2013  Japanese/American POW Friendship Program
 

The government of Japan invited four former POWs of the Japanese and three widows of POWs to Japan for a 9-day visit beginning October 13, 2013. The participants in the fourth Japanese/American POW Friendship Program were as follows:

                         
   
Phillip Coon,     Robert Heer,  Erwin Johnson,  Marvin Roslansky,  Lora Cummins, Marjean McGrew, Esther Jennings

October 14

Visit to Commonwealth War Cemetery in Yokohama


In front of Memorial Hall

With the US Navy Seventh Fleet Chaplain John Shimotsu standing by, Mrs. Yoshiko Tamura of POW Research Network Japan explained that ashes of 48 American POWs were enshrined in the Memorial Hall. Most of them died in Moji after surviving the Oryoku Maru- Enoura Maru- Brazil Maru voyage. Their names were engraved on the wall inside the Memorial Hall.

                                 

October 15

Visit with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida thanked the POW delegation for accepting his government's invitation to visit Japan. He reiterated Japan’s heartfelt apology for inhumane treatment and sufferings they experienced during WWII as POWs of the Japanese.

Representing the delegation, Mr. Robert Heer thanked for the invitation by the Japanese government.

He shared his memory with Foreign Minister Kishida of witnessing the aftermath of the Tokyo firebombing from the window of the train on which he was transported to Northern Japan in March of 1945. He said that American POWs did not know the extent of the firebombing until later.
He also spoke of Harold Harada, his boyhood friend who was a second generation Japanese American and who lost his parents in one of the internment camps while he was fighting for the U.S.

Mr. Heer concluded, “We are grateful for the chance to express our sorrow for each of our countries' decisions when War happened.”

Foreign Minister Kishida expressed his hope that this visit would promote further reconciliation and wished the delegation a fruitful stay in Japan. Mr. Heer presented a commemorative coin to the Foreign Minister.

(Mr. Clay Perkins and his wife Mrs. Dorothy Perkins of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, contributed funds for the production of these coins.)
 

Luncheon hosted by Director General North American Affairs Bureau, Mr. Koji Tomita


 

Press conference at the National Press Club

The entire event can be viewed here.

Public lecture at Temple University

The entire event can be viewed here.

October 16

Visit to the US Embassy

Mr. Kurt Tong, Charge d'Affaires ad interim, welcomed the delegation and listened to former POWs' experiences and widows' memories of their husbands.

Mr. Tong’s reflection on his meeting with the POW delegation can be found on his blog.


 

Friendship meeting

The meeting was organized by Japanese Society for Friendship with ex-POWs and Families, assisted by POW Research Network Japan (POWRNJ) and US-Japan Dialogue on POWs. Mr. Yukihisa Fujita, Member of the House of Councillors, gave welcoming remarks. 

 
       

To prepare for the meeting, POW Research Network Japan compiled detailed memos on the POW camps where the members of the delegation or their late husbands had been held.

         Akabira Camp, Kameda Camp (Mr. Heer)    Kosaka  Camp (Mr. Coon)
         Miyata  Camp (Mr. Jennings)                       Mukaishima Camp (Mr. Cummins)
         Suwa   Camp (Mr. McGrew)                         Zentsuji  Camp (Mr. Roslansky)


Reception hosted by Parliamentary Vice-Foreign Minister Hirotaka Ishihara

Minister Ishihara welcomed the delegation and presented a gift to each participant.  Mr. Michael Coon, the son of Mr. Philip Coon, presented a shawl to Minister Ishihara as a gift from Muskogee Creek Nation, of which Mr. Coon is a full blood member.

       
Minister Ishihara shakes hands with Mr. Heer.   Mr. Michael Coon and Minister Ishihara show the shawl.

October 17-18 

Visit to Zentsuji and Mukaishima

On October 17,  Mr. Roslansky, his wife Josephine, Mrs. Cummins and her daughter, Mrs. Glenda Elaine Sutton visited the former site of Zentsuji POW camp. The visit was arranged by Mr. Hiroyuki Mori, a member of the “Historical Society of Kagawa Prefecture.” Ms. Mariko Haneda of the Foreign Ministry accompanied the group.

             
Mr. Roslansky laid flowers for the memorial built by local people in 1947 for those POWs who died in Zentsuji camp.  He pointed himself  in a  picture taken after the liberation. 


   
                                     Zentsuji POWs liberated (Mr. Roslansky was under the arrow)


On October 18, they visited the former site of Mukaishima POW camp. The visit was organized by Mr. Koshi Kobayashi of POW Research Network Japan who lives in Fukuyama city, Hiroshima.

Mrs. Cummins and her daughter Glenda paid their respect to  the Memorial Plate dedicated to Mr. George B. Scott, the only American POW who died in Mukaishima camp. (Inscription)
(The plate was built earlier
this year by a group of local people who dedicated themselves to remembering Mukaishima POWs. (more about the memorial plate.)
 
(Mr. Ferron Cummins and Mr. George B. Scott in Mukaishima)

              


Among those who welcomed the group were Mr. Kazuharu Goriki, Deputy Mayor of Onomichi, Mr. Koichiro Sugihara, Onomichi City councilman and former mayor of Mukaishima, and Ms. Akemi Wada,
Director of Mukaishima branch of Onomichi municipal office.

They then visited Mukaishima Chuo elementary school, where principal Hisashi Unemoto organized a big welcome event. 


The entire student body  welcomed the group by singing songs.

Representing the students, Miss. Nanami Ikuta made welcoming remarks.

Welcome to Japan!

We are Mukaishima Chuo elementary school students.
Thanks for coming all the way from America today.
We were looking forward to meeting you.

Now we are studying about WWII in the history class.
We really want to understand the history, the war and peace,
to keep our world peace forever.

We, the 412 students, are going to sing a song for you.
The title is “For Our Future”. 
We really want to keep good relationship between America and Japan.

Have a safe trip back home. Take care.
 

Both Mr. Roslansky and Mrs. Cummins expressed their appreciation for the local people's efforts to remember the POWs who were held in their hometowns.

                                                                                       (Reported by Kinue Tokudome)
Media coverage
 

Former American POW visits Zentsuji POW camp site
Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2013

Former POW and bereaved family visited the site of Mukaishima POW camp
Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2013

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Visit to Hakodate

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Heer visited Hakodate with Mrs. Marjean McGrew and her son Steve.

             

At Hakodate POW Camp #2 Kameda Dispatch Camp site, Mr. Robert Heer talks with Mr. Masatoshi Asari, a local historian.  

Heer was sent to Hakodate in March 1945, after the camps in the Philippines and Taiwan. The Kameda was the best of the eight camps he experienced, as it was during the period when Lt. Col. Emoto was the Hakodate Main Camp Commandant. (Stars and Stripes articldes on Col. Emoto in 1946).  Heer says Emoto came and spoke at Kameda that the US Japan relationship would be very important, and he asked them not to hate Japan and Japanese.

”We walked for around one and a half km, and loaded and unloaded salt, salmons and coal with a big flat shovel for coal. I’ve eaten a salmon grilled on a fire. We also hid some fish tins in our clothes, which guards often pretended not to see.”       

At Eizenji Temple. The late Priest Eidai had seen POWs walking in chains. His son, current Priest Takaaki Saito moved one of the Main Camp buildings into the temple precinct, and built a Memorial for the POWs in 2000. The British Embassy responded to Mr. Asari’s request, and the names of the British POWs who died in Hakodate are engraved. Eidai’s widow, Akiko, welcomed the group, and invited them for tea afterwards.


Mr. Heer, Mrs. Karen Heer, Mr. Kawasaki of the MoFA, and Mrs. Akiko Saito

The Hakodate Quarantine Station had been transformed as the Hakodate Main POW  Camp, which was opened in December 1942. It used to be an enormous property overlooking the sea, but now it has been lost to roads and other facilities, except for one building, which briefly served as a tea house. Mr. Asari says the POW Memorial should be built at the Main Camp site, as the POWs were sacrificed in a process of history in constructing Japan into a modern country.

In Shomyoji Temple, there are two memorials built by the Society for Recording the Hakodate Bombing (Director M. Asari) on July 14, 15, 1945, one for the Japanese and another for the American Soldiers who were killed in the mission. (website)



The request by Mr. Asari was forwarded to Bishop Suren and his congregation of the Flagellation Church in St. Lewis through Mrs. Haruko Fujishima, the widow of a Kamikaze pilot, and the names of the soldiers was sent with some funds. The Memorial was unveiled on Christmas, 1989 by a Father of Miyamae Church. A local lady who happened to come visiting her family grave heard about Mr. Heer, walked up to the Heers and talked with them with tears in her eyes.

       
 


In front of a former Hakodate POW Camp building moved in Eizenji Temple

                                                                                            (reported by Ms. Yuka Ibuki)      
Media coverage:

 EX-US POW, EXCHANGE IN HAKODATE
Hokkaido Shimbun, October 17, 2013

AN Ex-US POW VISITED HAKODATE
Asahi Shimbun, October 18, 2013

68 Years Ago A POW in A POW Camp in Hakodate: MR. HEER VISITS HAKODATE
The Hakodate : October 19, 2013

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Visit to Kosaka

Mr. Phillip Coon, his son Michael, Mr. Erwin Johnson, his wife Ann, and Mrs. Esther Jennings visited the former site of Kosaka POW camp.


Mr. Coon and Mr. Johnson In front of the Kosaka Mine Office building
(now serving as a museum of Kosaka’s mining history)


With local officials, Mr. Norihiko Kimura, Mr. Kondo, Mr. Kudo, and
Mr. Takahashi who heads Kosaka's historic theater, Kourakukan.
 Also included is Ms. Yuki Wakasugi of the Foreign Ministry

                 
         
Mrs. Jennings with Mr. Takahashi              Mr. Coon presents a plaque to  Mayor Hosokoshi

                                                                                                          (Photo courtesy of Ms. Yuki Wakasugi)

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October 19, 20

The entire delegation visited Kyoto
 

     
                At Ryozen Kannon

Name cards of 48,000 Allied soldiers who died on Japanese territory are kept in the Memorial Hall of this temple.  Professor David Moreton of Tokushima Bunri University shared with the delegation his research on those name cards.

The delegation also visited Ritsumeikan University's Kyoto Museum for World Peace.
 



The 2013 POW delegation, Thank you for visiting Japan!
 


* NHK (Japan’s PBS) news on the POW trip aired on October 24:


* Asahi Shimbun report:
   Foreign minister intends to continue inviting ex-U.S. POWs to Japan

* Mr. Coon also made headlines when he returned home. Please read:
   WWII prisoner of war receives overdue honors
   
70 years later, WWII POW gets his well-earned medals

* Mrs. Cummins's essay, "My Trip to Japan."

 
* Please also see reports on the 2010 POW visit, 2011 POW visit and 2012 POW visit.