Monday, January 09, 2017

Library of Congress posts POW of Japan diaries

2 POWs, 2 World War II diaries tell a story of friendship, suffering and death

In a World War II prisoner diary acquired by the Library of Congress, George Washington Pearcy kept lists of the foods he ate and the things he wanted to do when he got back to the U.S. 

By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post,  January 8,  2017

In September 1944, after two years of suffering in POW camps in the Philippines, U.S. Army Lt. George Washington Pearcy was being transferred to one of Japan’s “hell ships,” bound for captivity in the enemy’s home islands.

Before he left, he entrusted his diary to a fellow prisoner who was staying behind. Pearcy had written the diary on the backs of tin-can labels and other scraps of paper, and he wanted to make sure it survived him.

He gave it to Lt. Robert F. Augur, a friend who had lost a leg in the fighting at Corregidor in 1942 and who kept a small journal of his own.

Pearcy, 29, was killed a few weeks later when the prison [Hell ship] ship Arisan Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine. Augur, 34, survived the war, made his way home, and brought his friend’s diary with him.

Now, almost 75 years later, the Library of Congress has acquired both men’s writings and posted them online, along with family correspondence.

Photographs of Army Lt. Robert F. Augur, of Portland, Ore., top and bottom left, and Army Lt. George Washington Pearcy of St. Louis, a set of four at right, at the Library of Congress. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

See Here for Pearcy's WWII diary, papers, that recall POW suffering, death and survival.

The acquisitions tell a grim story of World War II prison life, the anguish of families back home and the determination of two men to preserve for history what they experienced.

Pearcy described fellow POWs, thin as skeletons, eating frogs and snails, and clad in rags, or in nothing at all. He noted the diseases he had — including malaria, chronic diarrhea, and beriberi, the debilitating result of vitamin B1 deficiency.

His life was filled with flies, lice, mosquitoes and death, as he was shuttled among prisoner-of-war camps and prison ships. He made toothpaste out of charcoal and powdered salt. He wore shoes that had no soles. He bathed in the rain and shaved with a knife.

Yet he tried to avoid foul language, read the Bible and made plans for the future.

To pass the time, he kept lists — of people he met, foods he ate, expressions he heard and things he wanted to do when he got home.

“Buy record player and start collection,” he wrote. “Buy complete set of pocket books to read in idle moments and going to and from work . . . Talk to Pop about buying farm . . . Write officers of Bataan Corregidor campaign and ask them to write back experiences — humorous, pathetic, realistic, and must be true.”

When George Washington Pearcy was a POW at a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines, he wrote his diary on the backs of can labels and other discarded paper. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Japan attacked U.S. forces in the Philippines at the same time it attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Most American and Filipino soldiers held out until the bastion of Corregidor fell in spring 1942 and its defenders, including Pearcy and Augur, were captured.

In June 1942, Pearcy recorded that he was in Cabanatuan Prison Camp No. 1, north of Manila, and stayed there until Oct. 25.

The detailed pages of his diary begin in October.

“I have run an intermittent fever for the last four days,” he wrote on the 17th. “And it has been coupled with [diarrhea] . . . My legs both of them are stiffening up again — my feet are swelling in the insteps.”

The next day, a Sunday, he wrote: “It is peculiar to walk right by the church area while the service [is underway] and go either to the urinal or the latrine box and . . . stand or sit and relieve yourself while you listen to the sermon.”

“The principal thing around here is the constant battle for weight,” he wrote. “You get sick for a few days and drop 10-15-20 pounds . . . that you can little afford to lose. It takes a long time to gain weight and only a short time to lose it.”

Pearcy was a diligent letter writer before the war broke out, and the acquisitions include numerous letters to his parents from the Philippines. The son of a prominent St. Louis attorney, he had a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, according to the Library of Congress.

The library’s Veterans History Project received the Pearcy papers in December 2015 from relatives, the project’s senior reference specialist, Megan Harris, said. It was then the library’s only original POW diary from the Pacific theater, she said.

“By itself, it’s an extraordinary artifact,” she said recently.

When the project produced a blog post about the gift last February and mentioned Augur’s role, Augur’s family heard about it, recognized the connection, and offered his papers, too.

Harris immediately accepted, and the papers of both men were posted this fall.

Before his capture, Augur had been decorated for heroism in the fighting that cost him his left leg. In captivity, he jotted down in a small black book the names and home addresses of comrades, and in some cases their fates.

Next to Pearcy’s name, he penciled “J-abt 9/44,” denoting when Pearcy was shipped out for Japan.

Pearcy, for his part, used a pencil and wrote in tiny script on material that included labels of cans that had contained pork and beans, chili con carne or mackerel.

“I have just come back from the [camp] hospital,” he wrote at one point. “It is still a depressing place. The whole area is so contaminated that it smells. And the smell of death is everywhere.”

“There are human skeletons and people you know are going to die,” he wrote. “There are little shower houses. . . . These are the ‘death houses’ or ‘St. Mary’s wards’ where people are put to die.”

Later in October, he was transferred to Bilibid prison, outside Manila, and from there began a harrowing, 11-day journey by ship to the Davao Penal Colony in the southern Philippines.

“All Americans getting filthy,” he wrote during the trip. “B.O. terrific. Can’t wash . . . Perspire . . . Men run around bare footed. Make themselves more prone to infection. Legs puff up. General infections and sores on body get worse.”

Aboard the boat on Halloween 1942, he noted:

“An officer (Lt. Fitzgerald) died in our lower bay today from heat exhaustion and general exhaustion . . . the men sat around and watched him die . . . Japs drop a small platform . . . through hatch and lift body out. All American troops stood at attention and saluted.”

He drew a picture of the ship, the Erie Maru, on the back of a letter he had received from his mother. “We have had no word from you since the war started,” she had written. “We are anxious to have you back and that day cannot come soon enough.”

Upon arrival at the penal colony, Pearcy worried about the delivery of his meager belongings: “I am afraid that some light handed person will get my musette bag which has my diaries in it, which I have spent so much time on.”

Pearcy did not report the kind of Japanese brutality that appears in other POW accounts. He found some guards to be reasonable, although a few were “regular sadists, and seem to get pleasure out of making the men as miserable as possible.”

He guessed the same kind of men could be found in the American army.

He remained at Davao through 1942 and 1943, and into 1944, much of the time hospitalized with malaria, bronchitis and dysentery. He appears to have returned to Bilibid prison in 1944.

In March 1945, after Augur was freed, he sent the diary to Pearcy’s parents, Frances and Claude Pearcy, in St. Louis.

He and Pearcy had been buddies, Augur wrote them. Before Pearcy was to board the ship to Japan, “George left a few of his papers with me and asked that I try to get them out for him.”

Augur warned Pearcy’s parents that, reading the diaries, they would see that “George has had a pretty rough time of it.”

He “was in poor condition at the time and should never have made the trip,” Augur wrote. But the enemy forced him, and many others, to go.

Augur thought Pearcy could make it.

“I do hope and pray that you have either already had word from him . . . or will soon have a message telling of his safe arrival,” Augur wrote.

Neither Augur nor Pearcy’s parents knew it, but Pearcy had been dead for five months.

The American submarine crew did not know that the Japanese vessel being targeted had 1,775 POWs, including Pearcy, on board when they sank the ship Oct. 24, 1944, in the South China Sea. Only a handful of men survived.

The Pearcys would not learn their son’s fate for seven months.

They continued to write to him via the authorities and send photos, hoping something might get through. They sent a snapshot of their house and a photo of his father smoking a pipe.

On May 25, 1945, Frances Pearcy filled out an official postcard to her son:

“We have heard of you from Augur [and others]. All assure us you have what it takes. Keep your chin up. Much love. Mother.”

Four weeks later, the War Department wrote the Pearcys that George had been killed “by submarine action” in the sinking of the ship.

“It is with deep regret that I must notify you of this unhappy culmination of the long period of anxiety and suffering you have experienced,” the Army’s adjutant general wrote.

George Pearcy’s body was never found.

But in October 1945, two months after World War II ended in the Pacific and a year after their son had perished, the Pearcys received a delayed “Imperial Japanese Army” postcard from a Philippine prison camp.

“Love to both of you,” it said. “Birthday greetings to ‘Pop.’ ”

It was signed, “George W. Pearcy.”

Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Bataan

ADBC-MS and Filipino Scouts
WWII Memorial Washington, DC January 7, 2017

Japanese officials now less apologetic about WW II

Says an Editorial appearing January 4, 2017 in THE MANILA TIMES 

OFFICIALS of Japan have until last Thursday Dec. 29 taken every effort to show remorse for their forebears having started and pursued World War II.

Japan’s officials to show their remorse—and to signal to the world that their country, as the constitution commands, will never ever again go to war— avoid publicizing their visits to the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni.

More casually known as the Yasukuni Shrine it is a Shinto shrine in Chiyoda, Tokyo. It was founded by the Meiji Emperor to honor those who died in service of the Empire of Japan. This existed from the Meiji Restoration of 1869 until the Japanese Empire disappeared with its defeat in World War II and Japan’s occupation by Allied Forces. Subsequently, the shrine’s reason for existence has been expanded to commemorate also those who died in Japan’s service during wars during the Meiji, Taisho and part of the Showa period.

The shrine honors 2,466,532 people and animals—with their names, birthplaces and dates of birth and death recorded, including 1,068 war criminals (some of whom served in or commanded forces in the Philippines).

To millions of Japanese, the dead in Yasukuni are heroes. And to prevent disdain among peoples of countries that Japanese forces invaded, occupied and committed atrocities in, Japanese officials have tried to keep their visits to Yasukuni unpublicized.

This sensitivity was probably terminated last Thursday Dec. 29 by female Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

Japan Times’
Reiji Yoshida reported it, as follows, in the Times article with the head “Defense chief Inada disrupts Abe’s historic moment by visiting Yasukuni.” Here are excerpts from the article:

A day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated during his historic visit to Pearl Harbor that Japan would never again wage war, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada raised eyebrows by paying a visit to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday (Dec 29).

The move immediately drew protests from China and South Korea, former victims of Japan who regard the Shinto site as a symbol of Japan’s fervent militarism from the 1930s and 1940s. The shrine honors Class-A war criminals along with Japan’s war dead.

The visit is controversial because Inada, once a frequent visitor to Yasukuni, is widely regarded as a historical revisionist and an ardent defender of the wars Japan has waged. It was her first visit to the politically sensitive shrine since she became defense minister on Aug. 3.

In an apparent effort to avoid controversy, Inada skipped her regular visit on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, and flew to Djibouti instead to inspect the Self-Defense Forces contingent stationed there.

Facing reporters at Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, Inada said her visit was intended to pay tribute to “those who dedicated their lives to their country” in war.

“This year the president of the country which dropped an atomic bomb visited Hiroshima, and yesterday Prime Minister Abe visited Pearl Harbor and offered words to pay condolences” to the war dead, Inada said, referring to Obama’s May visit to Hiroshima.

“I paid a visit (to Yasukuni) with my determination to build up peace for Japan and the world with a future-oriented perspective,” Inada said in a video clip aired on NHK.

“Whatever historical view one may have, whether they are an enemy or ally, I believe people in any country would understand the act of paying tribute and expressing appreciation for those who dedicated their lives to their country,” she added.

According to Kyodo News, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry immediately released a statement criticizing Inada and calling her visit “deplorable.” Chinese media outlets were also critical.

Yasukuni honors the souls of 2.46 million people, mainly Japanese soldiers. Among them are 12 convicted Class-A war criminals from World War II, including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, and another two suspects who died in detention.

Many supporters of the shrine are right-leaning nationalists who defend Japan’s offensives against China and the West. Inada is considered among them, although she has pledged in public to uphold the government’s official apology statements on World War II as defense chief.

In December 2013, Abe made a visit to Yasukuni Shrine that drew protests from China, South Korea and even the United States. He has since refrained from visiting in public.

Abe, Inada and other lawmakers who have visited the shrine have all emphasized that they did so to commemorate those who were killed, not to justify the acts of war criminals.

Still, visits by Cabinet ministers have created controversies throughout the postwar era.

Before becoming defense chief, Inada was policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and often visited the shrine.

(These excerpts are copyrighted by the Japan Times (Tokyo) and distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Unearthing Rare Second World War Musical

The New Yorker reported in its January 9th issue, that director Tom Ridgely, of the theatre troupe Waterwell, will mount “Blueprint Specials” Jan. 6-11, on the hangar deck of the Intrepid.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum | Pier 86, Twelfth Ave. at 46th St. | 212-245-0072

A few years before writing “Guys and Dolls,” which premièred in 1950, Frank Loesser put his sizable talents to work for Uncle Sam, when the U.S. Army hired him to collaborate on a series of musicals to be performed by and for the troops. Commissioned by the Special Services Division to boost morale, these “Blueprint Specials” came with a script, a score, and instructions for easy assemblage. (“The gags and situations are of the type to hit the GI funnybone. . . . The scenery can be knocked together in a jiffy from scrap materials found in even the loneliest outpost.”) Loesser, who had been writing lyrics for Hollywood before the war, cut his teeth crafting songs for camp shows like “About Face” and “Hi, Yank!”; a 1951 Billboard profile proclaimed that “the army made a composer—a one-man songwriter—out of Frank Loesser.”

Many of the scripts were lost to time, but the director Tom Ridgely, of the theatre troupe Waterwell, has unearthed four of them—all composed principally by Loesser between 1944 and 1945—and will mount them Jan. 6-11, on the hangar deck of the Intrepid. Ridgely spent months hunting down the scripts from various libraries and combining them into a full-length compilation. Much of the story will come from “P.F.C. Mary Brown,” written in 1944 for the newly formed Women’s Army Corps, in which the goddess Athena descends from Mt. Olympus to enlist as a private. The Broadway actors Laura Osnes and Will Swenson will lead a cast of thirty-four, consisting of both civilians and military performers, whom Ridgely found through veterans’ groups by way of Army Entertainment, the modern-day equivalent of Special Services. They’ll be joined by a fourteen-piece jazz orchestra and eleven dancers from the Limón Dance Company, who have reconstructed original Blueprint ballets by the choreographer José Limón.

This will be the first staging of these musicals since 1945—and the first ever for the American public.

Words cannot see - Abe's Pearl Harbor

Kazuhiko Kuwata 
Views Of War Museum Directors Split Over Abe's Pearl Harbor Visit

Tokyo, Dec. 29 (Jiji Press)--The directors of three museums focusing on war history in Japan expressed different views on Wednesday about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday.

Kazushige Todaka, the 68-year-old director of the Kure Maritime Museum, better known as Yamato Museum, in the western prefecture of Hiroshima, described Abe's visit as "very good." "It was meaningful that the leaders of Japan and the United States together mourned for the victims" of the 1941 Japanese attack on the Hawaiian harbor, Todaka said.

He supported the absence of an apology for the attack in Abe's speech delivered in Pearl Harbor, saying that "people can't blame one side or the other for a war that requires reflection, not apology." Abe's Pearl Harbor visit was "remarkable in terms of history," Todaka said.

Katsumoto Saotome, the 84-year-old director of the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage, in Japan's capital, expressed concerns over the emphasis on the Japan-U.S. alliance in Abe's speech, terming it "a military alliance." The words "tolerance" and "reconciliation," both used in Abe's speech, sounded "hollow," Saotome said, referring to the Japanese government's resumption on Tuesday of work to build a new military facility in Okinawa Prefecture to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station there.

"I think apologies to people in China and the Korean Peninsula, which Japan invaded and colonized, should be made first," added Saotome, who also works as a novelist.

"I felt (Abe's visit) was like a ceremony, themed 'reconciliation without apology,' jointly organized by Japan and the United States," said Seiichiro Kuboshima, the 75-year-old director of a gallery that collects artworks by students who died in war, in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, central Japan[Mugonkan or Silent Museum]

"The fundamental contradiction of avoiding an apology led to words with no power," Kuboshima said, referring to Abe's Pearl Harbor speech.

"Japan could join a war for the United States," he warned. Abe "lacked a humble attitude" after Japan made the mistake of supporting World War II in the past, he added.