Monday, August 31, 2020

Remembering August 29, 1945

August 29, 2020 was the 75th Anniversary of the liberation and evacuation of the first POW camp on Japan's Home Islands. OMORI TOKYO MAIN CAMP

Commander Harold Stassen on Adm William Halsey's staff was in charge of the location and liberation of the POWs in Japan. Two years prior, Stassen had been governor of Minnesota. He resigned months into his third term and took up active duty in the Pacific with the Navy on April 27, 1943. 

For four months, 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945, Stassen was sent to help negotiate the UN Charter at the San Francisco Conference that took place in San Francisco, California. Returning to Halsey's staff in the Pacific sometime in July 1945, he was assigned the upcoming search and care for the POWs in Japan. This was a top priority mission for the Allies. There was a high level of concern that the Japanese would murder the POWs before they could be rescued.

To the relief of all--excepting a few isolated beheadings on the day and days after the surrender--the POWs were not killed. Stassen's first task was to locate the POW camps. The Allies knew of 30 camps in Japan. After surrender, the Japanese government provided a list (called the "Yellow List") identifying 73 camp locations. This proved to be less than half the actual number of camps. Navy reconnaissance and POW interviews tracked down the others. They found 158 POW camp sites across the Home Islands.

Next was to coordinate POW relief supply air drops to the sick and starving men and women.  Starting on August 27th, Army Air Force planes dropped 4,470 tons of food, medicine, clothing, and cigarettes on the POW camps in Japan. See the "Report on POW Supply Missions" for more details. By the end of September 1945, nearly all of the 32,000 Allied POW's in Japan had been processed and on their way back home. 

On August 29th, Stassen positioned hospital and transport ships in Tokyo Bay and then at mid-afternoon directed a flotilla of Navy launches to a POW-made island close to shore and the Omori POW Camp. The first three boats held battle-hardened Marines who immediately secured the perimeter and established a communications command. Next, with famed Navy and Hollywood photographer John Swope at his side, Stassen arrived to command the rescue operation. 

Swope's iconic picture of ecstatic POWs waving their handmade national flags will forever represent liberation.In addition to American POWs, there were POWs from the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Estonia, Italy, Norway, and New Zealand. The camp held famed aviators Louis Zamperini and Pappy Boyinton, the commanders of the USS Grenadier and USS Tang, as well as many downed aviators who were tortured nearby at the Emperor's horse stables.

Once on the island, Stassen was met by the camp's commander who told him he could not take the POWs as no authority from Tokyo told him to release the prisoners. The over six foot tall, Stassen glared down at the Emperor's representative and reportedly then grabbed the Japanese colonel by the front of his tunic and lifted him off the ground, and said, "I have no need for orders from Tokyo to do what I want to with these American prisoners." And so, that ended that.

Within hours the POWs were evacuated to the USS Benevolence where they were tiraged into those who needed immediate medical attention and those who were ambulatory. In the matter of a few hours, these walking skeletons were registered, checked, cleaned, deloused, shaved, clothed, and fed whatever they wanted and allowed to eat as much as they wanted under the watchful eyes of medics. Toward midnight, the healthier men were transported to the USS Reeves to bunk down until it was determined where to send them for their journey home.

Marine and Navy rescuers also quickly made their way to the nearby Shinagawa “hospital.” What they found was “an indescribable hellhole of filth, disease, and death.” One doctor, 1/Lt. Hisakichi Tokuda, at this "hospital" was infamous for his fascination with human experimentation and general medical incompetence. At the War Crimes Trial he was prosecuted for injecting soybean milk into one Dutch, one British, one Italian, and two American POWs resulting in their death. He was sentenced to life to death at the Yokohama War Crimes Trials in February 1948. On September 3, 1951, General Matthew Ridgeway, who was serving as head of UN Forces in Korea and Military Governor of Japan, commuted Tokuda's sentence to life. It is likely he was released in 1958.

Today, the Heiwajima Motor Boat Racing venue is located at the site of this former POW camp. This monopoly gambling franchise was created by unindicted Class-A war criminal and black marketeer Ryohei Sasakawa. It now is managed by the Nippon Foundation which is part of the Sasakawa family of foundations and enterprises. The Sasakawa family and organization is the major funder of Japan programs around the world, especially exchange and think tank programs in Washington. The organization is a major funder of off-budget projects of the Japanese government.

There is a small memorial at the venue--Heiwajima Kannon--featuring a statue of Kannon (the goddess of mercy) and a signboard in Japanese with some euphemistic references to the brutal history of this spot. Among the information not provided by the signboard are: 1) how many POWs perished here, 2) how many POWs built the original island, and 3) that wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was briefly held here when he was first arrested as a war criminal.

On August 30th, General Douglas MacArthur set foot in Japan at Atsugi Airfield aboard Bataan II. 

The next day, down the road in Totsuka, the Army found American Etta Jones and 18 Australian nurses. Etta was the first Caucasian female taken prisoner by a foreign enemy on the North American continent since the War of 1812. She was captured in June 1942 when Japanese troops invaded Attu Island in the Aleutians. The Japanese forced her to witness her husband beheaded. She and the 42 Aleuts living on Attu were taken as POWs to Japan. Nearly half of them died as POWs in Otaru, Hokkaido — many from tuberculosis, malnutrition and starvation.

For more on the liberation see HERE

Sunday, August 30, 2020


THE MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE FROM AN EPIC TRAGEDY: THE END OF THE ASIA PACIFIC WAR WITH RICHARD B. FRANK. 8/31, 2:00pm (EDT), ZOOM EVENT. Sponsors: Friends of the National World War II Memorial. Speaker: Richard B. Frank, internationally recognized leading authority on the Asia-Pacific War, author.  PURCHASE BOOKS:;

'UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER' THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF V-J DAY WITH RICHARD B. FRANK, author of Tower of Skulls and Downfall. 9/1, 6:00pm (CDT), ZOOM EVENT. Sponsor: The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

THE ALLIED FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: HISTORY, CONSEQUENCES AND THE 21ST CENTURY WORLD ORDER. 9/2, 5:30-7:00pm (IST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India. Speakers: Ajay Kumar Patnaik, Professor, Centre for Russian & Central Asian Studies, JNU; Sanjay Deshpande, Professor, Centre for Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai; Sergei Fandeev, Director, Russian Centre for Science and Culture, Mumbai; Sriparna Pathak, Assistant Professor & Assistant Dean, School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University; Suresh Babu, former Ambassador of India to Armenia, Georgia & Mongolia.

TWILIGHT OF THE GODS: WAR IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC, 1944-1945. 9/2, 7:00pm (EDT), ZOOM EVENT. Sponsors: MacArthur Memorial and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. Speaker: Ian Toll, author and historian. PURCHASE BOOK: (W. W. Norton & Company; Illustrated Edition (September 1, 2020), 944 pages)

PRISONERS OF THE EMPIRE: INSIDE JAPANESE POW CAMPS. 9/3, 8:00-9:00am (CDT). Radio Interview. Sponsor: The Morning Show KENOSHA-WGTD (91.1 FM). Speaker: author, Dr. Sarah Kovner, Columbia University. PURCHASE BOOK: (Harvard University Press (September 15, 2020), 336 pages)

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Remembering a POW legend, Ed Jackfert

Ed Jackert with Senator Barbara Boxer
With sadness, I report that on July 24th, Sgt Edward Jackfert, 98, of Wellsburg, West Virginia and Tampa, Florida passed away. 


His funeral was Saturday, August 1, 2020. The West Virginia (WV) Patriot Guard Riders escorted the WWII hero from the Chambers Funeral Home to a public graveside service at Franklin Cemetery, Wellsburg, WV, held with Military Honors by the WV Army National Guard. Ed was with the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Philippines where he was surrendered to become a POW of Japan for more than three years. He was liberated in Japan 75 years ago this August. You can leave a note, send flowers or plant a tree HERE.


Ed graduated in 1939 from Wellsburg High School and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on September 11, 1940. He was sent to aircraft engineers’ school, and then to the Philippine Islands, arriving in June 1941. He was assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron which later became a part of the 19th Bombardment Group.  The unit was based at Clark Field as the bomber command of the Far East Air Force.


Ed was a mechanic at Clark Field when Imperial Japanese Navy planes attacked on December 8, 1941. The airfield was destroyed in less than an hour. Clark Field as a tactical base was virtually destroyed. The casualties were very high, about 100 wounded and 55 dead. Survivors were evacuated on December 24th to the Bataan Peninsula and Mindanao island.


Ed fought as part of a provisional infantry formed on Mindanao. First, he was assigned to guard Carmen Ferry near Davao and the newly constructed Del Monte Air Field. In mid-April 1942, he was sent to the new Maramag Field in central Mindanao to help put up a last-ditch offense, known as the Royce Mission. Mindanao was surrendered to the Japanese on May 10th. (Mother’s Day 1942. The POWs captured on Mindanao were consolidated at Camp Casisang, about five kilometers southwest of Malaybalay, Mindanao. They were miles away from Bataan and the infamous Bataan Death March.


On October 3, 1942, he and 268 POWs at Camp Casisang were transported by the hellship Tamohoko Maru from Bugu, Mindanao to Manila.  They were loaded aboard the hellship Tottori Maru for a month-long trip via Formosa (Taiwan) and Chosen (Korea) to Japan arriving November 11, 1942.


In October 1942, he was transported to Japan aboard the hellship Tottori Mari arriving November 11, 1942. He was primarily a slave laborer at Tokyo-2B-Kawasaki POW Camp (Mitsui Wharf Co., Ltd. known as “Mitsui Madhouse” for its brutal and chaotic conditions as well the language problems created by the many nationalities at the camp). There he was used as stevedore and day laborer for the Mitsui Senpaku KK [today’s Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd], Mitsubishi’s NYK Line (name unchanged today), Nisshin Flour (today’s Nisshin Seifu Group), Kawasaki Railroad Electric Power Plant, KYK Brick Factory (Kojima or Kawasaki Yogyo Co., Ltd., today’s Shinagawa Refactory), and Nippon Steel (name unchanged today). He was also traded around the Kawasaki, Kanagawa area spending time as a slave laborer for Nisshin Flour Milling (Tokyo 24-D)Showa Denko Chemical (Tokyo-16-B- Niigata [Kanosetoday’s Showa Denko K.K.where he mixed chemicals for ammunitionand Japan Steel Pipe [Japan Kokantoday’s JFE Holdings] (Tokyo 5D Kawasaki). Starting in January 1945, the camps came under constant air attack from American bombing raids. On July 25, 1945, Tokyo-2B was destroyed and 22 POWs were killed.


The camp was liberated on August 30, 1945. Among the 139 POWs in the camp, there were 59 Americans, 25 British, 6 Australians, 44 Italians and 5 Norwegians. He was evacuated to the hospital ship USS Benevolence (AH-13) for processing and then eventually on to a plane to Manila. There, on September 18, they boarded a troop transport and arrived in Los Angeles [possibly] on October 3.


Ed returned home to West Virginia to heal and reconstitute his life. He went to Bethany College and received a degree in economics. From there he joined the Internal Revenue Service as a Criminal Investigator and worked primarily in the field of organized crime and corruption of public officials. He retired from the government in February 1977.


Ed was a valiant and tireless advocate for the American POWs of Japan. He was one of five POWs who testified in person on June 28, 2000 to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on how the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan abrogated the right of former POWs of Japan to sue Japanese companies for compensation for their forced labor or on how the POWs were mistreated by their Japanese capturers in violation of the Geneva Convention.


In September 2010, he participated in the first delegation of American POWs on a “friendship” trip to Japan. There he met with Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada who offered an official apology to the POWs of Japan. This apology appeared as a Cabinet Decision in February 2009 making it one of only four official Japanese government apologies.


He was twice elected National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC, today the ADBC Memorial Society), in 1984 and 1999. His passion has been to ensure the legacy of the POWs by creating the ADBC Museum, Education & Research Center in Wellsburg, WV to preserve the history of the defense of the Philippines and to teach the lessons of war. 

The Museum received in 2015 the only atonement payment from a Japanese company, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, for the company’s wartime abuse of POW slave laborers in its mines. You have to dig deep into the company's 2016 social responsibility report on page 70 to find mention of the apology on the Mitsubishi Materials website. There is one sentence. It mentions an "apology made to former US prisoners who were forced to work." In other words, the apology is not "offered" as reconciliation experts suggest; non-US POWs are not included (British, Australian, South African, Irish); and the rightwing euphemism "forced to work" is used. 

Ed wrote a memoir of his time as a POW called, Service to my Country



Requiescat in pace