Following the August 1945 Japanese surrender to Allied Forces the fate of the prisoners of war was discovered:
Bare minimum of dietary intake
No protection from the elements
No medical care
Exposure to tropical diseases
Forced to work on labor crews requiring heavy labor
The POWs worked in steel mills, coal mines. lead and copper mines under unhealthy and dangerous conditions that were conducive to serious health problems. They also were at risk to suffer severe injuries or even death due to the lack of safety precautions. The steel mills offered no protection to the feet, hands and eyes. Some survivors developed serious heart, lung and eye problems.
Beatings were carried out in the most arbitrary and barbarous manner with callous indifference. The Japanese consistently ignored the general humanitarian principles on which the Geneva Convention is based. Punishment or minor offenses was out of proportion. Men received brutal beatings with sticks.
Many POWs suffered from malnutrition with vitamin deficiency diseases such as beri-beri, pellagra, and malaria, TB, tropical sores, and the effects of physical ill treatment.
POW survivors have consistently sought compensation for their suffering. In November 1948 the International Military Tribunal of the Far East heard proof and testimony about the nature of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against Prisoners of War of several nationalities.
"It is to be noted that the provisions of the 1952 Peace Treaty ultimately resulted in certain nominal indemnification for the American POWs which significantly did not include appropriate compensation for the American POWS and gross violations of human rights experienced by these American servicemen."
The 1952 Peace Treaty signers barred the constituents from suing Japan for reparations. The war left Japanese destitute, and they had nothing to use to provide reparations.
Many of the communications and compensation suits filed have been to the Human Rights Committee in care of the Centre for Human Rights, United Nations Offices. They cannot levy fines, but they agreed to be the vehicle by which claims could be made to officials in Japan. Japan has not issued a response.
Japan Apologizes, 65 Years after World War II's Conclusion
As a belated token of contrition for its treatment of Allied POWs during World War II, on September 13, 2010, the Foreign Minister of Japan, Katsuya Okada, offered an apology to a small group of former United States prisoners of war who had been treated inhumanely and were forced to endure slave labor in Japan during World War II. Coming sixty-five years after the end of the war, this event marked the first public apology that the American POW veterans had ever received from Japan. Speculation as to the reason for this lengthy delay in expressing regret includes the refusal of the United States to issue an apology for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although the United States did send a delegation led by Ambassador John Roos to the annual memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on August 6, 2010, no formal statement of sorrow was forthcoming from the Americans.
The POWs’ journey to Japan was made possible by the Peace, Friendship, and Exchange Initiative, along with the leaders of the now disbanded American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. Dr. Lester Tenney, past commander of the ADBC, survivor of the Bataan Death March and three and one half years of forced labor in a corporate Japanese coal mine, took the lead position in organizing this trip. Tenney reported in the Quan, the official ADBC publication, that the significance of this invitation from Japan lay in receiving a bow from Japanese leaders in 2010 after POWs were forced to bow to the Japanese and to perform slave labor over six decades ago. Tenney expended over $1000 of his own funds to arrange this visit; and, with the aid of some friends, Tenney enabled two Japanese women, Kinue Tokudome and Yuka Ibuki, who had both worked with the ADBC and POWs for a decade, to attend the event.
According to Tenney, the group’s reception was very gracious. He was pleased with the apology from Okada, who acknowledged the inhumane treatment the POWs had received at the hands of the Japanese. Throughout the remainder of their visit, the POWs received additional apologies from the Japanese Diet, as well as members of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. Each former POW was invited to spend two days, accompanied by an interpreter and a nurse, in whichever city he chose, after that the group was taken to Kyoto and the Ryzon Kannon shrine, which memorializes the Allies and Japanese who perished in World War II. Other events during this excursion included a trip to the Christian University and a conference with the Japanese Press Club.
Despite the overall success of this Asian trip, however, Japanese survivors of World War II, their descendants and American POWs and their descendants continue to seek formal public apologies, the former from the United States government for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives from American bombing (including, of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and the latter from Japanese private companies who profited from the POWs’ slave labor. Ambassador Roos’ attendance at the Hiroshima memorial ceremony and Foreign Minister Okada’s apology constitute solid first steps toward a formal reconciliation.
Contributed by Sarah Snider, graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville and edited by Dr. Richard Lizza, Professor Emeritus, West Liberty University
Apology Given by Japanese Ambassador Saturday May 30, 2009 at ADBC Convention in San Antonio
Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki made a six-minute speech. According to San Antonio Express, here is a part of the speech, “Today, I would like to convey to you the position of the government of Japan on this issue.” Fujisaki said, “As former prime ministers have repeatedly stated: The Japanese people should bear in mind that we must look into the past and to learn from the lessons of history. We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including prisoners of war; those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula, in Corregidor Island in the Philippines and other places. Ladies and gentlemen, taking this opportunity, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the war, and after the war, and their family members.”
Not everyone accepted the apology--more to come on this topic.