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

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