Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Learn about the American POW experience with Imperial Japan

10th Annual Convention 
May 28-June 1, 2019
Norfolk, VA 
Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel

Working schedule


>James SCOTT will be the banquet speaker and will be available to sign his book, Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila, after the banquet. Discounted copies to buy.

>Frank BLAZICH of the Smithsonian Museum of American History will also be there to sign copies of his book, Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II and copies will be for sale, also for a discount.

>There will be a visit to the MacArthur Memorial Museum nearby as well as a screening of Jan Thompson's documentary on artist and POW Ben Steele, Survival through Art.

>Cecilia GAERLAN, Founder and Executive Director of Bataan Legacy Historical Society will give a presentation on the group's efforts to teach the lessons of WWII in the Philippines from the perspectives of both its military and civilian participants.

> Gregory KUPSKY, a historian for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Arlington, Virginia, where he researches missing American servicemen from World War II will discuss "DPAA and the Search for the Missing in the Philippines."

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Max Hastings on Japan's Treatment of POWs

click to order

The Japanese maltreated captives as a matter of policy, not necessity. The casual sadism was so widespread, that it must be considered institutional.
There were so many arbitrary beheadings, clubbings and bayonetings that it is impossible to dismiss these as unauthorised initiatives by individual officers and men.
A people who adopt a code which rejects the concept of mercy towards the weak and afflicted seem to place themselves outside the pale of civilisation. Japanese sometimes justify their inhumanity by suggesting that it was matched by equally callous Allied bombing of civilians.
Japanese moral indignation caused many US aircrew captured in 1944-45 to be treated as "war criminals". Eight B-29 crewmen were killed by un-anaesthetised vivisection carried out in front of medical students at a hospital. Their stomachs, hearts, lungs and brain segments were removed.
Half a century later, one doctor present said: "There was no debate among the doctors about whether to do the operations - that was what made it so strange."
Any society that can indulge such actions has lost its moral compass. War is inherently inhumane, but the Japanese practised extraordinary refinements of inhumanity in the treatment of those thrown upon their mercy. Some of them knew it.
In Stephen Abbott's camp, little old Mr Yogi, the civilian interpreter, told the British officer: "The war has changed the real Japan. We were much as you are before the war - when the army had not control. You must not think our true standards are what you see now."
Yet, unlike Mr Yogi, the new Japan that emerged from the war has proved distressingly reluctant to confront the historic guilt of the old. Its spirit of denial contrasted starkly with the penitence of postwar Germany.
Though successive Japanese prime ministers expressed formal regret for Japan's wartime actions, the country refused to pay reparations to victims, or to acknowledge its record in school history texts.
I embarked upon this history of the war with a determination to view Japanese conduct objectively, thrusting aside nationalistic sentiments. It proved hard to sustain lofty aspirations to detachment in the face of the evidence of systemic Japanese barbarism, displayed against Americans and Europeans but on a vastly wider scale against their fellow Asians.
In modern times, only Hitler's SS has matched militarist Japan in rationalising and institutionalising atrocity. Stalin's Soviet Union never sought to dignify its great killings as the acts of gentlemen, as did Hirohito's nation.
It is easy to perceive why so many Japanese behaved as they did, conditioned as they were. Yet it remains difficult to empathise with those who did such things, especially when Japan still rejects its historic legacy.
Many Japanese today adopt the view that it is time to bury all old grievances - those of Japan's former enemies about the treatment of prisoners and subject peoples, along with those of their own nation about firebombing, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"In war, both sides do terrible things," former Lt Hayashi Inoue argued in 2005. "Surely after 60 years, the time has come to stop criticising Japan for things done so long ago."
Wartime Japan was responsible for almost as many deaths in Asia as was Nazi Germany in Europe. Germany has paid almost £3billion to 1.5 million victims of the Hitler era. But Japan goes to extraordinary lengths to escape any admission of responsibility, far less of liability for compensation, towards its wartime victims.
Most modern Japanese do not accept the ill-treatment of subject peoples and prisoners by their forebears, even where supported by overwhelming evidence, and those who do acknowledge it incur the disdain or outright hostility of their fellow-countrymen for doing so.
It is repugnant the way they still seek to excuse, and even to ennoble, the actions of their parents and grandparents, so many of whom forsook humanity in favour of a perversion of honour and an aggressive nationalism which should properly be recalled with shame.
The Japanese nation is guilty of a collective rejection of historical fact. As long as such denial persists, it will remain impossible for the world to believe that Japan has come to terms with the horrors it inflicted.
• Abridged extract from Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings (2008)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Corregidor, MacArthur, and the Japan’s New Emperor

This article first appeared in Medium on May 6, 2019.
Staged picture of the Surrender of Corregidor

The 77th Anniversary of the day Corregidor fell was May 6, 1942. It is a history that shadows every Japanese Golden Week and especially last week’s imperial succession ceremonies.

From December 29, 1941 to the end of April 1942, despite incessant Japanese aerial, naval, and artillery bombardment, the men and women on the fortress Island of Corregidor in Manila Bay, which consisted of the 4th Marine Regiment and combined units from the United States Army, the US Navy, and Filipino soldiers, resisted valiantly, inflicting heavy enemy losses in men, ships, and aircraft.

The last week on Corregidor was brutal. The Japanese celebrated Emperor Hirohito’s April 29th birthday by intensifying their shelling. By week’s end, the island’s infrastructure was destroyed, bombing incessant, water scarce, and the invasion begun. The siege of Corregidor had succeeded.

Fearful of a complete annihilation of the more than 12,000 Americans and Filipinos on Corregidor and the three nearby island forts, Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered all on May 6, 1942. The rest of the Philippines were surrendered over the next month after the Japanese threatened to massacre all the POWs and civilians on Corregidor.

Seventy-seven years later, the 1942 fall of Corregidor still matters. It set the timetable for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) in Japan General Douglas MacArthur’s punishment of Japan’s militarists. And thus, it set the Abe Government’s timetable the abdication for Emperor Hirohito’s son, Emperor Akihito, on April 30, 2019 and the ascension of his son, Naruhito, to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019. Abe wanted to expunge an ugly history that MacArthur wanted to embed.

As noted, April 29th was Emperor Hirohito’s birthday. It was a sacred day in wartime Japan. General MacArthur ended that practice and humanized the Emperor. After the War, this date became a holiday to appreciate nature called Greenery Day. In 2007, soon after anti-Japanese riots in China, Greenery Day was replaced by Showa Day to again remember Emperor Hirohito and his reign called Showa. Greenery Day is now held on May 4.

It was no coincidence that General MacArthur chose the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal to begin and the indictments for Tojo and other war criminals to be read on April 29, 1946. MacArthur, commander of all US Army Forces in the Far East, forced to escape Corregidor, remembered bitterly his abandonment of his troops and the fall of Corregidor. MacArthur wanted the Japanese also to feel his loss and to forever associate Hirohito with war crimes. In turn, the Tribunal proceedings began on May 3, which in 1947 the new Japanese Constitution came into effect.

It was also the same thinking that led MacArthur to have General Hideki Tojo and six other Class-A war criminals hanged on December 23, 1948. This day is now-former Emperor Akihito’s birthday and long celebrated as the national day for Japan with Embassy parties worldwide. Akihito, however, is forever reminded of the date’s other history.

MacArthur did not want the Japanese to ever forget what they suffered from their loyalty to their monarchs. And he did not want the emperors to forget the consequences and responsibilities of this power. MacArthur wanted to translate the reverence the Japanese had for their emperors into a deep respect for peace.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has different goals. By sandwiching the Imperial abdication and ascension in between the important dates of April 29 and May 3, Prime Minister Abe hopes to diminish if not erase their historical significance. This is what he means when he declares that he wants to “end Japan’s postwar regime. Abe believes he must and can free Japan from these embedded reminders of the war and all that it wrought. The Prime Minister believes the Japanese people should remember the war years as a happier, simpler, and prouder time.

Yet, in his hubris and revisionist history, Abe misses that MacArthur is still setting down the markers and forcing the timetable in Japan. By maneuvering around MacArthur’s touchstones, Abe simply emphasizes them. They are now the brackets sanctioning imperial succession and the rule of law.

MacArthur’s war history will again loom large over the October 22nd formal coronation of Emperor Naruhito. October 20th, will be the 75th Anniversary of MacArthur’s promised return to the Philippines and the beginning of its liberation from Japanese rule. The last, largest and finally decisive naval battle between the US Fleets in the Pacific and the Japanese Combined Fleet was fought in the Philippines’ Gulf of Leyte from October 23–26, 1944.

Emperor Naruhito, who studied history at Oxford, is likely aware of this history. His father, Emperor Akihito, held his coronation on November 12, 1990, 42 years to the day that General Tojo was sentenced to death. Naruhito’s challenge is to be true to the MacArthur’s lessons and to administering the peace, which is the literal, albeit not official Abe government, translation of the Reiwa Era.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Medal of Honor for POW

Sometime in mid-April in 1942, Navy Lt. Richard Nott Antrim held at the Makassar POW Camp on Celebes, Netherlands East Indies does the unthinkable.

He steps forward to stop a savage beating by Japanese prison camp guards of another officer. The man was near death when Antrim asks to take on the rest of prostrate officer's punishment. His bold gesture stopped the guard and led to cheers from the 2,000 men gathered to witness the atrocity.

To the astonishment of all, he succeeds in stopping the murder.  And, he is not beaten himself. This almost never happened in a Japanese POW camp. Both the Japanese and the POWs felt that they had witnessed uncommon bravery and selflessness.

Antrim was the Executive Officer of the destroyer USS Pope (DD-225) that was sunk on March 1 after the battle of the Java Sea. He was one of the few of Pope's crew, after days in the water and regularly strafed by Japanese machine guns, to be rescued by the Japanese destroyer Inazuma. Also rescued were men from the HMS Exeter and HMS Encounter. 

These rescues by the Inazuma under the command of Commander Shunsaku Kudō (工藤 俊作) was also act of extreme bravery and character. Kudo rescued 442 enemy British and American sailors from the Java Sea in contrast to other Japanese warships that ignored, mowed down, or shot the drowning men in the waters off Java. Commander Kudo so shaken by the "uniqueness" of what he had done, never spoke or wrote about his humanitarian act. Japanese rightists have used this rare story as proof that the Japanese never harmed POWs. A number of books and films have been produced to highlight this.

Antrium,  an Indiana native, and Naval Academy graduate (1931), was the only man during World War II to receive the Medal of Honor for acts performed while in captivity. He was recommended for this honor by the camp’s senior POW officer, Lieutenant Commander Thomas A. Donovan (Naval Academy 1928) from the seaplane tender USS Langley (CV-1), who had been left behind by a rescue ship after a brief stop on Christmas Island.