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.

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