Saturday, December 29, 2018

Chinese-American WWII Veterans

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On Thursday, December 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law:

S. 1050, the “Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which provides for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the Chinese-American Veterans of World War II, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II; and

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S. 2101, the “USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which provides for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the crew of the USS Indianapolis, in recognition of their perseverance, bravery, and service to the United States.

The White House identified the signing on its website as a simple "Bill Announcement" and there appears to have been little or no White House ceremony. Neither bill was mentioned on the White House Facebook or Twitter. Both Gold Medals generated very little press.

The Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act orders the creation of the medal to recognize the 20,000 Chinese Americans who volunteered or were drafted in WWII when the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in place.

The bill to award the medal was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2017, the result of a campaign by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (C.A.C.A.) called the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project. It passed unanimously in the Senate this past September and in the House on Dec. 12.

There were a number of Chinese or Chinese Americans who became POWs of Japan. Most were aboard US Naval ships as stewards and cooks. There were possibly as many as 37 Chinese aboard the USS Houston (CA-30) when it was sunk in the Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942. The survivors were sent to be slave laborers on the Thai-Burma Death Railway. Pvt. Eddie Fung who was surrendered on Java with the Texas National Guard was also there.

The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932. It operated from Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific while participating in major battles during World War II, escorting convoys and attacking enemy submarines. The ship, unescorted, was returning from Tinian to the Philippines after its top secret mission delivering the uranium core for the atomic bomb.

After midnight on July 30, 1945, a Japanese submarine attacked the USS Indianapolis, sinking the ship within minutes. Approximately 1,200 U.S. servicemembers were on board. After five days afloat in the shark filled Pacific Ocean, just over 300 sailors survived. It was the worst sea disaster in U.S. Navy history. This recognition honors all the men who served, including the fewer than 20 living survivors, as well as those who died on board the Indianapolis.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Remembering the Hopevale Martyrs

On December 19, 1943, 75 years ago, Imperial Japanese soldiers stumbled upon 17 Americans hiding in the forest near Tapaz, Capiz on Panay. Eleven were Baptist missionaries, three were children. They had built an outdoor chapel in their hidden encampment. The next morning, after prayers, the adults were beheaded and the children bayoneted to death. 

In his 1977 memoir, The Blood and Mud of the Philippines: The Worst Anti-Guerrilla Warfare in the Pacific, Mr. Toshimi Kumai, former Adjutant and Captain of the Panay Garrison described the incident, which had shocked him. The Edge of Terror: The Heroic Story of American Families Trapped in the Japanese-occupied Philippines by Scott Walker (2009) is a contemporary account of the tragedy. 

Memorial Plaque at University of the Central Philippines
Iloilo-city, Panay

Replica in Wisconsin of Hopevale Chapel 
where the Japanese captured 
the Americans

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Palawan Massacre Anniversary

At noon on December 14, 1944, 150 American POWs building an airstrip on Palawan Island in the Philippines were sent to their recently constructed air raid trenches. Quickly, the Japanese troops doused them with buckets of airplane fuel and set them afire with flaming torches, followed by hand grenades and machine gun fire. Miraculously, 11 men escaped to the sea and were rescued by Filipino guerrillas.

Never Forget

Don Schloat (d. 2010), a San Diego artist and veteran who was a prisoner at the camp before the mass murder there, was the driving force behind a 2009 memorial at the site of the killings. With the help of the municipal government of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital, a permanent monument now graces a city park to honor the men who were slain (above).

Survivor's Story
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The massacre had haunted Schloat for decades. He completed a series of 77 paintings that depict the slaughter in abstract, impressionistic and realistic forms. Disappointed that the US government never erected a memorial, he took it upon himself to design and place a monument in Puerto Princesa City in 2009.

The site of the massacre actually has had a small monument that displays the names of the handful of survivors — Schloat’s name is mistakenly included — but there had been no official memorial to those who were killed.

The new one is a simple obelisk with bronze faceplates that tells the story of what happened and bears the names of the men who died there. A bronze statue created by Schloat sits atop the memorial. It depicts a tortured male figure writhing in pain as flames rise from his feet.

Schloat had been an Army medic at Bataan before being imprisoned at Palawan early in the war. Nearly two years before the massacre, Schloat tried to escape but was quickly captured and sent to Bilibid, a POW camp in Manila.

He spent the rest of the war there, racked with dysentery, beriberi, pellagra and scurvy. He learned of the massacre after he was liberated Feb. 4, 1945.

For an accurate accounting of all the POWs who were killed and survived see HERE.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Japan still struggles to escape its wartime past - of Slave Labor

South Korean court revives disputes that should have been settled long ago

By William Pesek, Nikkei Asian Review, November 1, 2018

Memories may fade, but history does not die away so easily, especially when competing versions of the past are at stake.

So, it is hardly a surprise that Japan's controversial Second World War record has once more been thrust into the limelight.

In the latest development, on Oct. 30, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, two Japanese manufacturing companies active in the war, to pay $88,000 each to four Koreans as compensation for unpaid work between 1941 and 1943.

Far from trying to defuse the situation, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately rejected the ruling, called it "impossible under international law."

When a quiet response might have reaped results -- and won time for reflection -- Abe pledged to hang tough, saying Tokyo "will handle this situation with firmness."

Japan argues that a 1965 Tokyo-Seoul treaty covers all manner of past sins. It normalized bilateral relations tainted by 35 years of colonial rule in Korea from 1910 to 1945. From Tokyo's standpoint, all issues concerning wartime labor were resolved 53 years ago and it is time Asia moved on.

Fair or not, that narrative is not traveling or aging well. If a court ruling involving four people (three of whom are dead) makes Abe and other Japanese nationalists squirm, imagine what lies in store if more Korean claimants pile in. Or if Chinese victims of Japanese rule again make their voices heard with Beijing egging them on.

Nor, unfortunately for Tokyo, is concern about Japan's wartime past limited to Northeast Asia. In the U.S., for example, Korean-Americans, are becoming quite skilled at hitting a particularly sensitive target: wartime "comfort women." Last month, Osaka ended its sister city relationship with San Francisco over a monument to wartime sex slaves -- a description not accepted by Japan.

With Tokyo still unable to reconcile its historical narrative with those of countries that it once occupied, the arguments will continue to cast an awkward shadow over present-day Japan, and Abe's efforts to reassert Japan's international influence.

Abe may technically be correct to argue that the 1965 treaty was final, but the law often does not have the last word in these painful historical disputes. Public pressure forced German companies to pay compensation to wartime forced laborers in the 1990s, long after the German government signed similar government-to-government agreements.

Moreover, Japan will be under particular international scrutiny over the next two years as it stages two global events important for its soft power -- the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics.

If Abe's team handles the Seoul court setback badly, it could create a fresh opening for international debate over World War II questions Tokyo would prefer see closed.

Bashing the neighbors for domestic gain is a tried-and-true North Asian strategy. It could reemerge given how both South Korean president Moon and Chinese leader Xi Jinping find themselves in precarious situations at home.

Moon faces a slowing economy and growing anger over his preoccupation with North Korean detente. While an important endeavor, Moon was elected in May 2017 to rein in the excesses of family-owned conglomerates and pivot to a "trickle-up" economic model. Moon's neglect of major reforms is depressing support for his administration. What better way than rally enthusiasm than bashing Japan?

Moon's left-leaning government earlier upended the 2015 comfort women deal Abe forged with his predecessor Park Geun-hye. Moon claimed a vast majority of Koreans "cannot emotionally accept" a deal many felt lacked sincerity -- or teeth, given the paltry 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) provided for a victims' fund.

We will see how Moon's party plays the issue going forward. One potential flashpoint: next year's 100th anniversary of the so-called March First Movement. Moon has set up a task force to plan the commemoration of a historic uprising against Japan's annexation.

But it is high time Japan raised its diplomatic game. For starters, Tokyo should accept the Korean Supreme Court ruling rather than lashing out as if an international body can intervene and overturn the judgment. Japan needs to realize, as Germany has long done, that below the legal element, these controversies have huge emotional and political depths.

My point here is not to compare Imperial Japan's leaders with Adolf Hitler's Nazis. But the historic tensions are getting in the way of the future. Something has been terribly lost in translation. Japan's government feels it clearly and adequately atoned for the 1930s and 1940s. Yet the outside world has never quite warmed to that position.

The problem, says Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan, is Tokyo's "been there, done that" approach.

Abe hardly seems ideal for finding new ways to reconciliation. His obsession with a "beautiful Japan" has long been freighted with nationalism -- from more patriotic school curricula to revising the pacifist postwar constitution so Tokyo can field a conventional military.

But this hawkish leader rightly seeks to open Japan. He has signed free-trade deals, eased curbs on immigration, highlighted the need for more women in the workforce and, yes, worked to mend fences with neighbors. The urgency for such steps is increasing with President Donald Trump's trade war.

To "escape the shackles of the past," Kingston says, Tokyo "needs to be humble about history. The future depends on managing the shared past."

For Japan, this must start at home. Tokyo's principal museum recording the Second World War is located at the Yasukuni Shrine where millions of dead soldiers are enshrined, including convicted war criminals headed by Gen. Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister. The museum's view is nationalist, to put it mildly, with only limited references to Japanese atrocities. It is time to prepare a more balanced public record.

One unavoidable discussion: reparations, which Tokyo has long dreaded. It has preferred to keep its head down, lavish overseas development assistance around Asia and hope things blow over.

The Seoul ruling is a reminder that they are not going away. Some 70 Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, face unpalatable judgments in 15 similar cases.

As the strongest Japanese leader in decades, Abe has the power to act boldly. No one really expects him to follow Willy Brandt and fall to his knees in remorse as did the German statesman in Warsaw in 1970.

But moving beyond Japan's wartime legacy requires serious action. Otherwise, Abe will struggle to burnish his stature as a world leader -- and Tokyo will be hit by new damaging court rulings.

William Pesek is an award-winning Tokyo-based journalist and author of "Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan's Lost Decades." He was given the 2018 prize for excellence in opinion writing by the Society of Publishers in Asia, for his work for the Nikkei Asian Review.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Rampage Review: MacArthur’s Bloody Promise

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Imperial Japan's Brutal Destruction of Manila in 1945

Book Review By Jonathan W. Jordan
Wall Street Journal, October 25, 201

Battles in World War II’s Pacific Theater tended to be more savage than those in Western Europe. The struggle for Manila was the cruelest of them all.

Before Pearl Harbor, the Philippines capital was an old Spanish city with an American-style makeover. Acquired by the United States as a spoil of war in 1898, Manila featured clean neoclassical buildings, designed by U.S. architects, flanked by frescoed missions and old colonial forts. The city’s broad streets boasted top-brand department stores and golf, polo and social clubs. Fords and Buicks jockeyed for space with horse-drawn kalesas on Dewey Boulevard and Taft Avenue. Suffused with cash and culture, the Asian face of the American empire lived up to its billing as the “Pearl of the Orient.”

Then came the invasion. A month after Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops swarmed down Manila’s boulevards, bayonets fixed. Gen. Douglas MacArthur quickly abandoned the city, then the archipelago, vowing to return. For three grim years, Manila’s citizens endured starvation, disease, humiliation, rape and repression as they waited for MacArthur to fulfill his promise.

At last, on Jan. 9, 1945, MacArthur, commanding a fleet of 818 ships and 280,000 men, landed at Lingayen Gulf to begin the conquest of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands. Awaiting his men were 260,000 Japanese defenders under Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, some 10,000 American and Filipino prisoners, and a million inhabitants of Manila who had survived the Japanese occupation.

The fate of the Manileños, and the soldiers who turned their city into a deathtrap, is the subject of James M. Scott’s illuminating “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila.”

Unlike typical Pacific War histories, Mr. Scott’s account drives the tragedy through two outsize personalities, Yamashita and MacArthur. Though quick to pounce on MacArthur’s flawed tactics and deafness to a still-raging battle, Mr. Scott spends little time dwelling on Mac’s towering ego or his squabbles with Roosevelt and the Navy, all of which have been fodder for longer works by William Manchester, Arthur Herman and Walter Borneman*.

Far more interesting is MacArthur’s opponent. From the recollections of aides, postwar briefings and letters to his wife, the Japanese commander emerges as a luckless stoic dispatched on a suicide mission to delay, not triumph. As Mr. Scott writes, Yamashita’s orders to Manila’s defenders reflected his own struggle to balance death and duty: “ ‘It is easy to die with honor but it is much more difficult to hold up the enemy advance when you are short of ammunition and food,’ Yamashita told his men. ‘Those of you in the front line will be doing your duty if you hold them up for a day—or even half a day.’ ”

Those days totaled 29, and during that month the city was shredded in a crossfire of shot and shrapnel. In large part, the carnage was the diabolical work of the book’s villain: Rear Adm. Sanji Iwabuchi, who commanded 17,000 marines and soldiers in charge of destroying Manila’s harbor and bridges before evacuating. Yamashita ordered Iwabuchi to wreck the harbor and retreat to the Luzon uplands, but Iwabuchi intended to stay and fight, turning the Pearl of the Orient into a funeral pyre for himself, his men and as many Americans as his ammunition allowed. If Filipino innocents were caught in the fire, it was their fate to die, too.

Mr. Scott finely balances large battles, such as the U.S. 11th Airborne Division’s attack against the Genko Line—a defensive band south of Manila—with small-unit firefights, where grenades flew from behind walls and machine-gun chatter broke the darkness. “No one dared sleep in such close quarters with the enemy, who had placed machine guns inside boilers and hoisted them up in the rafters,” he writes of a two-day battle for a power plant. “The Americans resorted to using grenades and even bazookas inside the building.”

The battle’s sound and fury is but a small part of Manila’s heartbreaking story. Because the Japanese soldiers knew they would die in Manila, moral constraints fell from them like broken fetters. Heavily armed, often drunk and holding the power of life and death over thousands of unarmed civilians, troops that were holed up in the city’s center had one month to indulge in any form of sadism they wished.

The doomed men spent their last days painting Manila in blood. At St. Paul’s College, they herded families into a dining hall lined with explosives; they detonated the bombs, then dispatched survivors with bayonets and grenades. The jail at Fort Santiago, which the Japanese had used as a torture center, became an incinerator for hundreds of political prisoners and common criminals. “Troops marched into the cellblocks armed with drums of gasoline, tipping them over and letting the fuel flood the floors. Another marine tossed a torch,” Mr. Scott writes. “The Japanese machine-gunned those few who managed to escape.”

At a nearby Catholic chapel, Japanese troops massacred missionaries and refugees, gutting and raping their victims. “Japanese marines had killed or mortally wounded forty-one men, women, and children, turning this once holy place into a hellhole,” Mr. Scott puts it. “Blood not only stained the green-and-white tiled floors of the chapel but splattered the walls.”

Page after page, tales of systematic and impromptu massacre parallel the battle’s liberation narrative. A common element of both stories is the triumph of death, in varied and degrading forms.

Mr. Scott leans heavily on first-person accounts to tell his story. Unlike most other battles, Manila was treated as a crime scene by the U.S. Army after the shooting stopped. The Inspector General’s branch scoured churches, colleges and hospitals for testimony from teachers, priests, mothers, children and soldiers as they built cases for war-crimes trials. Thousands of pages of testimony, according to Mr. Scott, “offer a chilling and personal view of the horror that unfolded during those few weeks.”

The book’s descriptions of this horror are jarring, as if the Battle of the Bulge abruptly lurched into “Schindler’s List.” Yet not all the vignettes are tragic. Mr. Scott describes the joy of Filipinos who pressed scarce eggs and papayas into the hands of their liberators; a UPI correspondent reunited with a wife he hadn’t seen since her capture in 1941; and children singing “God Bless America” on Rizal Avenue to a group of cavalrymen.

MacArthur had vowed to hold Yamashita personally responsible for the actions of his men, and the story’s denouement is a four-chapter narrative of Yamashita’s capture and war-crimes trial, a legal battle that led to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Scott sympathetically follows the general’s journey from surrender to the gallows, recounting a serene poem he wrote shortly before his execution and setting the table for why his conviction remains controversial to this day.

Mr. Scott does one of the finest jobs in recent memory of cutting out the middleman and letting the participants—hundreds of them—tell their harrowing bits of a kaleidoscopic wartime tragedy. The result is an eloquent testament to a doomed city and its people. “Rampage” is a moving, passionate monument to one of humanity’s darkest moments.

—Mr. Jordan is the author of “American Warlords: How Roosevelt’s High Command Led America to Victory in World War II.

*Few scholars recommend MacArthur biographies by Manchester, Herman, Boerneman, or Perret. Manchester writes beautifully but his anger colors his work and there are some real errors of fact. The last three are much less well-written conservative screeds that ignore facts to prove their great white man theories. Recommended are D. Clayton James, The Years of MacArthur (3 vols); William Leary, MacArthur and the American Century and his We Shall Return; and Michael Schaller, Douglas MacArthur.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Intergenerational Trauma of POWs

Andersonville, GA
What Civil War soldiers can teach us about how trauma is passed from generation to generation

Study shows that severe paternal hardship as a prisoner of war (POW) led to high mortality among sons, but not daughters, born after the war.

Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2018

An experience of life-threatening horrors surely scars the person who survives it. It also may have a corrosive effect on the longevity and health of that person’s children and, in some cases, on the well-being of generations beyond.

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About the Author
The latest evidence of trauma’s long shadow comes from the families of American Civil War veterans. Focused on the children of Union soldiers who were held in Confederate prisoner of war camps, it offers tantalizing clues about the means by which a legacy of misery is transmitted from parent to child — as well as a way to disrupt that inheritance.

After tracing the births and deaths of nearly 10,000 offspring of Union combatants, researchers found that the sons of men who served time as POWs lived shorter lives than the sons of men who were not held captive. They also lived much shorter lives than their brothers who were born before the war began, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

REPORT: Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs

UCLA economic historian Dora L. Costa inherited stewardship of a trove of Civil War service documents in 2013 after the death of her mentor, Nobel laureate Robert William Fogel. She had always assumed the records would tell a story of how education, class and economic differences influenced the adjustment of former soldiers and their families back to civilian life.

“I was wrong,” Costa said.

Instead, she found evidence to suggest that no matter how poor or prosperous his background, a father’s extreme hardship and privation alter the function of his genes in ways that can be passed on to his children.

In the annals of organized human suffering, the POW camps of the latter half of the Civil War rank way up there. For the first two years of the conflict, the North and the South held informal POW swaps. After the swaps ceased in 1863, desperation among Confederate commanders and indignation among leaders of the Union prompted both sides to deprive their prisoners of food, medicine, sanitation and shelter. As a result, hunger, overcrowding, cold and pestilence killed close to 16% of POWs from the North and 12% of POWs from the South.

The conditions at one of the most notorious Confederate prison camps — Andersonville in southwest Georgia — were particularly well-documented. Built for 10,000 people, Andersonville held more than 45,000 Union soldiers during the 14 months it operated, and 29% of them died of starvation and disease before they could be released. The camp’s commandant, Capt. Henry Wirz, was tried and hanged after the Confederate surrender in April 1865.

The fates of the survivors who staggered north to resume their lives as husbands and fathers were also well-documented. And like many large groups of trauma victims studied by researchers, these veterans and their children told a powerful story.

Drawing on thousands of handwritten military and pension records preserved in the National Archives, as well as on U.S. Census data from the era, Costa’s team pieced together the fates of the children of Union soldiers who survived the war and lived at least until 1890.

The researchers identified offspring of 1,999 Union soldiers who were held as POWs — more than half of them at Andersonville — before returning home. They also found the children of 7,810 Union soldiers who survived the war without being captured by the South.

On average, Northern veterans who spent time in Confederate POW camps had 3.3 children, while those who avoided the camps had 3.1 children.

The differences between the two groups were stark — at least for the sons.

After reaching the age of 45 — old enough to see the effects of any inherited factors that might influence longevity — the sons of POWs were roughly 11% more likely to die at any given age than were the sons of men who had not been held prisoner.

In an even more telling comparison, the researchers turned up 342 POWs who had at least one son conceived before the war began and at least one more born after the war ended. The researchers found that, at any age after 45, the younger brothers were more than twice as likely to die than their older brothers had been when they were the same age. (With only 1,067 sons in this part of the analysis, the researchers said this finding should be interpreted with caution.)

The shorter lifespans of the POWs’ sons didn’t become evident until they had reached what, in that period, would have been late middle age. Though death records were not uniformly detailed, these premature deaths were largely attributable to cerebral hemorrhages and cancer, the researchers reported.

The longevity gap remained after Costa and her colleagues accounted for a welter of socioeconomic factors that might drive differences in lifespan, such as family real-estate holdings and occupational class.

None of these patterns were evident among the daughters of the Union soldiers. That led the study authors to dismiss the idea that the psychological legacy of the POW camps could account for the differences. If a father’s trauma resulted in family violence, paternal absence or emotional distance, the effects would likely be seen in daughters as well as sons, they reasoned. And they weren’t.

The fact that sons, but not daughters, appeared to have inherited some life-shortening bit of their father’s misery does suggest that a genetic actor may be at work — one that is passed along with the Y chromosome, Costa said.

Epigenetics also might be at work here, she added. That’s the chemical signaling process by which genes turn on and off in different tissues at different times, often in response to environmental factors like food supply. While epigenetic marks don’t alter a person’s genetic code, they can profoundly alter how that code is expressed. And they appear to powerfully influence the expression of genes that are passed on to a growing embryo.

Consider the evidence from a series of studies tracking several generations in the isolated Swedish community of Overkalix, Costa said. That research has linked parents’ food availability to the midlife health of their children and grandchildren. Those studies’ complex findings have shown that dietary abundance or scarcity at specific points in time exert sharply different influences on men and women and their progeny. They’ve also furnished evidence that dietary stress may transmit certain vulnerabilities to future generations through paternal DNA.

Other studies of traumatized groups have found evidence that the experience turns genes on and off in ways that are carried down to the next generation and beyond.

In the nine months before the Allies defeated the Nazis in May 1945, Germany blocked all food supplies to the Dutch and caused a famine that killed 20,000 people in the Netherlands. Decades later, researchers would find that, in middle age, the children of Dutch women who were pregnant during that period — daughters especially — went on to suffer higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and schizophrenia. They also died earlier than their compatriots who were born before or after the famine. Six decades after their birth, the Dutch famine offspring still bore distinctive epigenetic signs of stress linked to poorer health.

Another study of Finnish children evacuated abruptly from their homes in the midst of World War II found that the daughters of evacuees were more than twice as likely to have been hospitalized for a mood disorder than were their female cousins whose mothers had not been evacuated. (There was no such relationship for sons.)

SEE ALSO: Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children's genes: New finding is clear example in humans of the theory of epigenetic inheritance: the idea that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children, The Guardian, August 15, 2015.

The new research on Civil War soldiers builds on this work by offering an intriguing bit of hope: evidence not only for the corrosive power of paternal stress, but also for the possible role of maternal nutrition in countering it.

The life-shortening effect of a father’s POW status was magnified for the sons who were born in April, May and June, when food supplies tended to be leanest. But that effect virtually disappeared among sons born during September, October and November, when harvests are in and food is typically more plentiful.

This disparity jibes with studies in animals that have shown the power of dietary supplementation before and during pregnancy to counter worrisome epigenetic effects, Costa said.

In an era when food is mostly plentiful, the lessons from an earlier America may not seem relevant, Costa acknowledged. But supporting the nutrition of childbearing women in communities under stress seems like a no-brainer, said Costa.

“Maternal nutrition seems like a safe and do-no-harm policy, and it is likely to have positive effects,” she said.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Books of the Thai-Burma Death Railway

Building the Death Railway: The Ordeal of American Pows in Burma, 1942-1945 by Robert S. LaForte (Author), Ronald E. Marcello (Editor) (1993)

River Kwai Railway: The Story of the Burma-Siam Railroad by C. Kinvig (2005)

These two books are considered the most rigorous in presenting how the railway was built and the workers and slaves were treated.

The famous illustrator Ronald Searle who drew cartoons for the New Yorker was a British POW of Japan on the Death Railway. Another British POW Jack Chalker was an accomplished artist who also recorded his experience through drawings.

To the Kwai—and Back: War Drawings 1939-1945 by Ronald Searle  (2007)

The two most famous books, one fiction and one non-fiction, about POWs surviving the Thai-Burma Death Railway are:

Railway Man A POWs Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness by Eric Lomax (2008)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Won the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

75th Anniversary of the opening of the Thai-Burma Death Railway

Death Railway Engine at Yasukuni
Manufactured by Nippon Sharyo
Seventy-five years ago today, 17 October 1943, the Thai-Burma Death Railway opened. The ceremony was timed to coincide with the first day of the Autumn Festival [Shuki Reitaisai  秋季例大祭at the Emperor-focused, war-memorializing Yasukuni Shrine. The train engine, C5631, that ran that first day is now displayed at the entrance of the Yasukuni Shrine's entrance.

What distinguishes the Spring and Autumn Yasukuni rites above all is the presence of an emissary (chokushi) from the Imperial Court. The emissary brings the Emperor's offerings of silk in five colours to add to those which the shrine priests place before the kami at the start of the rites. Whereas the Emperor has not visited Yasukuni since 1978, an Emperor’s representative has attended the principle ceremonies that merge the Emperor with the state.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe celebrated today's Yasukuni fall festival by sending his usual ritual offering. A number of members of his Cabinet also sent offerings to Shrine and some members of his Party visited. No mention was made of the Railway anniversary.

What gave the Death Railroad its gruesome notoriety was not its uniqueness as an engineering achievement, remarkable feat though it was, but the ruthless determination of its architects to have it completed on time, however daunting the task in the inhospitable climate and topography of the region, and regardless of the cost in human life.

In many respects, it was this callous pursuit that was celebrated on this day in 1943. A group of high-ranking Imperial Japanese Army officers and engineers gathered in the tropical heat in Thailand, some 11 miles south of the Three Pagodas Pass, to ceremoniously mark the completion of the Burma-Thailand Railroad construction project. Since June 1942, the Japanese had forced some 200,000 Asian and 61,000 Allied POW laborers to construct two sections of railroad tracks—one originating in Nong Pladuk, Thailand; the other originating in Thanbyuzayat, Burma.

Some 80,000 Asians and approximately 13,000 Allied POWS had died of starvation, beatings, and various tropical diseases from lack of medical care while building hundreds of trestles, placing thousands of railroad ties, and laying over 258-miles of tracks. But now, as the two sections of railroad tracks were about to be joined together at Konkuita, the Japanese had decided that “the final act of labor” in the railway construction project—the installation of the last spike into a wooden sleeper—would be a special celebratory moment, carried out and shared by the senior Japanese officers and engineers, themselves.

By this time, 668 (of the 902 total) American POWs who had been captured on Java—survivors of USS Houston (CA-30) and soldiers of the 131st Field Artillery/2nd Battalion (known as the “Texas Lost Battalion”)—had joined the Allied POW labor force working on the railroad Most of the 220 USS Houston (CA-30) survivors and the 448 Lost Battalion soldiers had worked on the Burma side of the line. On this particular day, none of these Americans was at Konkuita to witness the senior Japanese officials as they pounded in a “final spike” into a railroad tie, and congratulated each other on the railroad’s completion.

Officially, the railway project was finished. But, for the Allied POWS who’d survived its construction, their ordeal was hardly over. Nearly two more brutal years were to pass before Japan would surrender and Allied prisoners of war would be liberated. 

And during those two years, the railroad—built to carry some 3,000 tons of Japanese supplies per day, which included Comfort Women—would become the constant target of allied bombing attacks, and thus, would require constant repair. The rail line would never stay completely “finished,” per se. In the end the so-called “completed” Burma-Thailand Railroad would never achieve the Imperial Japanese Army’s objectives; most of the tracks would be dismantled after the war; and the Japanese-controlled rail line, which once linked Nong Pladuck and Thanbyuzayat and cost approximately 100,000 lives—including the lives of 77 USS Houston (CA-30) survivors and 89 soldiers of the 131st Field Artillery/2nd Battalion—would become known forever as “the death railroad.”

It should be noted that Nippon Sharyo, the company that manufactured Engine C5631, still exists and is active in the U.S. The company was able to maintain production during the war due to POW slave labor: Nagoya POW Camp #2-B, Narumi

The founder of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, Sam Moody (Reprieve from Hell), was a POW who was tortured at the Narumi factory. The company is now owned by JR Central. This company, created by a close friend and adviser of Prime Minister Abe, Yoshiyuki Kasai, heads the main consortium bidding on high-speed rail projects

If you want to know more about the Lost Battalion and the USS Houston (CA-30) see:

Sunday, October 07, 2018

POW Descendants undertake trip of reconciliation and healing

Hellship Hokusen Maru
On October 7, 2018, seven descendants of American POWs of Japan who were surrendered on the Philippines in April and May 1942, left for a week in Japan as guests of the Japanese government. Below is the ADBC-MS press release and a link to full biographies of the POWs represented. We wish them well.

Seven children and descendants of POWs are visiting Japan this week as guests of the Japanese government. They are the 10th delegation of the U.S.-Japan POW Friendship Program to promote reconciliation and remembrance between the two countries. This program began in 2010.

The families represent five American POWs of Japan who were members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Artillery Corps, and U.S. Army Air Corps. Japan attacked the Philippines and other American Pacific territories hours after their surprise air raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. All the men fought to defend the Philippines against invading Japanese forces and all endured years of brutal captivity. Four survived the Bataan Death March, four were slave laborers for Japanese companies, and one perished in the bombing of the “hellship” Enoura Maru in Takao Harbor, Formosa.

The delegation is composed of:

LINDA, 70, and DAVE ANDERSON, 70, of El Paso, Texas are the daughter and son-in-law of the late Clarence Delbert Neighbors, a Private with the U.S. Army Air Corps, 20th Air Base Group, 28th Materiel Squadron at Nichols Field. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details on the Philippines, a hellship to Manchuria, slave labor for Mitsubishi at Mukden, and slave labor for Mitsui at their lead mine in Kamioka.

CAROLYN BUNCH DIAZ, 82, of Santa Ana, California and CATHY MATZEK, 55, are the daughter and granddaughter of the late Wilbur J. Bunch, who was a Master Sergeant with the U.S. Army, 54th Signal Maintenance Company (Aviation) stationed at Ft. Stotsenburg. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details at the Cabanatuan POW Camp, and the sinking of the hellship Oryoku Maru. He died January 9, 1945 from the bombing of the hellship Enoura Maru in Takao Harbor, Formosa.

ANNA KEEVER LYON, 69, of Greensboro North Carolina is the daughter of the late Joe W. Keever, a Staff Sergeant with 60th Coast Artillery Corps of the U.S. Army stationed on Corregidor. He survived imprisonment on Corregidor and at Cabanatuan as well as a hellship to Manchuria to be a slave laborer for Mitsubishi at Mukden.

DAVID A. TOPPING, JR, 65, of Chestertown, Maryland, is the son of the late David A. Topping, a Private with the 27th Bomb Group (Light), 91st Bomb Squadron. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details on the Philippines, hellships to Japan, and slave labor for Kawasaki Steel in Maibara.

JAMES WRIGHT, 82, of Madison, Alabama is the son of the late William R. Wright, a Tech Sergeant with the 24th Pursuit Group, 17th Pursuit Squadron. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details on the Philippines, a hellship to Japan and slave labor for Meiji Mining in Keisen.

Full profiles of the POWs can be found HERE

They will visit the sites of their loved ones’ imprisonment and rescue as well as a number of Japanese cultural properties.

This is the 10th trip of this much appreciated Japanese government-funded program of remembrance and reconciliation. Jan Thompson, president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society that works with the U.S. State Department to identify participants, applauded the inclusion of POW children and grandchildren in the program.

Ms. Thompson said, “It confirms Japan’s commitment to overcoming its dark history and shows their modern understanding that the traumas of past atrocities and war crimes are intergenerational and enduring. The goodwill and healing resulting from these trips are a model for more Japanese efforts to acknowledge and console Imperial Japan’s wartime victims. The result strengthens the personal ties that undergird the U.S.-Japan Alliance.”

Wake Island Massacre 75th Anniversary

Requiescat in pace

October 7th, is the 75th anniversary of the Wake Island Massacre. On this day in 1943, Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, commander of the Japanese garrison on the island, ordered the execution of 98 Americans POWs, who had been civilian contractors building an airfield. They were part of the 1,150 civilian team  employed by the Morrison-Knudsen Company on Wake with 450 some Marines who fended off a Japanese Armada from December 12-23, 1941. This is a feat that was never accomplished before nor after.

Three platoons of  sailors mowed the POWs down with machine gun and rifle fire. The Americans then were dumped unceremoniously into the ditch and covered with coral sand. The indignity suffered by the prisoners was not complete, however. The following day, a report from an enlisted man that he saw one of the prisoners escape during the confusion of the massacre prompted the disinterment of the bodies. The corpses were dug up and counted, then hastily reburied. The sailor had been correct; one American was missing. That man, whose identity has not been discovered, was re-captured and was beheaded personally by Admiral Sakaibara three weeks later. [Hubbs]

But before he was murdered, he carved for all time on a large rock near the massacre, "98 US PW, 5-10-43".

Building for War: The Epic Saga of the Civilian Contractors and Marines of Wake Island in World War II by Bonita Gilbert (click to order)
Victory in Defeat: The Wake Island Defenders in Captivity, 1941-1945 by Prof. Greg Urwin, (click to order)
Massacre on Wake Island By Major Mark E. Hubbs, U.S. Army Reserve (Retired), Naval Inst Pres

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Why McCain and all POWs deserve our profound respect and gratitude

Painting by Australian POW Murray Griffin

by Joan Cook, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University, The Conversation, August 28, 2018

On Saturday, John McCain, the U.S. Republican senator from Arizona, a war hero and two-time presidential contender, died. As remembrances of him pour out, let us not focus on partisan politics and which political party currently favored him more.

As a trauma psychologist who has spent the past 20 years working with combat veterans and former prisoners of war, I implore my fellow Americans to say our goodbyes to this American hero in a very different way. As Senator McCain, a man who was held prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years in Vietnam, lost his battle to brain cancer, let us take this opportunity to open our hearts and minds to the men and women who serve in uniform, particularly the diminishing number of former POWs.
Horrors we cannot knowU.S. Army Master Sgt. Finley J. Davis was captured Dec. 1, 1950 in the Korean Conflict. His remains were identified only recently, on Aug. 8, 2017 and were buried in North Charleston, S.C., April 19, 2018. U.S. Department of Defense, via AP

I have had the privilege of clinically working with dozens of former POWs, typically combatants who were taken hostage and held by an enemy power during World War II, the Korean Conflict or the Vietnam War. What many Americans may not know or remember is that fewer combatants are taken hostage nowadays. The reasons for this are many, including the changing nature of combat, such as the lower ability on our enemies’ part to use large amounts of mortar, artillery fire and airstrikes. Compared to World War II, where the number of POWs was over 100,000, the Vietnam War had relatively few, with fewer than 800 Americans known to have been held captive. But when you work with a POW and hear what he went through while in captivity, and the long-standing effects post-captivity, you realize that one is too many.

These men were cut off from the life they used to know, the comforts of home and the arms of their loved ones. They also suffered severe and extended exposure to captivity trauma. The tactics commonly used by captors are isolation, deprivation, abuse and interrogation. Most U.S. POWs were treated very harshly, but imperial Japan, the North Koreans, Chinese and the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were particularly brutal. Our men, and sometimes women, were actively beaten and tortured. They were forced to stand or kneel for hours and sometimes days on end. They were denied and deprived of food, water and medical care. They were threatened with death and had to see and hear their fellow soldiers being tortured. These men had their arms and leg bound by ropes, ratchet handcuffs, leg irons or stocks, and were stretched for long periods of time. Can you imagine the physical pain and the emotional terror?

And, on top of that, they felt profound loneliness and humiliation.

Understandably, these men were in a hurry to return home. Hardly any received reintegration or rehabilitation upon release. And, the results of their captivity trauma followed them. The lifelong effects of captivity cannot be overstated. The consequences of being a former POW are extensive and well-documented.

These men often have neuropsychological, psychiatric, medical and social difficulties. Their problems include memory deficits, decreased ability to concentrate, gruesome nightmares, interrupted sleep cycles and an exaggerated startle response. Not surprisingly, they have much higher rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than the general population.

They also have higher rates of chronic physical health disorders, particularly those of the peripheral nervous system, joints and back, and an increased rate of peptic ulcers. Because of the physical punishment or treatment with torture devices or procedures, they can also have long-lasting moderate to severe pain. How they live with these long-lasting effects is nothing short of remarkable.
Ongoing effectsA veteran marches in a United War Veterans Council parade on Veterans Day, 2016, in New York City. Glynnis Jones/

The enduring and painful psychological toll can also have an impact on their interpersonal relations and the lives of their spouses and children. Former Vietnam War POWs are more likely to divorce, have shorter marriages and have wives with lower marital satisfaction than Vietnam-era service members who did not experience captivity. It makes sense that POWs have greater impairments in connecting with others and a harder time with emotional and sexual intimacy.

Former POWs also have higher rates of verbal and physical aggressiontoward their partners. Many men I have treated over the years have talked about walking point around the perimeter of their homes because of concern that they or their loved ones might be attacked. Some go so far as to sleep with weapons under their pillows. Imagine having a partner with such afflictions.

Now it’s true that some of these men did not experience resulting emotional distress. Most did, however: some with continuous troubles and others with a waxing and waning of difficulties over their lifespan.

I’ve never had the fortune to meet John McCain or had an opportunity to directly assess his mental health. But he talked about his struggles rather candidly at times. And others have commented that he seemed most engaged when he was outraged, perhaps an effect of his captivity.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you while McCain was incredibly resilient, there was also enormous pain. How can people know this about Senator McCain and our nation’s service members and not feel for them, not put ourselves in their shoes for just a second, imagine their agony, show them the respect they deserve and profoundly appreciate their sacrifice? At his passing, I ask other Americans to join me in saying, “Thank you, Senator McCain for serving our country with distinction and honor. America was better for your presence. Rest well, Old Soldier.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hawaii marker to honor hundreds of WWII prisoners of war

LuDan Crowley
POW recounts the inhumanity of Imperial Japan

STARS AND STRIPES, August 16, 2018

Daniel Crowley often repeats two words as he recounts his experience as a prisoner of war being shipped from the Philippines to Japan in 1944: nightmare and lucky.

“The hellships were nightmarish,” said the 96-year-old. As the Allies prepared to retake the Philippines after more than three years of Japanese occupation, POWs were marched to ports to be shipped to the Japanese mainland. Hundreds of men would be crammed together in the deepest bowels of the ships in sweltering heat and little or no ventilation.

“They would prod you in the ass with their bayonets and force you down into the deepest ‘dragoons’ until they packed human beings so tightly that you couldn’t turn around, sit down, lie down,” Crowley said. “You just sat in the [feces]. It’s beyond your worst nightmare.”

The guards’ “idea of a humane gesture,” he said, was to let a few men each day carry buckets of feces and urine to the top deck and dump it over the side of the Taikoku Maru. “And throw dead bodies over the side,” he said. “They definitely allowed that every day.”

“But actually, I was lucky,” Crowley said, noting that the ship made it to Japan intact in a relatively fast 17 days. Other hellships took many more weeks and were frequently targets of Allied submarines and carrier aircraft because they were not marked as carrying POWs.
Death march

For Crowley and all the other American POWs in the Philippines, the hellships were just one scene from a three-year tribulation steeped in death, deprivation and depravity.

The youngest of six brothers, Crowley was stationed in the Philippines in the spring of 1941 as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps and worked on servicing aircraft.

With the outbreak of war with Japan that December, he and everyone else in uniform “all turned into infantry grunts,” defending the island with mostly World War I-era weapons.

Four months later, about 78,000 American and Filipino troops made a final stand with their backs against the sea at the tip of Bataan Peninsula. Crowley was among them.

On April 9, 1942, Maj. Gen. Edward King Jr., surrendered those troops, and they were led away on the infamous and deadly Bataan Death March.

Crowley, however, jumped into the sea at night and swam to Corregidor Island, about three miles off the tip of Bataan, which was still held by the U.S. Marines. He fought there until May 6, when Gen. Jonathan Wainwright surrendered. The POWs were marched through the streets of Manila escorted by young Japanese officers on horseback with drawn swords, Crowley said.

At the end of the march, they were loaded into railroad boxcars, where they were crammed together standing for what was about an eight-hour trip.

“Most everyone was suffering from diarrhea,” he said. “Between the urine and the [feces], we were wallowing in it. The floor of the car became a pestilence.

“That was probably the most horrible thing and all those years of incarceration — wallowing in the human waste,” he said.

‘Known mess’

Crowley ended up in a POW camp near the city of Cabanatuan, about 70 miles north of Manila.

“The death rate got to be astronomical,” he said. “Those who were dying were thrown under the barracks to lie in the dirt. That was called the ‘zero ward,’ meaning you weren’t going to come out of there alive.”

With the “known mess” he was in, Crowley said he jumped at the chance to join a work detail that was sent to the southern Philippine island of Palawan, where he spent a year and a half building a runway from jungle using nothing but axes, picks and shovels.

They survived on what was roughly 600 calories a day in the form of rice soup.

“The body stabilizes after a while, and all those who are going to die quickly, die quickly,” he said. “So the death rate was at horrendous levels in the first two months. After about six months, weak from the lack of nutrition and water under the brutal slave labor, you were a living skeleton.

“If you didn’t jump and work your ass off when you were ordered to, they’d just beat you to death if they wanted to. At the very least they’d beat you to pulp.”

“My beard was down to my waist,” he said. “My hair was hanging over my shoulders. My skin was burned black from the sun.”

He feigned insanity, and with the appearance to match it, the work camp’s doctor eventually deemed him “unfit for labor,” Crowley said with a laugh.

Others found a more painful way out of hard labor. He recalled that a guy from Long Island would use a metal bar to break the arms of the willing.

“These fellows would put their arm down on the stump, and he’d shatter it with his metal bar,” he said. “That was 10 cigarettes he charged.”

‘American slaves’

In March 1944, Crowley was shipped to the Japanese mainland where he worked in two separate copper mines, the last one 2,000 feet below the surface.

“We were slaves at the Furukawa copper mine,” he said, recalling the sadistic pleasure the controller of the cable and winch seemed to get in letting the bucket filled with men freefall for 1,900 feet before it careened to a stop.

He recalled walking through waist-deep snow to the wooden hut they were housed in outside the mine.

“They would give us two or three fist-sized clumps of charcoal to heat the whole wooden structure where hundreds of slaves were packed in — American slaves,” he said.

How did Crowley cope with such conditions for long without losing hope?

“I simply believe I was blessed by a strong father with the strong mind who imparted some of his genes to me so that I could make it,” he said. “I just pretended it was normal to get in that bucket with about 20, 25 other people and drop at an alarming rate for brutal slave labor. Every day was a new milestone. It actually got to the point where it was the normal way to live.”

But he also fixated on fantasies of vengeance, with thoughts of making the “sons of bitches pay if I could someday,” he said.

Crowley has had a good life since he was liberated, married 65 years to his first wife with whom he had two children. Living in Connecticut, he remarried recently, and his wife, Kelley, 42 years younger than him, admits that she has a hard time keeping up with him. He laughs often and jokes frequently.

But he will not make peace with his old enemy.

“I couldn’t forgive,” he said. “How could I forgive?"

Monday, August 27, 2018

In memoriam Senator John McCain POW

McCain Memorial in Hanoi
Senator John McCain faced adversity with dignity and honesty. As a POW, he knew the depths of inhumanity as well as the raw joy from an act of kindness. His POW experience sharpened his moral compass and gave him the resolve to stand firm where others would not. I send the heartfelt sympathies of the American POWs of Japan, their descendants, and the members of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society to his wife Cindy and the entire McCain family, and our thanks to God for the life of John McCain.

fac fortia et patere 
[do brave deeds and endure]

Statement August 26, 2018

Ms. Jan Thompson 
American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor Memorial Society
Daughter of PhM2c Robert E. Thompson USN, USS Canopus (AS-9)
Survivor of Corregidor, Bilibid, Oryoku Maru, Enoura Maru, 
Brazil Maru, Fukuoka 3B & Mukden
POW# 2011

The ADBC-MS is the only sanctioned successor to the original American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor organization formed by surviving POWs of Japan in 1946. The mission is to preserve the legacy of the American POWs held in the Pacific during World War II.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Fathers Found, Fathers Honored

unknowns no more

On Wednesday, August 15th at 1:00pm at the Courts of Honor in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), Honolulu, Hawaii the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society (ADBC-MS) will dedicate a long over-due memorial stone.

The stone recognizes the 400 prisoners of war (POWs) of Imperial Japan who died January 1945 aboard two Japanese hellships, Enoura Maru and Brazil Maru, docked in Takao Harbor, Formosa [Taiwan]. These servicemen and mariners are now buried as “Unknowns” among 20 graves in the Punchbowl.

This will be the first time for the men to be named and honored.

The POWs in the graves, in addition to Americans, include servicemen from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, and what is now the Czech Republic. They were among thousands captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942. These men were being transported to Japan as hostages or slave laborers in the holds of unmarked ships whose conditions were so abysmal that they were known as “hellships.”

On January 9, 1945, planes from the carrier USS Hornet bombed the freighter Enoura Maru unaware of the Allied POWs aboard. The bombing killed approximately 300 POWs; another 100, aboard both hellships, died of starvation and disease. These 400 were buried in a mass grave near the harbor.

click to order
In 1946, the U.S. military retrieved the remains and sent them to Hawaii for re-interment. Unfortunately, the families of the men who were thought to be in these graves were never informed of either the retrieval or interment. In 2001, the son of one of the dead, Duane Heisinger, discovered in the National Archives the fate of his father and the 400.

It has taken until now for the families and friends of these fallen to fully acknowledge and memorialize their service and deaths.

The new stone on the Memorial Walk at the Punchbowl thus reminds us of the sacrifice made by these POWs, while establishing that they have returned home to American soil.

Governor of Hawaii David Y. Ige has proclaimed August 15, 2018 Pacific Heroes Day in their honor.

The Memorial ceremony will be live-streamed on the ADBC-MS Facebook page.

The program will end with a fly-over of a Globe Swift by Honolulu’s Vintage Aviation. A former POW of Japan, Dan Crowley, who fought on Bataan and Corregidor and survived a hellship to Japan plans to attend the event.

The ADBC-MS welcomes everyone in Hawaii to join in the memorial service.