Monday, November 07, 2016

Why veterans are underrepresented in Congress

By Gary Schmitt and Rebecca Burgess, respectively, director and program manager of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship. Data used in this piece comes from a forthcoming AEI report on the status of veterans in American legislatures.

The Hill, October 28, 2016

George Washington’s assertion that “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen” is justly famous for capturing the traditional attitude of the American citizen-soldier. While the nation at times has requested or required that citizens fulfill the highest form of civic duty, there have always been individuals who have voluntarily donned its uniform. Viewing military service as a form of public service, many, not surprisingly, have followed their days in the military by pursuing other forms of civic service, notably in the halls of government.

Although American democracy demands a military-civilian divide in regard to political power, voters have shown they are comfortable with electing officials with military service on their resume. Indeed, despite the colonists’ Revolutionary-era complaints about the British conflating military and political power, of the first 25 men to become president, 21 had military experience.

Nevertheless, for well-on 30 years military veterans have been a decreasing presence in Congress. In 1971, veterans made up 72 percent of the House of Representatives and 78 percent of the Senate. In 1991, the Congress that approved the use of force against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm had only slightly more veterans than non-veterans. In today’s Congress, veterans hold 20 percent of Senate seats, while 18 percent of House members are veterans. And regardless of who wins the presidency this time around, three of four recent presidents will not have served in the military, and the one who did had no combat experience.

At first blush, the decline of veterans in public office appears to be the natural consequence of the diminishing number of veterans in the overall population. With cuts in force levels following the end of the Cold War, the draft gone, and the All-Volunteer Force in place for four decades, veterans now comprise just 9 percent of the total population. Yet, when veterans made up over 70 percent of Congress in the 1970s, they were a little less than 14 percent of the total population. The decline of veterans in public office has been sharper than the decline of veterans within the general population. Why?

Perhaps the most significant reason is the current cost of running for Congress. The price tag for a Senate campaign stands near $10.5 million, the House near $1.6 million. Both political parties are likely to recruit candidates who have existing fundraising networks and abilities, with personal wealth often to boot. The high cost of political campaigns and highly restrictive campaign finance laws, which bind political parties, favor the incumbent and disadvantage the military veteran, whose earnings and savings is typically quite modest, as is his immediate circle of friends and associates.

Any reversal of the declining trend in veterans in the halls of Congress will probably begin with the one tried-and-true way to gain legislative experience, build name recognition, and increase access to a fundraising network—election to a state legislature. State legislative office is a traditional steppingstone to federal office, with 50 percent of the 114th Congress, for example, composed of former state legislators.

From this perspective, the good news is that no fewer than 1,039 out of 7,383 state legislators have military experience—14 percent. While the clear majority, as in the US Congress, lean Republican, female veterans in the House, Senate, and state offices tend to break more evenly along partisan lines. And, as one might expect given the respective size of each of the services, Army veterans, from the active component, the Guard, and the Reserves, account for a majority of state and federal office holders. But each of the services, along with the Coast Guard, has veterans currently serving in the state legislatures.

As one might expect with the aging of the Vietnam-era cohort, Post-Cold War veterans make up an increasing share of all veteran state legislators. Post-9/11 veterans alone now total 20 percent of all congressional and state-level veteran legislators. And, strikingly, 41 percent of veterans running for Congress this year served after 9/11 (128 of 316).

The annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey released by Blue Star families in 2015 revealed that, when asked about their motivation for having joined the military, 95 percent of service members answered, “to serve my country.” Similarly, in a 2015 poll taken by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the veteran population proved highly engaged and civic-minded: 93 percent were registered to vote, 80 percent reported voting in the 2014 election, and nearly 40 percent indicated they have considered running for public office.

Military veterans in American legislatures will not reach again the high levels of the 1970s. We fight our wars differently, requiring no massive, nation-wide conscription cutting across all the strata of society such as produced the diverse World War II and Korea veteran cohorts in the first place. But the rise of post-9/11 veterans pursuing public office demonstrates that, even with the high costs of entry, their commitment to public service endures.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

A week for remembering the Prisoner of War

On November 11th, Veterans Day, Dan Crowley, 94, will join President Barack Obama for his annual breakfast for representatives from America's Veterans Service Organizations. He will represent the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society.

Mr. Crowley was sent to the Philippines as an enlisted member of the Army Air Corps in 1941 untrained and unarmed. When the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, he fought in an improvised air defense at Nichols Field near Manila. After the Field's destruction, the airmen were moved to Bataan to join the US Army Infantry in the Battle of the Points repelling three waves of the Japanese invasion. He avoided the Bataan Death March after Bataan's surrender by swimming and clinging to life rafts to Corregidor Island fortress where he engaged in shore defense with the 4th Marines. He was surrendered on May 6, 1942.

In August 1942, he was sent as a POW to help construct the infamous air field on Palawan Island. Starvation, beatings, and unworkable conditions prolonged the task. He was shipped to Japan aboard the Hellship Taikoku Maru in March 1944 to be slave laborer, thus missing the Palawan Massacre of 150 of his fellow POWs on December 14, 1944.

First taken to POW Camp Tokyo #8B, a Hitachi copper mine, Crowley was liberated in September 1945 from another copper mine near Tokyo, Ashio POW Camp Tokyo #9 owned by the Furukawa Company, today a major multinational.

Its US subsidiary, Furukawa Rock Drill, located in Kent, Ohio is barely 100 miles from Port Clinton, Ohio. Company C 192nd Tank Battalion sent to the Philippines in October 1941 was a unit whose core was comprised of men from the Port Clinton area. The 32 Port Clinton men were soon engaged in the Defense of the Philippine Islands. Only 10 of the 32 local men survived the Bataan Death March and three and a half years as POWs.

On November 18, from 10:00 to 11:00am, the Marysville, Ohio Public Library will hold a lecture on the 192nd Tank Battalion: The Bataan Death March and the local men who died as POWs of Japan. Marysville was one of the first American towns (1979) to receive extensive Japanese foreign investment with the establishment of a Honda plant and its various subcontractors. According to the local newspaper in 2013, "Since Honda of America Mfg. came to town more than 30 years ago, the company and the suppliers that followed have invested almost $5 billion in the county."

In 2014, he participated in a Japanese reconciliation program began in 2010 for former American POWs to visit Japan. Unfortunately, representatives from Furukawa refused to meet with Mr. Crowley or to offer an apology. However, he was able to visit the mine where he toiled as it is now a museum and amusement park. There is no mention of the American and Allied POW labor at these facilities.

You can find out more about Mr. Crowley at the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project or from this pamphlet by Central Connecticut  State University.

We are fundraising to support Mr. Crowley's travel to Washington. A tax-deductible donation can be made through PayPal HERE.

Mr. Crowley will give two presentations open to the public, among the many veterans programs this week.

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LAST RING HOME. NOVEMBER 9, Noon-2:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US Navy Memorial Foundation and Asia Policy Point. Author Minter Dial II discusses his new book The Last Ring Home: A POW’s Lasting Legacy of Courage, Love and Honor in World War II (Myndset Press, 2016) and documentary on his grandfather, Lt Minter Dial who commanded the USS Napa (AT-32) until ordered to Corregidor in March 1942. Lt Dial's Annapolis Naval Academy ring, miraculously made its way home 17 years after he was killed as a POW of Japan on the Philippines in December 1944. After his remarks, there will be a special advance screening of the new PBS documentary The Last Ring Home based on Dial's book.

Dan Crowley, a former POW of Japan who fought on Corregidor at the same time as Lt Dial, will be a special guest. After the Dial presentation, over a lite lunch. Mr. Crowley will offer his observations on Japan's invasion of the Philippines, the battles that followed, the historic surrender of American troops by their officers, and his over three years as a POW of Imperial Japan.

THE BATTLE OF THE PHILIPPINES 75 YEARS LATER: A VETERAN'S TALE. NOVEMBER 10, 1:00-2:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Sigur Center, George Washington University and the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society. Speaker: Dan Crowley, veteran of the Battle for the defense of Philippines with the US Army Air Corps, Army Infantry, and Marines; former POW of Japan in the Philippines and Japan, slave laborer in copper mines owned by Hitachi and Furukawa.
Mr. Crowley will offer his observations on Japan's invasion of the Philippines, the battles that followed, the historic surrender of American troops by their officers, his over three years as a POW of Imperial Japan, and his struggle to forgive. Mr. Crowley will be a special guest of President Obama at his Veterans Day Breakfast on the 11th. Location: Sigur Center, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, 1957 E Street, NW, Chung-wen Shih Conference Room, Suite 503.

Mr. Crowley is a life member of the VFW.

VFW NATIONAL COMMANDER BRIAN DUFFY will give a press conference on NOVEMBER 10th at 10:00am at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. He will discuss the needs of the nation’s 20 million veterans and the plans of veterans’ groups to move President Obama's successor and the next Congress to improve the delivery of promised benefits. The VFW, which traces its roots to the Spanish-American War, requires its members to have served in combat zones overseas.

Putting Mr. Crowley's POW experience in historical perspective will be the following program.

. NOVEMBER 14, 6:45-8:45pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Smithsonian Connections. Speaker: Judge Evan J. Wallach, an expert on war crimes and the law of war, circuit judge at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Location: Smithsonian, S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW.
War has always resulted in prisoners, and their treatment has always been problematic. The settings in which they have been held extend from the Revolutionary War’s prison ships to the Civil War’s infamous Andersonville camp, Japanese slave labor camps and German concentration camps during WWII, and North Korean brainwashing centers through to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Just as war has changed dramatically over the years, so has the treatment of captured prisoners. 
Evan J. Wallach, an expert on war crimes and the law of war, finds that how a country treats—or mistreats—captured enemy prisoners is a key gauge of its values as a society and its views of international human rights. He discusses the history of prisoners of war, how POW status is defined in modern warfare, the current required treatment of prisoners, limits to their interrogation, and potential domestic and international legal sanctions for their mistreatment. 
Wallach is a circuit judge at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He served as a combat engineer in Vietnam and Cambodia and in the Pentagon as a U.S. Army judge advocate during the Persian Gulf War, where he was responsible for prisoner of war issues and wrote the Army’s investigation of Iraqi war crimes including mistreatment of coalition POWs.

Ben Steele In Memoriam

ADBC-MS President Jan Thompson 
gives an eulogy at the Steele memorial

Ben Steele - a Bataan Death March survivor whose art helped him maintain his sanity as a prisoner of war of Japan during WWII as well helped him forgive his captors - died in Montana on Sunday, September 25, 2015. He was 98. He had been in hospice care for more than a year.

It seemed like the entire state came out for his memorial service on October 4th at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark. The 2,000 seat venue was full and the 90-minute service broadcast live. Montana's Governor Steve Bullock ordered flags across the state a half-staff for the day and issued a proclamation:
I hereby order all flags flown in the State of Montana to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016, in memory of the life of Benjamin Charles Steele, WWII Veteran, Bataan Death March survivor, devoted educator, and artist. 
Ben Steele was a Montanan of immeasurable character who portrayed the courage of his generation with a sketchbook and a joyful laugh. He taught all of us never to give up on the importance of inspiring future generations after overcoming incredible adversity.
Steele was born on Nov. 17, 1917, in the small Montana town of Roundup and grew up riding horses, roping cattle and occasionally delivering supplies to the well-known western artist Will James. “His parents told him not to hang out much with Will James because he was a drinker, but Dad never said a bad word about him,” his daughter Julie Jorgenson told The Billings Gazette.

In October 1941, US Army Air Corps Private Steele arrived at Clark Field in the Philippines to join the air crews maintaining the war planes arriving from America. On December 8th, Japan began its invasion of the Philippines by bombing Clark and other US air bases. After the near total destruction of the American air force on the Philippine Islands, Steele and other airmen were evaluated on December 24th and sent to fight with the US Army Infantry on the Bataan Peninsula. He and all the troops on Bataan were surrendered on April 9, 1942.

Along with thousands of Filipino and American soldiers, he endured the 65-mile Bataan Death March under a scorching tropical sun up the Bataan peninsula to a make-shift POW camp at Camp O'Donnell in Capas. Along the way, the men were robbed, bayoneted, starved, beaten and killed. All suffered from four months of desperate fighting from malnutrition, exhaustion, dysentery, and malaria. Over 10,000 Filipinos and 600 Americans died on the March.

Ben Steele
The death rate escalated at the POW camp with about 20,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans dying there because of disease, starvation, neglect, and brutality. In June, to get out of the camp, Steele joined the Tayabas Road detail. This proved even more difficult than the March, especially since none of the soldiers knew when it would be over. For most, it would end in death. Out of the original 325 soldiers, Ben was one of only 50 who survived the work camp.

By August, Ben became so ill from beri beri, dysentery, pneumonia, blood poisoning, and malaria that he could no longer work. He was sent to Bilibid Prison for 18 months. Although expected to die, he clung to life and kept his sanity by covertly sketching Montana scenes--cowboys, horses and barns--and the human degradation and cruelty POWs were subjected to. He did so at great risk. Steele acknowledged he could have been shot if his sketches were discovered.

Canadian Inventor
On July 4, 1944,  he was put on board the freighter Canadian Inventor, which the prisoners called Mati Mati Maru. The POWs endured 62 days en route to Japan. The ship arrived at Moji, Japan on September 1. Most ships bringing POWs to Japan docked at Moji. He was sent the next day to be a slave laborer at a coal mine owned by Sanyo Muen Kogyosho, today's Ube Industries.

The POW camp linked to the mine was Hiroshima #6-B (Omine Machi). It was so close Hiroshima, that he heard the explosion of the atomic bomb dropped on that city on August 6, 1945. In 1996, to the Company's credit, they allowed a memorial to built near the mine the POWs who toiled there.

In mid-September 1945, he was evaluated to the hospital ship USS Consolation, taken to Okinawa and then was flown to San Francisco by the 19th Bombardment Group C54 and assigned to Fort George Wright Hospital in Spokane, Washington, where he remained until he was discharged on July 10, 1946. Steele painted scenes from his capture as he went through his long recovery, including trying to regain the 80 pounds he lost. “I had lots of problems to work through,” he said, “and the doctors thought the art was a good idea.”

In 1950, Ben graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Kent State University two years later and a Master of the Arts degree from Denver University in 1955. He also pursued further graduate study at the University of Oregon, Illinois State University, and Montana State University. He served as post crafts director for the Department of Army at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1953 and as staff crafts director for the 3rd U.S. Army in 1956. In September 1959, he started teaching in the art department of Eastern Montana College, today's University of Montana, Billings, acting as director and eventually as head of the art department until June 1982. He retired as Professor of Art Emeritus.

He said he learned to forgive his Japanese captors because of his relationship with Harry Koyama, an art student of Japanese heritage. “He’s been a part of my life since I met him in college in the 1960s,” Koyama, a western artist with a gallery in Billings, said about Steele. “That’s even more of a humbling experience to know that I had not just an effect, but a positive effect on his life.”

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Steele’s powerful images of his time in captivity are housed at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana in Missoula. While many people knew Steele’s war stories and what he endured as a prison of war, “it’s his personality, his warm caring personality that made people love him,” his daughter says. “His students would come up to me and say, ‘Ben and I have a special bond.’ But he made everyone feel special.” Steele’s survival was chronicled in the 2009 New York Times best-seller Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael and Elizabeth Norman.

A documentary of Steele’s life, Survival Through Art, narrated by Alec Baldwin and filmed by ADBC-MS President Jan Thompson has just been completed. In March 2016, ground was broken for Ben Steele Middle School in Billings.