines during the Korean War.

Bob on the PAWs Sanctuary
With his beloved daughters Karen and Jean, Bob became a voice for the plight of captive elephants in the U.S, and advocated to end the exhibiting of elephants suffering in confinement in zoos across America, and those forced into a lifetime of misery in the circus. He enjoyed visiting the elephants at the PAWs Sanctuary in San Andreas, California.

Protect the elephants

Those that knew Bob would say he was relentless and a man who never gave up on any mission when it came to helping others. His love of his family, the Marine Corps, and America was evident in the way he lived his life and in the character of who he was as a man.

Bob is survived by his wife Clare of 62 years, and daughters Jean and Karen.

A memorial is being planned at Camp Pendleton. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at 3:00pm on July 31, 2013.

In lieu of flowers, please make a tax-deductible contribution to The Wounded Warriors Project the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) or Asia Policy Point.

If you would like to assist and/or contribute to efforts to protect Japan's apology to the American POWs of Japan and to persuade Japan's great companies that used our POWs as slave labor to also apologize, please contact Asia Policy Point.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Louis Zamperini Honored in Kwajalein

Honoring Olympian, bombardier, POW survivor
Kwajalein dining facility renamed for WWII hero

Redstone Rocket, January 30, 2013

KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Marshall Islands – Louis Zamperini’s story is one of service, sacrifice, perseverance and forgiveness, according to Lt. Gen. Richard Formica.

Formica, commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, presided at a ceremony Jan. 16 at the dining facility dedication at Kwajalein Atoll.

CafĂ© Pacific was renamed the “Capt. Louis S. Zamperini Dining Facility.”

For a moment in time, Zamperini’s life connected with Kwajalein. He survived 47 days drifting in the Pacific Ocean, followed by 42 days of intense interrogations on Kwajalein, which was known then as “Execution Island.” He then survived two years as a Japanese prisoner of war. The dining facility on Kwajalein will not be the first place named for Zamperini.

“Today, at U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll, we will add another place to the list of locations bearing his name,” Formica said. “Our intent is to inspire current and future generations of Soldiers and civilians who serve here at Kwajalein with the spirit of service, sacrifice, perseverance, commitment and character embodied by Capt. Louis Zamperini.”

Kwajalein residents and distinguished guests gathered in front of the dining facility for the unveiling of the new building sign and Zamperini plaque and mural placed inside. Distinguished visitors included: Republic of the Marshall Islands president Christopher Loeak and first lady Lieoem Anono Loeak; minister in assistance to the president Tony deBrum; foreign minister of the RMI Phillip Muller and his wife, Yolanda; Kwajalein Senators Michael Kabua and Jeban Riklon; chief secretary Casten Nemra; and U.S. ambassador to the RMI Thomas Armbruster. Muller was the first guest speaker of the day.

“President Loeak and his delegation are delighted to join you here today,” he began. “It is people like the man that we honor today … who gives us hope for when things get tough. … The dedication and naming of this facility after this heroic man is most fitting and proper.”

Muller recognized all the men and women who have served their countries and, like Zamperini, are courageous and selfless.

“Perhaps I may suggest that … in the future, if there is a chance, that the command can work with the RMI government to name and dedicate one of the facilities after a Marshallese of similar distinction, especially the brave ancestors of our iroijes today,” Muller said. “I know that the friendship and close relationship between our two governments and peoples remains strong and will endure long into the future. The RMI is proud to be a partner in this mutual defense cooperation. We will continue to value this special relationship.”

The RMI government recessed their parliament in order to make the trip to Kwajalein for the dedication and to visit with Formica.

Armbruster spoke next, highlighting the similarities between Zamperini’s character and the Marshallese.

“We’re here to celebrate an American hero. … The qualities we admire in Louis Zamperini – determination, resilience, resourcefulness – are also qualities that have allowed the Marshallese people to thrive on these narrow strips of land,” he said.

Armbruster said it appealed to him to be able to share the story of Zamperini with Marshallese friends who understand the perils of the sea and what it means to never give up.

“World War II taught us that there is no isolation from the world,” he said. “The Marshalls are considered remote, but there was no escape from the war. In the end, that’s what Louis Zamperini’s example teaches us. There are no insurmountable problems. If he can become an Olympic athlete, survive brutal captivity and survive at sea, what problem, what challenges are too big for us? None.”

Formica closed the ceremony by recounting Zamperini’s life tale and how he was able to overcome, despite dismal odds. The plaque, sign and mural were unveiled for the community and visitors to see. Formica visited Zamperini and his family Jan. 18 and delivered a DVD of the dedication ceremony.

US Navy War Crimes Trials on Guam
Marine Raiders
Admiral Koso Abe