Saturday, December 30, 2017

Manila American Cemetery-Help Preserve History

My great-uncle through marriage
died in Bilibid as a POW
Aperture Films tells stories.

They are working on a film for the new visitor center at Manila American Cemetery, and are looking for people who are willing to be interviewed on-camera. The film tells the story of battles fought in the Pacific Theater, the powerful bond created between the United States and the Philippines during the war, and most important, the sacrifices made by those who fought and died.

Do you have a personal connection with Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines?

They are looking for interviewees who fit the following description: World War II veteran who served in the Philippines during the war; or Direct next of kin (sister, brother, son, daughter) of a veteran who served in the Philippines during the war.

If you or someone you know would be interested in participating, contact Kaycee Garcia at Aperture Films by email or phone (949) 271-1778. Interviews are not guaranteed.

Be part of history this year, just don't observe!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Memories of Christmas Past

And Hopes of a Christmas Future


Makeshift Catholic Church on the Thai-Burma Death Railway Chungkai, Thailand, 1943

Pencil on paper drawing (6.4 x 13.6 cm) by Jack B. Chalker
British bombardier with the Royal Field Artillery, captured Singapore February 1942

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't let Barnes&Noble forget

December 14, 2017 is the the 73rd anniversary of the Palawan Massacre. One hundred fifty POWs on Palawan Island in the Philippines to build an airfield were herded into narrow air raid trenches, doused with gasoline, and set afire. Machine gun bullets and grenades followed.

Their commanding officer, Capt. Fred T. Bruni from Janesville, Wisconsin (US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan's hometown) was the first to die with the officers in the first trench. The Japanese soldiers delighted in prolonging the torture with their bayonets of those who tried to escape the flames. That evening they held a raucous party to celebrate their accomplishment. Miraculously, 11 men escaped to swim the bay to safety and 10 survived to record the atrocity.

read about the escape
The photo above was taken March 20, 1945 by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. It shows a grave of the charred remains of an American POW who was murdered in Palawan Massacre. The U.S. Air Force retrieved the bones in March 1945 soon after the Island was liberated. The remains of 123 victims were first interred at the United States Air Force Cemetery Leyte #1 in the Philippines. In 1952, the remains were exhumed and moved to the United States to be re-interred in a mass grave in Section 85, Site 14-66, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. A new marker was dedicated at the site in 2003 to honor the victims.

This famous photo, however, has been appropriated by Barnes&Noble for the cover of its 2004 Classic Series edition of Dracula! This is disrespectful. This is wrong. The remains of this American serviceman is not fiction. 

You are urged to write Mary Ellen Keating, Barnes&Noble's Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, and urge her to have the cover changed. The President of the ADBC-MS wrote her a letter in December 2016. She has yet to receive an answer. Your voices are now needed.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Daughters and Widows of POWs in Japan

Steele (L) Pruitt (R)
In October 2017, by invitation of the Japanese government, two widows and four daughters of former POWs of Japan visited the sites of their loved one's enslavement. They visited a now closed Ube Industries coal mine, the location of Japan's "show" camp, and Dowa Industries' copper mine in Sendai. Below are brief profile of the POWs and the women who returned to Japan.

Ben Steele, who became a well-known artist in Montana, was the focus of, Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and its Aftermath. His widow and the widow Charles Pruitt visited the Ube Industries coal mine in Yamaguchi Prefecture where their husbands were slave laborers.

click to order

Shirley Emerson Steel
e, 92, is the widow of Benjamin Charles Steele. They met while he was teaching at the high school in New London, Ohio and were married August 31, 1952. Active in the Billings First United Methodist Church, Mrs. Steele taught English at the local high school before devoting herself to raising their adopted son Sean. She is accompanied by her step-daughter Rosemarie Steele, 70, who recently retired after 32 years as Wheatland Country, Montana elected treasurer. She is active in the local Kiwanis Club and was one of the club’s first five women members. She is Mr. Steele’s older daughter from his first marriage.

Benjamin Charles Steele was born November 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. On September 9, 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Missoula, Montana. After basic training at March Field, California, he received instruction at Kirkland Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico to be an aircraft dispatcher and was assigned to the 7th Materiel Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group. He arrived in the Philippines aboard the USAT Willard A. Holbrook on October 23, 1941.

He was at Clark Field about 40 miles northwest of Metro Manila on December 8th when Imperial Japan began its invasion of the Philippines by bombing this air field and others. After the near total destruction of the American Far East Air Force by December 10th, Steele and 200 members of the 19th Bomb group were withdrawn to the Bataan Peninsula with men from the 27th Bomb Group to form the 2nd Provisional Infantry Regiment. They had had no training, and many did not even know how to load their WWI Springfield rifles. U.S. and Filipino forces on Bataan were surrendered on April 9, 1942. Steele, at Cabcaben Field near the tip of the Bataan Peninsula, began the Bataan Death March at one of its longest points. For six days he and 75,000 other sick, starving, and exhausted men made their way 65 miles north up to the train junction of San Fernando. From there, they were packed into unventilated boxcars for a 24-mile trip to Capas. The next three miles were by foot to Camp O'Donnell, an unfinished training camp for the Philippine Army. Trying to avoid the constant death at the Camp, Steele joined a group of 300 men selected for the Tayabas Road Detail. The work that was so brutal, and the conditions so harsh tha fewer than half the men survived. Near mortally sick from beri beri, dysentery, pneumonia, blood poisoning, and malaria, Steele was sent to Bilibid Prison on August 15th where he stayed for18 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 surrounding him. He did so at great risk, as he could have been shot if his sketches were discovered. When able, he was sent to Cabanatuan to do be an agricultural slave labor.

On July 4, 1944, he was loaded aboard the freighter Sekiho Maru (Canadian Inventor), which came to be known as the Mati Mati Maru (Wait Wait Ship). On September 1, after many breakdowns, a typhoon, and a stop in Formosa, the surviving prisoners, their beards long, hair matted, and skin covered with ulcers and open sores, stumbled down the gangway at Moji, Japan. He was taken to Hiroshima # 6B - Omine (Sanyo) in Yamaguchi Prefecture (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s home prefecture) 75 miles from Hiroshima. He worked in a dangerous mine as a slave laborer for Ube Kosan's Sanyo Muen Kogyo Sho (Ube Industries' Sanyo Smokeless Coal Works, today’s Ube Industries Ltd., the great grandson of Akira Tawarada the first president (1942) of the consolidated Ube Industries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, is currently Japan’s Education Minister). Steele believed he felt the atomic blast at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

In mid-September 1945, he was evacuated to the hospital ship USS Consolation, taken to Okinawa and then 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 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.”

After the war, Steele earned a diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1950, a B.S. in Education from Kent State University, and a M.A. in Art from Denver University. While teaching high school art in Ohio, he married his second wife, Shirley on August 31, 1952. He retired in 1982 from Eastern Montana State College (today’s Montana State University Billings) as head of the Art Department. He had many one-man shows of his art and his illustrations appear in over 20 books and several documentaries. His WWII POW collection is at the University of Montana and his sketchbooks are at the MacArthur Memorial Museum in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the focus of Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath (2010) and the subject of a 2016 documentary by Jan Thompson, Survival Through Art.

He said he learned to forgive his Japanese captors because of his relationship with Harry Koyama, a Japanese-American art student. “He’s been a part of my life since I met him in college in the 1960s,” Koyama, a modern, 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.”

Steele passed away September 25, 2016. Hundreds attended his memorial service in the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark. He is buried in Sunset Memorial Gardens, Billings, Montana. On August 24th, 2017, the Ben Steele Middle School opened in Billings.

Philippines POW#: 本-1546
Japan POW#: 359

Congressman: Greg Gianforte (R-MT),


Doris Jean Pruitt
, 88, is the widow of the late Charles Pruitt. Judith Ann Pruitt, 70, is their oldest of three children. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and worked in property management in Boston for over 20 years and then for the Closet Factory in design/sales for 15 years. She is an active member of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society and serves on their board. Currently, she is the organization’s Treasurer and Convention Chair.

Charles L. Pruitt, one of nine children, was born in Sweetwater, Tennessee on November 6, 1920. He joined the U.S. Navy on September 6, 1940 and received his recruit training in Norfolk, Virginia. His first duty was as a Yeoman aboard the USS Lexington (CV-2). In April 1941, he was transferred to the 16th Naval District at Cavite, Philippines where he was a carpenter’s mate assigned to the Naval Ammunition Depot, Cavite Navy Yard to train as a mine technician. The Navy Yard was bombed and destroyed on December 10, 1941 shortly after Imperial Japan’s invasion. In the immediate aftermath, he helped operate a crane on Sunset Beach, three miles from Cavite, unloading munitions and assisting in the mining of Subic Bay that is about 65 miles northwest of Cavite and Manila.

Like most of the U.S. Navy on the Philippines, he became an infantryman. This makeshift “Navy Infantry” consisted of 150 ground crewmen from Patrol Wing Ten, 80 sailors from the Cavite Naval Ammunition Depot, 130 sailors from USS Canopus (AS-9), 120 sailors from the base facilities at Cavite, Olongapo, and Mariveles, and 120 Marines from an antiaircraft battery. He fought in the Battle of the Points (January 22 to February 18, 1942) at Lapay-Longoskawayan repelling successfully part of a 2,000-strong landing Japanese force.

On February 23rd, most of “Navy battalion” was transferred to Corregidor, three miles from Bataan in Manila Bay. He was assigned beach defense with the 4th Marines under the command of Major Max Clark at Ramsey Ravine, one of the critical points in the defense of the fortress island. Corregidor fell May 6, 1942. The Japanese first moved their nearly 12,000 prisoners on the island to the exposed, rocky beach at the 92nd Garage. There, the POWs waited nearly three weeks (May 24th) in the tropical sun with little food, water or sanitation before they were put in small boats to Manila. After being forced to wade ashore, the POWs were marched through Manila in what has become known as the “March of Shame” to Bilibid Prison POW Camp. From there, by rail and by foot they made their way to Cabanatuan #3 prison camp. In late September 1942, Cabanatuan #3 was closed and the prisoners were relocated to Cabanatuan #1 to be organized for work details. Pruitt was sent to labor at Camp Murphy and Zablan Field. On August 27, 1944, he was among the 1,035 POWs boarded on the Mitsubishi-made “Hell ship” Noto Maru that made its way via Formosa, air raids and sub attacks to Moji, Japan (September 4th).

He was then among 50 men taken to Hiroshima # 6B - Omine (Sanyo) in Yamaguchi Prefecture (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s home prefecture) 75 miles from Hiroshima. He worked in a dangerous mine as a slave laborer for Ube Kosan's Sanyo Muen Kogyo Sho (Ube Industries' Sanyo Smokeless Coal Work, today’s Ube Industries Ltd., the of great grandson of Akira Tawarada the first president (1942) of the consolidated Ube Industries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, is currently Japan’s Education Minister). Pruitt was one of eight men at the camp who did not wait for liberation forces to arrive at his camp. They somehow made their way down to the south end of the island of Kyushu and met up with American forces. For unknown reasons, he was registered as “liberated at Fukuoka #9 Miyata” a mine in central Kyushu. He proceeded to hitch-hike on air transports from Japan all the way to San Francisco. He briefly stayed at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital took another military transport to Olathe, Kansas where he finished his trip back home to Tennessee via a Trailways bus to Memphis. He spent the next six months at the Naval Hospital in Millington, Tennessee.

After his return to Sweetwater, Tennessee, he married his sister’s friend, Jean DeButy, on October 28, 1946. Their first child, Judith Ann, was born August 5, 1947. He remained in the Navy for 20 years, and retired in 1960 as a Chief Warrant Officer. Pruitt, a talented woodworker, taught cabinet-making at Tennessee schools until 1981. In retirement, he served as Commander of the Smokey Mountain Chapter of American Ex-POW organization (AXPOW). He was also the National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor for 1994-1995. Mr. Pruitt passed away December 4, 1998 and is buried at the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.

Philippines POW#: 1-12247
Japan POW#: 469

Congressman: Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN 3rd)


Caroline Burkhart,
70, is the daughter of the late Thomas F. Burkhart. She grew up as an Army “brat” throughout the United States and now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she pursued a career in real estate. She is an experienced researcher of the American POW experience with Imperial Japan and a former vice president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society.

Thomas F. Burkhart was born May 6, 1914 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in July 1937 and was assigned as a medical clerk to Hamilton Field, California. In June 1941, he was discharged from the Army Air Corps and commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was immediately sent to the Philippines aboard the SS President Pierce. He arrived June 24th and was assigned to Fort McKinley outside Manila, the headquarters for the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) Philippines Department. He became an officer with the Headquarters Company of the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, an elite U.S. Army unit composed of American officers and Filipino enlisted men. After Imperial Japan’s December 8, 1941 invasion of the Philippines and USAFFE’s December 23rd activation of War Plan Orange-3 (WPO-3), his battalion helped defend the withdrawal of American forces on Luzon to the Bataan Peninsula. Barely a month after being promoted to 1st Lieutenant, on January 24, 1942, he earned a Silver Star for “Gallantry in Action” at the Battle of Abucay Hacienda (January 15-25, 1942) helping maintain the first battle position on Bataan.

Sick with malaria, Burkhart was in the open-air General Hospital #1 near the tip of Bataan when Major General Edward King surrendered the Bataan Peninsula to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942. At the end of the month, the patients were taken by truck up to San Fernando and there made to stand in packed boxcars for the 24-mile trip to Capas, Tarlac. As he told his family, “hell would be a refrigerator” compared with being in these poorly ventilated, rolling prisons that were like ovens under the sweltering tropical sun. As those who endured the Bataan Death March, he was forced to march the last three miles to Camp O’Donnell, a makeshift POW camp from an unfinished Philippine Army training camp. In early June, the Japanese fearing the deaths of all the prisoners from the horrific conditions of the Camp began to release their Filipino POWs and transfer the others to a new facility at Cabanatuan. It is estimated that 1,550 Americans and 22,000 Filipinos died at Camp O’Donnell, the overwhelming majority with the first eight weeks.

On November 6 1942, he was among 1,500 prisoners packed into the coal bunker of the unmarked “Hell ship” Nagato Maru. It took three tortuous weeks for the ship to make its way from the tropics to the cold of Northeast Asia. The ship stopped at Takeo, Formosa before arriving at the port of Moji on Kyushu, Japan. Burkhart nearly blind from malnutrition, was first taken to Osaka POW Camp #4-B Tanagawa. This camp provided POW slave labor for the Toshima Group (today’s Tobishima Corporation) to build a breakwater and submarine base. The camp was notable for having one of the highest death rates among the mainland POW camps. He was soon (January 15 1943), moved to the Hiroshima #1-B Zentsuji POW Camp on the island of Shikoku. Although Zentsuji, is often referred to as a “propaganda show camp,” conditions were harsh and the men were punished for any perceived offense often on a whim of the guard in charge. The enlisted men at the camp were slave stevedores for Nippon Express Co. (Nippon Tsuun) at Sakaide Rail Yards and the Port of Takamatsu. As an officer, Burkhart worked in the camp garden and tried to raise rabbits. On June 23, 1945, he and 334 officers were transferred to POW Camp 11-B Rokuroshi deep in the Japanese Alps near the industrial town of Fukui (destroyed by air raids July 1945). They were to do subsistence farming, even though they had arrived in the camp late in the growing season and no land had been cleared for cultivation. Because Rokuroshi had not been identified by the Japanese government as a POW camp, it was one of the last to be found (September 8, 1945). He was quickly evacuated to Manila on USS Tryon and then sent to San Francisco on the USS Storm King.

Burkhart remained in the Army and made a career with the Quartermaster Corps, retiring in 1957 as a Lt. Colonel in U.S. Army Reserve. Throughout his life he was plagued by health problems most likely caused by the illnesses and hardships of being a POW. For a number of years after retirement, he worked as a government contractor in the food service industry. In 1972, at 57, he passed away and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Philippines POW#: 1-03739
Japan POW#: NA
Congressman: John P. Sarbanes (D-MD 3rd)


Mary Jane McCorts Blaine,
62, is the daughter of the late John J. McCorts. She is a life-long resident of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and works for the Pennsylvania State Employee Credit Union (PSECU). For the past 20 years, Ms. Blaine has been an active member of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society.

John J. McCorts was born May 19, 1921 in Stillions, Arkansas, the older of two boys, and named for his maternal grandfather. After his parents’ divorce, his family moved to his maternal grandmother’s farm near El Dorado, Arkansas. At some point they moved to Abilene, Texas where he graduated from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army one year later in 1940. He was trained to be a radio operator with the Signal Corps. Likely sent to Philippines sometime between June and October 1941, his first assignment was with the 228th Signal Operations Company that was constituted on September 2, 1941. It is unclear when in January 1942 or how he moved from Ft. McKinley to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay to work on signals intelligence in the Malinta Tunnel. On May 6, 1942, when Corregidor was surrendered by Major General Jonathan Wainwright, he was taken prisoner while repairing wire near the Tunnel. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until Christmas 1942 and only then through a newspaper article in the Boulder City, Nevada newspaper.

Like most of the 12,000 men on Corregidor, he was moved to the rocky beach at the 92nd Garage, After nearly three weeks (May 24th) in the tropical sun with little food, water or sanitation, they were put in small boats to Manila. The men were then made to wade ashore before being paraded six miles down Dewey Boulevard on a “Victory March” now called the “March of Shame” before the Filipino and foreign residents to the old Spanish-built prison of Bilibid. Many of the POWs were chained together with collar shackles and suffered the Japanese soldiers urinating on them. The following day they were moved by train and foot to the squalid Cabanatuan POW Camp.

McCorts was among the 300 POWs and 2,000 Imperial Japanese Army troops boarded on Lima Maru September 20, 1942 to Takao, Formosa. The men were taken to Taiwan POW Camp #2 – Taichu for two months. On November 15, 1942, he was sent to the Port of Moji in Japan aboard the “Hell ship” Dainichi Maru. From there, he was taken north to the Mitsubishi-owned shipyard and POW camp Tokyo #1-D Yokohama at Yokohama. He was a riveter inside ships under construction. The noise and constant beatings he received to his head caused permanent damage to his hearing.

At some point, he was transferred north to the Sendai #8B Kosaka POW Camp to be a slave laborer at a copper mine and smelter owned by Fujita-gumi Construction Company (today’s Dowa Holdings Co., Ltd.). There is now a museum in Kosaka reviewing the history of the local mine, which was one of Japan’s most productive as well as the origin of Dowa Holdings’ metal and mining business. The Kosaka Mine Office Museum and mine are pictured on Dowa’s website. There is no mention at the museum of the Allied POWs who slaved there.

He was liberated on September 11, 1945 and returned to the United States on October 15, 1945. He spent nearly a year at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, California and Birmingham General Hospital in Van Nuys, California. Bewildered by freedom and the job environment, he rejoined the Army’s Signal Corps. Over the years, he traveled most of the world as part of his service and sometimes on his own, including: Russia, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Korea, France, Germany, Singapore, and Viet Nam.

His Russia posting in the late 1940s, landed him in the midst of a 1953 investigation by Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) into possible espionage and un-American activities at the U.S. Army Signal Corps facility at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. He was discharged and denied a promotion. McCarthy’s charges soon proved scurrilous and McCorts was reinstated. The experience, however, left him angry and bitter and prompted him to turn down a promotion to Master Sergeant. He remained on active duty until 1963 and retired from the Reserves in 1970. He used his GI benefits to pursue his college education at Temple University, where in 1972 he received a B.A. in Social Administration.

His first post-service job was as an electronic communications specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Civil Defense. After graduation from Temple, he changed career paths and worked in the Pennsylvania State Department of Health and Welfare where he started as a case worker, then a field auditor, and retired as policy director.

In 1992, McCorts developed a rare cancer often found in people who had long-term, low-level exposure to copper cyanide as found in the Dowa Holdings’ mine. Although his cancer was in remission, he suffered from a series of strokes and other medical issues and passed away on February 10, 2001. He is buried in the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Annville, Pennsylvania.

Philippines POW#:
Japan POW#: 796

Congressman: Lou Barletta (R- PA 11th)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What about POW history?

Amb Ichiro Fujisaki
POW Reconciliation
On November 30, the Abe Administration through its Foreign Ministry's think tank, the Japan International Institute for International Studies (JIIA), will sponsor a conference in Washington, DC at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), entitled, POST-WAR U.S.-JAPAN RECONCILIATION: STRATEGIC BENEFITS OF HEALING.

Its purpose, as the Sankei Shimbun article below explains, is to present the current Japanese government's views of history.

This means it is an effort to sanitize the Japanese Administration's denier history narrative and demonization of Korea and China historical views of WWII by presenting the United States as the "good" reconcilier. However, the voices of those who actually fought for historical justice for the American POWs, civilian internees, and comfort women are not included. In fact, one of the speakers actively and destructively aided the Japanese government in delaying justice for the American POWs of Japan--Michael Armacost.

It is unlikely that the POW history of fighting for justice and memory will be represented. It is unlikely that anyone with mention that two current Japanese cabinet member, the deputy prime minister and the education minister, hail from families that owned and ran companies that requested white slaves and used Allied POW slave labor to keep their mines and factories operating during the war. It is unlikely, that anyone will question why there are still documents hidden away in the Japanese government about the POWs. It is unlikely that anyone will bring up that many of Japan's new UNESCO World Industrial Heritage sites were places of horrific working conditions and torture for American and Allied POWs.

Speakers complicit in this effort are: Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA); Michael H. Armacost, Shorenstein APARC fellow, Stanford University; Gerald L. Curtis, Burgess professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University; Thomas Berger, professor of international relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University; Rohan Mukherjee, assistant professor of political science at Yale-NUS College in Singapore; Keiko Iizuka, editorialist and senior political writer for the Yomiuri Shimbun; Koichi Ai, acting director general at the Japan Institute of International Affairs; Michael R. Auslin, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; Jennifer Lind, Associate Professor, Department of Government, Dartmouth College; Toshihiro Nakayama, Professor, Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University; Douglas H. Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; James L. Schoff, senior fellow in the Carnegie Asia Program.

Japan International Institute for International Studies Begins to Spread Japan's Viewpoints on History by Initiating its First International Symposium on History and Reconciliation

Sankei Shimbun, November 19, 2017 [Provisional Translation by APP Interns]

The Japan International Institute for International Studies (President and Director General Yoshiji Nogami, Former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs) will hold a number of symposia overseas on the theme of "history and reconciliation.” It is the first time for JIIA, established in 1959, to hold a symposium overseas on this theme. This is an effort to disseminate overseas the arguments of the Japan side based on objective historical research on such issues as territory and comfort women that Japan has [differences] with neighboring countries.

The symposia will be held in Washington DC on November 30th; in Paris next January; and in New Delhi in February. Researchers from Japan and overseas will participate and it is expected that the latest research in Japan and the opinions of researchers from third-party countries will be presented.

In addition to underscoring the differences between regions that experienced the last world war [大戰] and other events where reconciliation has progressed and those regions where it has not, the symposia are expected also to focus discussion on nationalism in each country.

[Note: The Sankei’s text is ambiguous and written badly. The Sankei writer is hinting above that one should “look at Taiwan and the Philippines, etc., who are very cooperative with Japan despite their war experience, and compare them with the Koreans and Chinese who continue to condemn Japan.”]

The Institute held a symposium in Tokyo this October [the 12th, (Japanese only)] that invited history researchers and others from South Korea, India and the U.S. entitled “History and Reconciliation - Thinking from International Comparison.” One participant, Professor Park Yu-ha of Sejong University [not a historian], the author of the book The Empire's Comfort Women, who was charged [and convicted] of defamation against the several former Comfort Women, said, “The background of the comfort women issue as a major problem between Japan and South Korea can be traced to the fact that the ideological conflict between the left and right in South Korea is closely linked to their views of Korean history as related to Japan.” [i.e., Park is saying that the Korean Left is anti-Japanese and the Right is pro-Japanese]

With an unfair “history war” developing abroad, a JIIA official noted, “We hope that these symposia can spread the data [correct historical evidence] that Japan has accumulated so far in order to appeal to the hearts of people in the West and elsewhere.


>Japan Institute of International Affairs caves to right-wing pressure. 2006/2007

The Struggle for the Japanese Soul: Komori Yoshihisa, Sankei Shimbun, and the JIIA controversy By David McNeill, Japan Focus, September 4, 2006.

Softly, Softly: Did the Japan Institute of International Affairs buckle under right-wing pressure? No, says Ambassador Satoh Yukio. Yes, say his critics by David McNeill; Fred Varcoe interviews Amb. Satoh Yukio, Japan Focus, July 3, 2007.


Part I: "Case Studies on Reconciliation" [Video]

Mr. Brahma Chellaney, Professor, Strategic Studies, Center for Policy Research in New Delhi

Ms. Lily Gardner Feldman, Senior Fellow, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies(AICGS), Johns Hopkins

Mr. Fumiaki Kubo, Senior Fellow, American Government and History, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, University of Tokyo

Mr. Nobukatsu Kanehara, Deputy Secretary General of National Security Secretariat and Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office of Japan

Part II: "What Promotes and Prevents Reconciliation?"

Ms. Yinan He, Associate professor, Department of International Relations, Lehigh University

Ms. Ji Young Kim, Associate Professor, Department of Area Studies, University of Tokyo

Mr. Kazuya Sakamoto, Professor, Department of Law and Political Science, Graduate School of Law and Politics, Osaka University

Mr. Thongchai Winichakul, Emeritus Professor of Southeast Asian History, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Part III: "Reconciliation and Nationalism"

Mr. Yūichi Hosoya, Senior Fellow, Tokyo Foundation, Professor, Faculty of Law, Keio University.

Mr. Lung-chih Chang, Associate Research Fellow and Deputy Director, Institute of Taiwan History

Mr. Daqing Yang, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, GWU

Ms. Yu-ha Park, Professor, College of Liberal Arts, Sejong University

Mr. Shin Kawashima, Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo

Monday, November 13, 2017

Orphans complete their fathers' journey

Unique to the 9th POW Delegation to Japan, is the presence of two orphans of POWs, Joseph Brown and John Whitehurst who never knew their fathers who were imprisoned in the Philippines and died in the sinking of the Hellship Arisan Maru on October 11, 1944.

While in Japan, both men joined with members of the delegation to speak to students at Temple University in Tokyo on October 5, 2017. Below is a video of the presentation as well as profiles of their fathers. Never forgotten.

Joseph Brown, 75, the youngest son of the late Charles D. Brown lives in Temecula, California. He was born in Manila on March 3, 1942 in the midst of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. He is a Vietnam veteran with a career in law enforcement who has participated 13 times in the White Sands, New Mexico Bataan Memorial Death March and attended this year’s 75th anniversary ceremonies in the Philippines for the Bataan Death March. He carries with him a bracelet his father crafted for his first birthday while in POW camp on the Philippines.

Charles D. Brown was born June 6, 1903 in Monterey, Mexico while his father was a doctor for the Mexican National Railway. The family returned to Brownsville, Texas where he attended high school and worked in a number of clerical positions before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1932. Sent to the Philippines, Brown was assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, stationed at Fort Santiago with the regimental headquarters in Manila. By 1941, the 25th anniversary of the regiment, he was a Staff Sergeant and a member of the Color Guard.

In April 1937, he married Lolita Penabella, a Spanish citizen whose family were residents of Manila. They had four children with the youngest, Joseph, born three months after the war started. Brown last saw his pregnant wife and three children—Loretta, Charles and Elizabeth—on December 26, 1941. At the war’s start, he was promoted to Warrant Officer and was part of the 31st Infantry’s planned defense of U.S. forces’ withdrawal into the Bataan Peninsula.

On April 9, 1942, Major General Edward King surrendered the peninsula to Japanese forces. This was the start of the 65-mile Bataan Death March of over 75,000 sick and starving American and Filipino POWs up from the tip of Bataan to the train junction at San Fernando. In the words of Colonel Harold W. Glattly, the chief Luzon Force surgeon, the men were “patients rather than prisoners.” This ordeal compounded by the guards withholding water, food, and rest while randomly beating, stabbing, and murdering the men extended the transfer north from days into weeks.

At San Fernando, the survivors received a bowl of rice each and some water, before being jammed standing into unventilated boxcars for a 24-mile journey into the Tarlac Province. From the station, the dazed men walked another 3.5 miles to Camp O’Donnell. Including the men, who died in the boxcars, as many as 650 Americans and 5,000 to 10,000 Filipinos perished on the March. Camp O’Donnell was a half-completed training camp for Philippine Army recruits. Its bamboo and nipa structures had unfinished roofs and unconnected water pipes. No utilities had been installed, and the septic system was only partially complete. Situated in the barren piedmont of the Zambales Mountains, the camp was surrounded by a heavy growth of mosquito-infested cogon grass. Here the over 10,000 American and 50,000 Filipino survivors of the Death March endured days of burning sun without adequate food, water, or medicine. It is estimated that 1,550 Americans and 22,000 Filipinos died at Camp O’Donnell, the overwhelming majority within the first eight weeks.

After most Americans were moved from Camp O’Donnell to Camp Cabanatuan in June 1942, Brown he and others did agricultural slave labor. On his son’s first birthday, he crafted him a bracelet from an aluminum scrap that he inscribed, “J.W. Brown, Daddy 3-3-43.” He gave it to Fr. Theodore (Padre Doro) Buttenbruch SVD, the first priest of The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, who was working with his wife to smuggle money, tobacco, and medicine to the POWs. The bracelet was successfully delivered. Fr. Buttenbruch, however, was eventually caught by the Kempeitai and executed.

On October 11, 1944, he and 1,781 other prisoners were loaded into two holds of the Mitsui-built “Hell ship” Arisan Maru. To avoid air raids, the freighter first sailed south from Manila to Palawan and then back. The Arisan Maru left Manila October 21 in convoy of seven ships for Formosa and Japan. On October 24th, some 225 miles from Formosa in the Bashi Strait, the convoy was attacked by three submarine wolfpacks. It is believed that the Arisan Maru was torpedoed and sunk by either the USS Shark II (SS-314) or the USS Snook (SS-279). The Japanese guards cut the rope ladders to the holds. The abandoned men eventually found their way to the deck only to drown in the choppy, cold water. Sailors from nearby Japanese destroyers clubbed and machine-gunned American survivors in the water and the ships deliberately pulled away from the men struggling to reach them. In all, there were 1,773 POW casualties. A Japanese freighter later picked up four survivors. Another five managed to find an abandoned lifeboat, a sail, a water barrel, and a box of hardtack. Miraculously, they navigated to China and Chinese guerrillas who brought them to American forces in Kunming.

Brown’s wife and four children were considered Spanish citizens, and thus, never interned during the war. They survived the Battle of Manila and sailed to the United States in September 1945 aboard the USS Admiral E. W. Eberle (AP-123) to Tacoma, Washington. Following Charles Brown’s wishes, the family went to Horton, Kansas to live with his sister Bessie.

A memorial marker to Warrant Officer Brown is in the Miramar National Cemetery, San Diego California. His name is also engraved upon the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery.

Philippines POW#: 1-7548
Congressman: Duncan Hunter (R-CA 50th)

John Collin Whitehurst, 76, the only child of the late Collin B. Whitehurst, was born October 28, 1940 in Manila. His mother Rose and he were evacuated from the Philippines with other military families on May 5, 1941 and he has lived mostly in Texas since 1942. He worked as an accountant before finding his true passion in social work. He has attended American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society conventions since 2002 and is currently on their Board of Directors. He has returned to the Philippines twice, in 2002 and in January 2006 when he attended the dedication of the Hell Ship Memorial at Subic Bay.

Collin B. Whitehurst, Jr. was born on February 3, 1914 in Richmond, Virginia. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio graduating from Hughes High School in 1932. He attended the University of Cincinnati, but in 1934 received an appointment to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. At the Academy, he was in the Chapel Choir all four years, the Glee Club for one year, Manager of Goat Football for two years, and a Pistol Marksman. He enjoyed West Point and graduated 300 out of 301. His first assignment after graduation in 1938 was to Fort Thomas, Kentucky, with Headquarters Company, 10th Infantry Regiment. In December 1939, he married an officer’s daughter, Rose Eva Knuebel, daughter of Colonel and Mrs. John H. Knuebel. They sailed for the Philippines in June 1940.

First stationed at Fort McKinley near Manila, he was assigned to 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts. At the end of August 1941, Whitehurst was sent temporarily to the 81st Infantry Regiment, Philippine Army, as an instructor on Bohol, an island province of the Philippines located in the Central Visayas. Later that fall, he was with the Ninth Military District on Leyte supervising inter-island shipping. Promoted to Major on December 19, 1941, after the war began, he was assigned to the staff of the Commanding General of the Visayan-Mindanao Force, Major General William F. Sharp on Mindanao.

General Sharp, with great reluctance and under the threat of a massacre of all the POWs on Corregidor, surrendered his forces on Mindanao on May 10, 1942. Upon surrender, Whitehurst entrusted his West Point ring to Rev. J. E. Haggerty who was the Headquarters Chaplain. Haggerty reverted to civilian status and served as chaplain to recognized guerilla forces under the legendary Colonel Wendell W. Fertig. Haggerty returned the ring to Whitehurst’s widow after the war.

Whitehurst and the POWs on Mindanao were first kept at Camp Casisang south of Malaybalay and then to the Davao Penal Colony #502 (DAPECOL). During the 21 months Whitehurst was imprisoned at Davao, he became close friends with the acting Episcopalian chaplain, Capt. John J. Morrett (d. 2011). Together, they organized and trained a choir for religious services that helped lift the spirits of the camp.

In June 1944, some 1,200 of the Davao Penal Colony POWs were moved to Manila for dispersal to other work sites on Luzon or in Japan. Whitehurst was briefly held at Bilibid Prison and then at Cabanatuan where he was again doing agriculture labor. On October 11, 1944, he and 1,781 prisoners were loaded into two holds of the Mitsui-built “Hell ship” Arisan Maru. The holds, with one holding some coal, were so small that the men first had to stand. Room was created by the deaths of men from heat and disease. To avoid air raids, the freighter first sailed south from Manila to Palawan and then back. The Arisan Maru finally left Manila on October 21 in a convoy of seven ships for Formosa and Japan. On October 24, some 225 miles from Formosa in the Bashi Strait the convoy was attacked by three American submarine wolfpacks. It is believed that the Arisan Maru was torpedoed and sunk possibly by either the USS Shark II (SS-314) or the USS Snook (SS-279). The Japanese guards cut the rope ladders to the holds. The abandoned men eventually found their way to the deck only to drown in the choppy, cold water. Sailors from nearby Japanese destroyers clubbed and machine-gunned American survivors in the water and the ships deliberately pulled away from the men struggling to reach them. In all, there were 1,773 POW casualties and only nine survivors.

Following his liberation, Major General William F. Sharp, commander, Visayan-Mindanao Force, wrote to Whitehurst’s parents: “Your son was a fine, loyal officer who did excellent work while serving with my Command. He was always cheerful and willing; he made a lasting impression on all with whom he came into contact. Collin’s spirit never wavered during the long months of his imprisonment. We few still living who knew him cherish his memory.”

The Whitehurst family on October 25, 2004, 60 years and a day after Major Collin Whitehurst’s death on the Arisan Maru, dedicated a memorial marker in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery commemorating his life and service. His name is also engraved on the Walls of the Missing in the Manila American Cemetery.

Philippines POW#: 2-0235s
Congressman: Joaquin Castro (D-TX 20th) 

9th American POW Delegation to Japan

Chamberlain featured in this book
click to order
From September 30 - October 11, 2017,  nine Americans journeyed to Japan to recover their past. They were part of the 9th delegation of Americans who were POWs or families of POWs who were guests of the Japanese government. In 2009, the Obama Administration persuaded the Japanese to initiate a program of reconciliation with the American POWs of Japan, one of the many groups of people who were dependent upon Imperial Japan's care and instead received unimaginable abuse. Secretary of State Clinton wanted to help a unique cohort of American veterans who had been ignored by previous administrations as well as present the Japanese with a template toward reconciliation. The first trip was in October 2010.

Whereas the first trip was composed entirely of POWs, their wives, and caregivers, this trip included only one former POW.  His profile is below. His biggest wish was to see the mine where he suffered so much as a slave laborer. It is said that his eyes welled with tears when Mitsubishi Materials company officials escorted him to the mine's entrance and apologized.

American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society works with the U.S. State Department and Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Henry Tilden Chamberlain, 95, is a resident of Edmunds, Washington. His daughter Rebecca Chamberlain, 56, who accompanied him to Japan was born in Okinawa, Japan at the Kadena Air Base. She is a real estate agent in the Seattle region.

Mr. Chamberlain was born on the family’s kitchen table June 6, 1922 in Morse Bluff, Nebraska. An only child, he moved with his mother after his parents’ divorce to Omaha, Nebraska. Needing to earn a living, he dropped out of high school to work as a messenger for Paxton & Gallagher Wholesale Grocery in Omaha. On his 18th birthday (June 6, 1940), he enlisted in the United States Army at Fort Crook, outside Omaha. He received his basic training at McChord Field near Tacoma, Washington and Fort George Wright in Spokane, Washington. His surgical school training was at Fort Lewis, the precursor of today’s Madigan Army Medical Center.

Chamberlain was sent to Philippines from San Francisco aboard the USAT Willard A. Holbrook in October 1941. He first served at the hospital at Fort William McKinley, but was soon stationed at what was considered, if war were to break out, a neutral medical facility, Sternberg General Hospital in Manila as a surgical technician. There was a mistaken belief that the Japanese would not bomb a hospital. After the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, Sternberg was shelled and evacuated in three phases starting on December 22nd. One group went to Bataan General Hospital #1 and another with patients to Corregidor Island. Chamberlain was with the third group that went by boat to Bataan General Hospital #2 along the Real River near Cabcaben and commanded by Col James O. Gillepsie and surgeon Lt Col Jack Schwartz. It was less a “hospital” than a sprawling outdoor facility with a few tents and natural canopies of bamboo, mahogany, and acacia for shade and cover.

Although under constant shelling and fast running out to food and medicines, Hospital #2’s patients, including wounded Japanese, swelled to thousands, possibly as many as 20,000. According to a U.S. Army study, in the last weeks of the Battle of Bataan most of the new admittees suffered from malaria, dysentery, malnutrition, and exhaustion. There were 150 non-battle-related deaths per day due to disease and malnutrition.

Upon surrender, the Japanese looted the Hospital of food and medicine and the patients of their personal possessions. An American woman volunteer at the Hospital too ill to be evacuated was gang-raped. The Japanese soon encircled the Hospital with artillery aimed at Corregidor making the site a target for Corregidor’s great guns. Filipino patients were immediately forced leave, which resulted in their becoming part of the Bataan Death March. Most of these men soon died.

Remaining patients and staff were removed toward the end of May north to Cabanatuan #1. Chamberlain, sick with malaria and dysentery, remembers little of this transfer that included a truck ride to Bilibid Prison, a suffocating cattle car train trip to Cabanatuan City, and a delirious march to the Camp. There he was a medic at Zero Ward, where men were sent to die. Without medicines or food, there was little he could do. When his frustration met its limit, his momentary defiance was met by a savage beating and deep cigar burns. He volunteered for the diphtheria ward as he had immunity from childhood and it was where the Japanese guards did not venture.

After, over two years at the Cabanatuan POW camps assisting the medical team as well as doing subsistence farming, he was among 1,100 POWs on October 1, 1944 loaded atop coal or horse feces in the holds of the “Hell ship” Hokusen Maru (called the Benjo “toilet” Maru by the POWs) in Manila. It turned into one of the longest “Hell ship” voyages of the war. The voyage to Moiji, Japan via Hong Kong and Formosa was marked American submarine and air attacks. As a substitute for water that was rarely sent down the hold, Chamberlain would mop up the condensation on the wall of the hull. The heat and filth in the hold paired with beriberi, dysentery, bronchitis, pneumonia and starvation to accelerate the death rate. Funeral services were not allowed for the dead who were sent overboard.

On Formosa, Chamberlain was among the POWs taken in early November to the Toroku POW Camp (today the site of Gouba Elementary School, Touliou) to recover from the trip's ordeal while doing subsistence gardening and work at a sugar mill. In late January, the survivors departed for Japan aboard the Enoshima Maru. At the Port of Moji, he was sent north to Hosokura near Sendai to mine lead and zinc at Mitsubishi Mining’s Sendai #3-B POW camp. Today, the site is the Hosokura Mine Park and displays a plaque by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation memorializing the POWs who were slave laborers at the mine.

Rescued on September 12th, he was taken to a hospital ship at Sendai and then on to the Philippines and to Madigan Army Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. He fondly remembers a black WAC who devoted herself to taking extra care of the POWs on her ward. Altogether he had over a year of covalence to recover from malaria, dysentery, and PTSD. However, he found life in the U.S., free from strict expectations, difficult. As a result, he stayed in the Army, eventually transferring to the new U.S. Air Force. Stationed at Fort George Wright, he met Dorothy, a surgical technician with the Women's Army Corps (WAC), who he married November 14, 1947. Married for 60 years, they lived around the world, including a tour in Okinawa where their youngest of seven children was born. Dorothy passed away in 2007.

After 28 years in the Air Force, Chamberlain retired as a Senior master sergeant (SMSgt), with 100% disability due to the conditions he suffered as a POW. He returned to western Washington where he finished his B.A. degree through the University of Maryland, College of Special and Continuation Studies, which the first university to send faculty overseas to educate active-duty military personnel. For 15 years, he was the National Service Officer for the American Ex-POW organization (AXPOW).

Philippines POW#: 1-07704
Japan POW#: 999

Congressman: daughter, Rick Larsen (D-WA),
Congressman: father, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA),

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day - Lest we forget

Memorial at Cabanatuan

Support S Res 138 and H Res 261 to remember the 
75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March
Call your Senator and Congressman

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gold Medal Ceremony for Filipino Vets of WWII

Washington, DC, October 25, 2017. ADBC-MS former board member Caroline Burkhart represented at the ceremony on the dias the hundreds of American officers who commanded the Filipino troops. They are included in this medal and she accepted a medal on behalf of her father, Lt. Thomas Burkhart who was with the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) gave remarks prior to the presentation of the medal, here they are as prepared for delivery:

"Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I am honored to welcome all of you to the United States Capitol. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of our oldest traditions. It is the highest civilian honor this body can bestow. Today, pursuant to S. 1555, we award this Medal to the Filipino veterans of World War II.

"This is a day that is long, long overdue. Everyone knows about Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Perhaps lesser known is that, within hours, Japanese forces also invaded the Philippines. Under the command of General MacArthur, American and Filipino forces fought side-by-side to stave off the invasion.

"All told, 250,000 Filipinos answered President Roosevelt’s call to duty. Most had no formal training. Many had never even picked up a weapon. But they risked—and in the case of many—gave their lives fighting under our stars and stripes. They battled not only the enemy, but starvation and malnutrition. But they never lost sight of the cause. And they never accepted defeat.

"In the midst of the struggle, President Roosevelt addressed the Filipino people. He said, 'The great day of your liberation will come, as surely as there is a God in heaven.' And sure enough, that day came. But only due to the incredible valor and sacrifice of the Filipino resistance movement. And only at a heavy cost. More than 10,000 Americans and nearly one million Filipinos, mostly civilians, died in the Philippines.

"We are blessed to be joined today not only by some of these veterans, but also their families. Thank you for being here. You are an integral part of this legacy. And without you, we know this day would not have been possible.

"A longtime dear friend of mine, my former deputy chief of staff, Joyce Meyer, tells the story of her great grandfather, Andres Arribe. He was one of many Filipinos recruited from Manila during the war. He was a sharp shooter. He was at Leyte when General MacArthur was there. But like too many others, he was stricken with tuberculosis and passed away shortly after the war.

"But his granddaughter used his veterans benefits to help pay for a college education, and she became the first in her family to move to America. And today, her daughter—this soldier’s great-granddaughter—works for the President of the United States.

"So you see, this is not simply a feel-good story of delayed recognition. We are here to immortalize the legacy of great liberators, who have paved the way for generations to follow.

"Let this ceremony serve to ensure that those who fought for freedom are never forgotten, and always remembered.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 MIA/POW Recognition Day

Order Poster

Nearly every member of congress has a POW/MIA Flag 
at door of their Washington Office. 
Nearly none bothered to acknowledge today. We will remember.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

‘I didn’t think I would live this long

World War II veteran and Bataan Death March survivor Eddie Graham turns 100 on September 5th

The Wichita Eagle, September 2, 2017 5:47 PM


Eddie Graham never expected to see this day.

Not after trudging more than 60 miles through the jungles of the Philippines at gunpoint in what became known as the Bataan Death March in World War II.
Or seeing fellow prisoners marched away, never to return. Or subsisting on a cup of rice a day, often less because he would sneak some of his portion to others in poor health.

Or digging a new trench every day to bury those who had died overnight, sometimes stacking the bodies four or five deep.

“No, I didn’t think I would live this long,” Graham said softly as he looked around at the large crowd gathered in north Wichita to celebrate his 100th birthday on Saturday. “But I’m still here. Somebody’s watching over me.”

Graham’s birthday is actually on Tuesday, but celebrating it on Saturday carried significance: it not only meant relatives could converge on Wichita from around the country, it was the same day Japan formally surrendered aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in 1945, ending World War II.

Barely more than 50 survivors of the Bataan Death March are still alive.

“When I was a kid, my aunt — Eddie’s wife — told us not to ask him questions because it would cause him to have nightmares at night,” said Wanda Graham, who lives in Portales, N.M. “So we never talked about it.”

Graham kept those horrific memories tucked away until he was into his 90s, when the brother of his caretaker talked him into speaking to a class at a Maize school. That brother is now the mayor of Wichita.


Graham voluntarily enlisted in the New Mexico National Guard and was assigned to the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment at an American base in the Philippines two months before the attacks on Pearl Harbor December 1941. He fought in the Battle of Bataan and then with nearly 75,000 American and Filipino troops forced on the 65 mile infamous Bataan Death March to Camp O'Donnell. When the camp closed he was transferred to Camp Cabanatuan to work in the fields. On 20 September 1943 with 850 prisoners he was taken aboard the Taga Maru in Manila, also known as the Coral Maru.Seventy men died during the 15 day voyage to Moji, Japan via Formosa. In Japan, he was taken to Osaka where he became a slave laborer at a steel mill for Nippon Steel in Hirohata Osaka 12-B POW Camp (also known as Harima "O" Camp or Hirohata Divisional Camp). Nippon Steel still exists today as Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation. This company has yet to issue an apology to the hundreds of Allied POW slave laborers it used against the Geneva Convention during the War. Interestingly, former Amb. Ichiro Fujisaki, who arranged for Japan's official apology to the POWs in 2009 and reconciliation trips, is on the company's board.


The memories have been trickling out since then, friends and relatives say.

He has never considered himself a hero. He credits his survival to faith and good fortune, friends and family say.

Mayor Jeff Longwell said he asked Graham where he found the strength to persevere during those dark days. Prayer, Graham told him.

One of the few personal items Graham was allowed to keep as a prisoner was his rosary. A devout Catholic, he prayed that rosary every day.

There are moments during his time as a prisoner of war for which there is no explanation, relatives said.

One was when the prisoners were separated into two long lines. Graham was in one line, but felt uneasy about it.

“He didn’t know why, but he felt like he needed to get into the other one,” said Janelle Longwell, the sister-in-law of his caretaker.

When the guards moved out of view, Graham slipped into the other line. The line of prisoners he had been in was marched into the jungle — and never returned.

One day in camp, Graham and a few other prisoners were given red ribbons, Wendy Graham said. Filled with another uneasy feeling, Graham hid the ribbon in the dirt when no one was looking.

He then darted over to the prisoners without ribbons. The prisoners with ribbons were never seen again.

After he was finally liberated, Graham returned to the U.S. and settled into civilian life. He married soon after the war and raised a family, working as a carpenter.

He has always laughed easily and forgiven quickly, relatives say. He harbored no bitterness toward his captors or the Japanese soldiers.

“They were just doing their job,” he told family.

He’s almost impossible to beat at cards and his mind is still sharp at 100, his sister-in-law Angie Graham said.

Graham is more than willing to go serve his country again if called, Longwell said, though he admits that at 100 he doesn’t move as fast as he once did.

“A few years ago, I asked him, ‘What’s the best thing that’s happened to you? What’s the best thing that you’ve experienced?’ ” Wendy Graham said. “And he said, ‘Life.’

“He realized that was the most valuable thing that he had.”