Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mitsubishi Materials Apology to the American POWs

See Michael John Grist's incredible photos
of the ruins of MMC's Osarizawa Copper Mine
On Sunday, July 19, 2015, at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Mitsubishi Materials Company (MMC) plans to offer an apology to the American POWs who slaved in four of their mines on mainland Japan during WWII.

This is significant and important.

Mitsubishi Materials Company, the successor to Mitsubishi Mining, is the first and only Japanese company among the nearly 60 that used and abused POW slave labor to offer a formal public apology to either American or Allied POWs. Nearly all these 1940s companies still exist, still are related to the same wartime company, and still operate similar facilities at the POW camp sites. To our knowledge, MMC is not planning apologies to their British, Australian, Dutch, Canadian, New Zealand, and South African POW slave laborers. It is also unknown how closely the "apology" will follow the hollow words of Abe apologies.

A good apology needs to accepted by the victims. It needs to include mechanisms for the perpetrators to learn. And it needs focus on the experience of the victims. Most important it is a process that does not end with words or an explanation that the company is a new one.

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The Mitsubishi Materials Company delegation will then travel to Wellsburg, West Virginia on the morning of Tuesday, July 21st. At the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum, Education & Research Center the delegation will present an apology and an unspecified donation for educational projects on the POW of Japan experience. Ed Jackfert, twice former ADBC National Commander and US Army Air Corps in the Philippines, who was a slave laborer for Mitsui, Showa Denko, Nisshin Flour Milling will attend the ceremony.

Six POW camps on Japan’s homeland were associated with the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu during the war and held 2,041 POWs (including 1,148 Americans, the others were British, Australian, Dutch, Canadian, New Zealand, and South African). One of these camps was associated with four Mitsubishi industrial sites in Nagasaki recently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Four of the camps were part of Mitsubishi Mining that is today’s Mitsubishi Materials Company. The Company still owns these mines. (Market Cap $4.8 billion)

Three of mines are now operated as museums and amusement parks by a subsidiary of MMC. None of the descriptive materials at these sites mention the history of forced and slave labor.

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At liberation in late August 1945, 1568 POWs (including 876 American POWs) were found in four POWs camps operated by Mitsubishi Mining Co. There were records of 30 POWs deaths (including 27 Americans).

Newspapers report that the apology will be a formal “shazai,” which even the government of Japan has never used. But we do not know what the actual document will say.

The Chairman of Mitsubishi Corporation Yorihiko Kojima and a Mitsubishi Materials board member, Foreign Policy Expert Yukio Okamoto are both on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Commission on a Framework for the 21st Century” generally referred to as his "history committee". It appears that these men were thoughtful and brave, considering the political restrictions they currently work under, to put forward Mitsubishi Materials to offer this apology to the American POWs.

Mr. Okamoto will be at the apology ceremony in LA. He will be joined by former POWs Mr. James Murphy, a survivor of Mitsubishi’s Osarizawa Copper Mine and Dr. Lester Tenney, a survivor of Mitsui’s Miike Mine. Both men fought on Bataan against Imperial Japan's invasion and survived the Bataan Death March and a Hell ship to Japan.

Also there will be Ms. Kinue Tokudome who has tirelessly devoted the last 15 years to seeking Japan's acknowledgement and apology for the POW tragedy. She negotiated with representatives of Mitsubishi Material's corporate social responsibility staff for this moment. Ms. Tokudome's friend, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is the host of the event.

Also attending is a daughter of a POW held at Mukden Ms. Jan Thompson who is president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, the national organization representing the American POWs of Japan, their families, their descendants, and scholars. A professional filmmaker who has completed two documentaries on the POW experience with Imperial Japan, Tragedy of Bataan and Never the Same, she will be filming the event.

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So far, there is no mention of memorials, inclusion in the company histories, correction of websites, or descriptions at the Mitsubishi Materials-owned theme parks at the now-defunct mines or at the new UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan that used POW slave labor.

Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the best-seller UNBROKEN, 1936 Olympian and POW Louie Zamperini’s biography, issued this statement regarding the historic actions taken by Mitsubishi Materials:
I wish to extend my thanks to Mitsubishi Materials for offering an apology to the prisoners of war who, during World War II, were forced to labor for their company. I hope this gesture brings some measure of healing to the POWs who suffered so terribly, and I hope Mitsubishi’s gesture will inspire other Japanese companies to reach out to those who were subjected to similar treatment. For the former POWs, I wish you only peace.
Below is a list of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu POW camps with nationality breakdowns of their Western slave laborers. POWs were sent to Japan starting in early 1942 to make up for war production labor shortages. The first American POWs were from Guam and Wake Island.

It should be further noted, that most of the "Hell ships" that transported the POWs to Japan were built and operated by the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu.

Mitsubishi-related POW Camps on Mainland Japan at a glance:

Sendai 3's Amusement Park
Sendai 3-B Hosokura
Lead/Zinc Mining
Mitsubishi Mining Co.
Today’s Mitsubishi Materials

TOTAL (at liberation): 284 POWs; 235 Americans; 47 British; 2 Dutch.

Camp Information
Amusement Park

Sendai Camp 6-B Hanawa (Osarizawa)

Copper Mining
Mitsubishi Mining Co.
Today’s Mitsubishi Materials

TOTAL (at liberation): 546 POWs; 495 Americans; 50 British; 1 Australian.

Tokyo 1-D Yokohama formerly Tokyo 2-B

Ship yard labor and ship construction
"The Yokohama-Mitsubishi Shipyards"
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Approximately 272 American POWs. *Most Americans were sent to Main Camp (Omori) and Mitsushima after camp closed on May 13, 1945. No official roster located.

Camp Information

Osaka 19-B became 4-B Ikuno
Silver/Copper Mining
Mitsubishi Mining Co.
Today’s Mitsubishi Materials

TOTAL (at liberation): 440 POWs; 44 Americans; 387 British; 8 Australians; 1 Dutch; 2 Canadians; 2 New Zealanders.

Camp Information

Osaka 21-B became 6-B Akenobe

Copper Mining
Mitsubishi Mining Co.
Today’s Mitsubishi Materials

TOTAL (at liberation): 298 POWs; 102 Americans; 168 British; 28 Australians.

Camp Information

Fukuoka 14-B Nagasaki

Iron foundry labor
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Today’s Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works Saiwaimachi Plant

TOTAL (at liberation): 201 POWs; No Americans; 157 Dutch; 24 Australians; 20 British.

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