Sunday, September 06, 2015

Legacy: Being a War Criminal's Granddaughter

Makoto Inaki's POW Camp
Sendai 5-B
Newsweek Japan in its August 11-18, 2015 (Magazine released on August 4, 2015, Pages 34-40.) edition published a long piece by a Japanese reporter on her encounter with the POWs once entrusted to her grandfather's care.

She has written about this in other publications, generally conservative ones. She wants to believe that he was not a war criminal and that he did not make conditions in the POW camp so miserable that men died.

Her quest is a tricky one as she is dependent upon her hope and the memory old, traumatized men. POWs of Japan had their very survival dependent upon their ability to please; they curated their memories in order to coexist with them; and they barely had the strength to remember one day from the next. Among these fragments of memory she sought and found forgiveness. She should not, however, interpret this as absolution or confirmation that her grandfather was not fanatically cruel.

The lesson for her and what all historians grapple with is that POWs simply need to forget.

The following is a provisional translation by George Washington University graduate students who intern at Asia Policy Point, Han Yanchu and Lu Pengqiao. They used the piece to practice their translation skills with the hope of making this available for the personal use of the POW families mentioned in the article and to assist the POW the research community. They welcome your suggestions, edits, and comments.


Granddaughter of a Former WWII Camp Commander Faces an ex-POW of Japan

By KOGURE Satoko
小 暮 聡 子(本誌編集部)

8月15 日、日本は戦後70周年を迎える。日本が語る「国家」としての歴史が議論される一方で、第二次大戦には当時を生きた一人一人の物語がある。それはそれぞれの国で、体験者それぞれの「真実」として、多くの場合苦しみを伴いながら今後も語られていく。その戦争の記憶に「終止符」を打てる日は来るのだろうか

On August 15th, Japan marks its 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. While Japan’s historical narrative as a “state” has been discussed, there are also stories of individuals who lived through the war. These stories were of people from different countries, each with their own “truth”. In most cases these stories were accompanied by suffering, and will continue to be told in the future. Will the day come when we can put an end to the memory of war?

The Hell Prisoners of War Had Seen


In order to look once more into the story my grandfather left behind, I flew to New Orleans International Airport in southern United States from my new post in New York. It’s already at the height of the summer in the Jazz town of New Orleans, and when I walk out of the airport I’m immediately surrounded by hot air. A 30 minute drive can take you to the downtown French Quarter filled by music and liquor, but the destination of my taxi is not a cheerful tourist destination.

旅の目的は、戦時中にフィリピンのバターン半島とコレヒドール島で日本軍の捕虜となったアメリカの元兵士や民間人、その家族や遺族が集う戦友会に参加すること。この「全米バターン・コレヒドール防衛兵の会 (ADBC)」年次総会では、1つのホテルに集った参加者が数日間にわたり戦中・戦後の体験を共有し、次世代に語り継ぐ。私がこの戦友会に参加するのは22 歳だった03年以来、 12年ぶりだ。

The purpose of my journey is to attend a comrades-in-arms meeting of veterans, civilians, and bereaved families. These veterans became prisoners of war (POWs) of Japan when defending Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island, Philippines during WWII. On this annual meeting held by the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC), participants will gather in one hotel and share their stories during and after the war, and hand down their war experiences from generation to generation. It has been 12 years since my first participation of the meeting in 2003, when I was 22 years old.

日本軍に捕らわれた捕虜たちにとって、捕虜生活は「生きるか死ぬか」の戦いそのものだった。1941年 12月 8日、日本軍が真珠湾を攻撃して太平洋戦争に突入すると、本間雅晴中将率いる日本軍はダグラス・マッカーサー米極東陸軍司令官下のフィリピンに侵 攻を開始。首都マニラからマニラ湾を挟んで対岸に位置するバターン半島とコレヒドール島の米軍とフィリピン軍は、日本軍との戦闘を経て42年4月以降相次いで降伏、捕虜となった。

For those POWs captured by Japanese military, life was the very fight for survival. On December 8, 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor and initiated the Pacific War. Japanese military led by lieutenant general Homma Masaharu invaded the Philippines under the command of Douglas MacArthur, Commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East. Stationed in Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island on the opposite shore across the Manila Bay from the capital Manila, American and Filipino militaries fought several battles with Japanese troops, before surrendering and being taken prisoners after April 1942.


After that, the Japanese army forcibly transferred more than 70,000 Filipino and American POWs to a detention camp 100 km [or 65 miles] away. Starving POWs were forced to walk under the scorching sun in Bataan, and around 30,000 POWs died along the way. The so-called “Bataan Death March” is remembered by Americans even today as a symbol of the brutality of Japanese Imperial Army.

日本の市民団体「POW (戦争捕虜) 研究会」によれば、第二次大戦中、日本軍がフィリピンなどアジア・太平洋地域で捕らえた連合軍の捕虜は約14万人。そのうち約3万6000人は水や食糧、衛生設備が欠如した輸送船、いわゆる「地獄船」で日本に送られた。航海中は連合軍からの攻撃も加わって多くが命を落としたが、生き延びて日本に到着した捕虜たちは全国約130カ所の捕虜収容所に連行され、炭鉱や鉱山、造船所や工場などで働かされた。戦争末期にかけて日本側も疲弊するなか、捕虜たちの生活は過酷を極め、 終戦までに約3500人が死亡したという。死因は飢えや病、事故や虐待、連合軍による爆撃などだった。

According to Japanese civic group POW Research Network Japan, Japanese captured around 140,000 Allied POWs in the Philippines and other Asian Pacific regions during WWII. Among these POWs, an estimate of 36,000 POWs were sent to Japan via “hell ships”, transport ships with a significant shortage of provisions and unpleasant health conditions. Many of POWs lost their lives as a result of Allies’ attack on the sea, and those who survived the trip were taken to around 130 POW camps on Japan’s homeland, and were forced to work in mines, shipyards, factories, and other facilities. As Japan became impoverished towards the end of the war, life of POWs turned extremely harsh. An estimate of 3,500 POWs had died before the war ended. Causes of death include starvation, disease, accident, maltreatment, and Allied bombing.


Members of ADBC are former soldiers who lived through such miserable life, and their family members, as well as those bereaved families of those who died as POWs during imprisonment. As most of ex-POWs are over 90 years old, the majority of members are now from their children’s generation and they inherited their parents’ sufferings. Many of the ex-POWs have been haunted by PTSD after returning from Japan, and never talked about their experiences as POWs. On the other hand, many from the children’s generation began to harbor hatred against Japan while doing research to find out what their fathers had gone through.

そんな戦友会で受付登録を済ませた私は、03年にこの会に参加して以来元捕虜やその家族と面会するたび幾度となく経験してきた「居心地の悪さ」を感じた。もちろんここは、見知らぬ日本人がハグとキスで歓迎されるような場所ではない。だがそれ以上に、私 には参加者を遠ざける肩書があった。私は、「元捕虜収容所長の孫」。そして祖父は戦後、「戦争犯罪人」として裁かれた人物だったからだ。

I’ve been a registered member of ADBC’s meeting since 2003, and time and again I have an uncomfortable feeling when I meet with ex-POWs and their families. Of course this is not a place to welcome strange Japanese people by kissing and hugging, but my identity makes me even more alienated from participants—I’m the grandchild of a former POW camp commander, and my grandfather was tried as a war criminal after the war ended.

The interview with an unexpected start


On the first day of the meeting, a seminar on war experiences continued, and I made an interview appointment with one of the ex-POWs on the next day. I introduced myself as a journalist. If I introduce myself as the grandchild of a former POW camp commander, I could have offended or hurt him. Most of all, I wanted to hear what he really thinks without any prejudice. However, this interview ended up unfolding in an unexpected direction.


On the day of my interview with ex-POW Darrell Stark (92 years old), as I arrived at the lobby of the hotel a little earlier before the promised time, I found that Pam Eslinger, the daughter of another ex-POW whom I’ve known for two years, was chatting with a man. Eslinger is one of the few persons present that know my grandfather’s identity. Then, Stark appeared with his daughter Judy Gilbert.


Eslinger seemed to know Stark’s daughter, and she happily talked to them about my visit to her father in Oklahoma two years ago, and her visit to Japan in this fall to meet my parents. When Stark’s daughter asked about her relationship with me, Eslinger was a little puzzled. She thought for a while, and answered: “Her grandfather was the commander of the POW camp where my father was held.”


Eslinger’s father, Jack Warner (93 years old [Mr Warner will travel to Japan October 2015 as part of the 6th POW Friendship Delegation), was one of the POWs held at the camp my grandfather managed. Two years ago when I was appointed to the New York bureau, I got in touch with Warner through an acquaintance and visited his home the next year. Warner didn’t show hatred or hostility towards my grandfather and Japan at all. Instead, I received a warm welcome that I’d never thought would come from his big four-generation family. We have been in touch since then.


However, Stark and his daughter didn’t know that. For several minutes, I was seeing what I’ve seen for so many times—when told about my grandfather’s identity, every listener’s face stiffens and freezes.


With a surprised face, Stark’s daughter repeated to his father, who has a bad hearing, what Eslinger has said. This time, it’s Stark’s turn to look at my direction wide-eyed. Eslinger said immediately that “my father told me that her grandpa was a good person”, and the facial expressions of Stark and his daughter became somewhat softened. Stark stood up with a scary look, saying “I’ll tell everything to you. I’ll tell you everything I know.” At the time, I felt my heart was stiffening quickly.

A 70-Year Story of an ex-POW


Stark was enlisted in the US Army in March 1941, when he was 18 years old. After one month he was sent to the Philippines, and became POW in Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942 after fighting with Japanese. He wasn’t involved in Bataan Death March. Because of malaria he was hospitalized, and he was transferred to Bilibid prison camp in Manila suburbs by truck. When passing through the route of Bataan Death March, he was almost bayoneted by Japanese merely because he turned his eyes towards Japanese soldiers. After Bilibid, he was transferred to Cabanatuan prison camp 120 km [or 75 miles] north of Manila. At the front gate of the camp stand a pole, where severed human heads were hung with a note of caution on the side—“This will happen if you try to escape”. POWs were grouped with 10 persons in each one, and were told that if anyone in the group escaped, the remaining nine would be executed. At the camp, an average of 30 POWs died daily because of starvation and disease.


After that, Stark was transferred to Davao camp on Mindanao Island and finally sent to Japan via a Hell ship. After 62 days of miserable life on the ship, he arrived at Port Moji in Kitakyushu city, Fukuoka Prefecture. Then he was sent to the camp in Yokkaichi city, Mie Prefecture, and was forced to work at Ishihara Sangyo’s Yokkaichi factories where ores from Kishu mines were refined. [Nagoya #5-B Yokkaichi was Stark's POW camp where he was a slave laborer at a copper foundry owned by Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha in Nagoya, a port city south of Tokyo.]


Life in Yokkaichi city, however, was much better than that in the Philippines. Although Stark was forced to work 12 hours a day with almost no days off, he encountered a Japanese who showed sympathy to him.


One day, Stark, who had turned into a bag of bones, stole a box lunch from one Japanese working in the same factory and ate the food. Yet the Japanese didn’t say a word to him. On the contrary, the Japanese began to bring two lunches and handed Stark one every day since then. This continued until Stark was transferred to a POW camp in Toyama city. When the war ended, Stark was in Toyama, and his weight had dropped to 44 kilograms [or 97 lbs].


According to Judy Gilbert, the daughter, Stark had been suffering from PTSD after the war ended and didn’t talk about the life as a POW with his children for a long time. However, when Iran hostage crisis happened in 1979, Stark loosened his tongue and went on talking “like flood had been released” for several days. In Stark’s eyes, the image of those hostages may have overlapped with Stark’s former POW self who was also taken in captivity and hovered between life and death every day.


In order to cope with his abhorrent memory, Stark probably had no choice but to strive to objectively understand what happened to him. “I’m trying to look at the big picture when dealing with anything”, he said repeatedly. “Most of what I’ve gone through was not the result of human’s brutality. The main reason was the shortage of goods. And human cruelty had worsened the situation, making life extremely harsh.”


One example of Japanese cruel treatment is beating POWs unreasonably. If POWs cannot respond immediately to the Japanese word “hayaku”, they would get beaten. From POWs’ view, they didn’t understand why they got beaten, and thought if it was simply because Japanese were cruel. After making it clear that it was only his guess, Stark said that Japanese in Bataan treated Allied POWs badly out of hatred, because they lost many fellows at the hands of Allies.


In October last year [2014], one big event happened to Stark, who had been suffering from PTSD ever since the end of war in 1945. Through one program by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to invite former POWs to Japan [as a gesture of reconciliation], Stark visited Japan with his daughter Gilbert. Five years after the war ended, Stark received a letter from the Japanese who had given him his lunch during his imprisonment in Yokkaichi city. It is this letter that made Stark determined to visit Japan.


Stark regrets very much that he hasn’t written a reply letter to the Japanese. In order to find the Japanese, he, being 92 years old, made up his mind to visit Japan. While he didn’t find the Japanese during his stay in Japan, he got in touch with the son of that Japanese with the sincere help from people in Ishihara Sangyo’s factory in Yokkaichi city. Since then, Stark has been exchanging letters with the son.


It’s probably true that by squarely facing the former enemy Japan, [Stark, and other Americans] are able to overcome more than 70 years’ history of suffering and move forward towards the future. Speaking of this, we have to mention the US-Japan relations today. Stark said, toning up his voice while seeking our approval at times, that the wonderful US-Japan alliance should be adhered to, that Japan should talk about its history “squarely”, and that he doesn’t seek individual apology (if Japan is able to face its history squarely).


Then, Stark turned to my direction and said unexpectedly: “Well, it’s my turn to hear your story. Do you feel comfortable in America? Are you feeling a friendly atmosphere during the meeting here?” I was taken by surprise. I wasn’t able to follow the abrupt development of our interview and asked him repeatedly what he meant. “Come on, please tell me honestly.” Stark said. I began to stumble over my words. Stark has looked back on his past misery, and showed me what he felt openly. If I reply to his question with superficial words, I would be trampling on his sincerity.


With a trembling voice, I began to talk: “My grandfather, was a POW camp commander.” “OK,” said Stark, the person being interviewed until a while ago, and encouraged me to go on. Now, it’s my turn to tell the story.

Between My Grandfather and America


From April 1944 through the end of the war, my grandfather, Inagi Makoto, worked as the commander of a prison camp in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. The camp held about 400 Allied POWs who worked in Kamaishi Steel Mill owned by Japan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. POWs were from the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Many of them were young. So was my grandfather. He was 28 years old at that time.

[The POW Camp was Sendai 5-B Kamaishi providing slave labor for Nippon Steel, today's Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal. It was washed away with the 2011 tsunami, Ms. Kogure’s grandfather was Makato Inaki (Commandant from April 1944); HERE is his trial document.


In July and August 1945, when the end of the war was imminent, Allied vessels bombarded Kamaishi city from the Pacific Ocean, which led to the death of 32 POWs in the Kamaishi camp. After the war, my grandfather became one of “B-class criminals” due to his safety management responsibility during the bombardment and illegal treatment to POWs, and was held in detention with A-class criminals in Sugamo prison for five and a half years. Since my grandfather studied English and philosophy at Hiroshima University of Arts and Sciences before being recruited as a student solider, he kept reading English magazines such as Time and Newsweek in the prison. Exposed to high-quality American journalism, my grandfather realized the defeat of Japan. After being released, he became a journalist for Jiji Press, and published several memoirs to share his experience in his late years.


My grandfather was a war criminal. It was one day in the summer of my sophomore year in high school that I got to know this. Since he passed away when I was seven, I was able to know his wartime experience for the first time through reading the memoirs he left behind. In his memoirs, he described in detail how he made efforts to manage POWs and how he felt unfair being treated as a war criminal. In one of his books, he wrote as the following “when I recalled the suffering of POWs during the war, I felt sad that lots of people died or were wounded in my camp. When imagining the grief and anger of their bereaved family, I thought it was reasonable even if they hit me with stones. However, I had never considered that I committed a crime.”


However, around the time when 30 years passed after the end of the war, news that saved my grandfather’s soul came. A former Dutch POW who worked in the Kamaishi camp, Johann Frederique Fan Der Hook, sent a letter to the Kamaishi mayor, in which he wrote, “The treatment in the camp was good and hard labor was never imposed (on me).” Since then, my grandfather and Mr. Hook had been exchanging letters with each other, recollecting the daily life in the camp, talking about each other’s family stories, and recalling the history of Japan-Netherlands relations. A friendship beyond war and enemies came into being.


How do I feel when staying here? I, as a person who longed for America during my middle school years because of American dramas and movies, and experienced homestay in America, began to harbor mixed feelings after knowing that it was very country of America that put my grandfather on trial. Why had America sentenced my grandfather, who was praised by Mr. Hook, as a war criminal? I began to wonder what kind of country America is.


To seek the answer, I began my study in an American university in 2002. In the following year, America waged the Iraq War. My grandfather’s regrets might have affected me, who grew up communing with the stories from his perspective. That’s why I felt depressed when I was following the news of U.S.’s repeated airstrikes in Iraq as an intern working in the Washington bureau of Jiji press, where my grandfather had worked. “No matter whether you win or lose, there is nothing more foolish, cruel, and meaningless than waging a war,” my grandfather wrote. America is continuing wars that leave large scars in the hearts of people even after the end of them.


On the other hand, in the process of examining the stories of my grandfather, I got to know the perspectives of Americans who investigated my grandfather. In the court documents about my grandfather that I found in American National Archives, as well as a book written by a former U.S. senior officer who was held at the Kamaishi camp, there are largely different descriptions of my grandfather when compared to the one recollected in the letters by Mr. Hook from the Netherlands.


My grandfather regarded “honest management” as a motto. However, from this senior officer’s view, my grandfather was a unfriendly commander who was obstinate about rules and turned a deaf ear to POWs’ requests. In addition, when POWs broke rules, although my grandfather confined POWs in guardhouses and avoided punishing them privately and brutally, it was still a suffering and humiliating experience from the POWs’ stance.


In 2003, when I attended ADBC general meeting for the first time, I began to learn “the history of POWs” told by ex-POWs held at camps in Japan and abroad. In this veterans meeting, what I saw was exactly what Stark told me – the fact that former POWs and their families continued to suffer in the post-war era.


Since then, I think that I have been in a fix when feeling both the suffering of POWs and the suffering of my grandfather. Whenever I meet POWs and their families due to work or private reasons and face their sufferings, I have this feeling of deep apology. No matter what distress that my grandfather had, or Japan had, the life of POWs under Japanese military was a great suffering both physically and mentally that goes beyond description. This is an unshakable fact. However, when I feel this way, what I should say to these former POWs? I cannot apologize for what I did not do. That said, I really want to say, “I am sorry.” Will my apology reach the heart of them if I did?


I, who narrated my experience of following the same history from both Japan and America’s viewpoints and expressed my complicated thoughts toward America, asked this question unwittingly. At that point, Stark responded immediately, “This word deeply resonates in my heart.” And then, his eyes teared up.


Words from me, a member of the generations who didn’t experience the war at all, resonates in the heart of Stark, who had never met my grandfather. Although it was a great joy for me that our hearts were connected, I was still confused why my words made sense. However, I got to know the movements of his heart deeply thanks to his words.


Finishing telling my stories, I was about to resume the interview. Stark stopped me, “No, please listen to me.” “Thank you for telling the story out of your heart. I had similar experiences many times. I do not know your grandfather, and I do not know if he had engaged in the wrongdoings that made him guilty.” Then, with tears in the eyes he told me what I did not expected at all but had always hoped to hear.


“Even if he engaged in wrongdoings I will forgive him. If he did not, I would like to apologize for the mistake occurred.” He stopped speaking for a moment, and continued, “However, what I think I most want to apologize to is that you have been hurt so much. War is hell. Just hell, nothing else.”

Open A Pandora’s Box


As long as the memories of “hell” continue to be told vividly, the day that they disappear might never come. That said, the generation who experienced the war might have achieved, or I should say, have been seeking the “closures”, because otherwise they would not be able to live through (all the memories).


Stark said that the visit to Japan was a closure, and a talk with me was also a “big closure”. He also told me that working in a county jail that housed only the misdemeanor cases after the war was good fortune. By talking with the prisoners suffering from PTSD the same way he did, he was also saved. By doing this, his life also moved on little by little.


My grandfather must have been seeking closure as well. Only when my grandfather was put into Sugamo prison and placed under American military’s management did he begin to understand the sufferings of POWs who struggled to survive under the rule of the enemy. In addition, being labeled “a war criminal” not only by the Allied army but also by the post-war Japanese society, he had felt depressed for a long time. That’s why the precious letter from the former Dutch POW might have provided my grandfather with an unparalleled sense of closure. And the reason that he wrote his memoir named Sufferings in Hell might also be that he aimed at seeking a closure through his hands.


I feel I opened Pandora’s box while ignoring the closure that my grandfather sought. A former POW in ADBC general meeting of 2003 told me the following words, “The research about your grandfather is going to be finished by you. However, once you finish this, please preserve it and move on. Please discover joyful things. Please have a sweet family, and live a happy life.”


In other words, his message might be that you should seek a closure at some point. However, in the next 12 years since then, I had been experiencing a feeling of new doors opening in my heart, while unfolding the story my grandfather has left. That is one of the reasons that I became a journalist. And my story with the Warners and my conversation with Stark will surely be told to the next generation. That story is not to beautify the past. Rather, it is to write a new chapter of history on top of preserving my grandfather and others’ experience honestly.


In this year’s ADBC general meeting, the voice that “(this organization is) the best therapy in the world!” evoked strong responses among the participants. While there are people continuing to fight alone who cannot find a healing place like the veterans meeting, there are also family members who gather here in order to understand their lonely fathers.


In last day’s dinner that everyone attended, I sit next to a man who began to attend this meeting several years ago. He wanted to trace his father’s life footprints as a POW. The memories of life as a POW had afflicted his father throughout his life. His late father only mentioned his memory of the war once. That was when he asked the reason for the scars in his father’s legs during their trip to sea beach. He heard that these scars were left during the transfer by the “Hellship”, when he was thought to be dead and was cut in the leg so that other POWs badly in need of water could suck his blood. This man, who inherited the miserable memory of his father and wanted to hand down it to his children, began to trace his father’s footsteps “for the family” when his grandson was born.


Perhaps only when you face the past squarely can the memories of suffering heal. In 2003, about 100 former POWs attended ADBC general meeting. This year only 13 people attended. The reason that the sons and daughters continue to participate in this meeting is to praise their fathers who survived the harsh era and to hand down the memories to the future generations. I sincerely hope new doors will open beyond the memory.

1 comment:

  1. War is hell. When you have experienced it you will never be able to escape from it. I was just a child only 5 years old when we were freed from the Japanese, but I know that my mother and her sister struggled the rest of their lives with what the Japanese had done to them.Night after night I would wake up from my mothers screams. She hardly ever spoke about our three and a half years in these horrible concentration camps.My father died a horrible death on the infamous Birma railroad and my mothers sister lost her husband fighting for our freedom at sea.We children have seen a lot during that time, through the eyes of a child, not be able to understand. Why did my mother get a beating?, because I had not bowed! I was at the time time only 4 years old.There were many Japanese madmen, who seemed to enjoy to inflict pain to innocent women and children.My mother and her sister were raped by these madmen, not able to defend themselves.Seeing children die from starvation, while the Japanese had plenty of food. Many of their friends lost forever. War is hell, from which you never escape.Once a warvictim, always a warvictim.War is evil, PERHAPS THERE IS SOME GOOD IN ALL MEN, AND MAY THE PASSING YEARS PROVE SO.


You are welcome to leave a reasonable comment or additional information. We will moderate comments.