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.]

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