2011 Dialogue on the Hopevale Martyrdom Panay in 1943:
I. Dialogue and Participants
(1) Hopevale Martyrdom and Mr. Kumai’s Book Project on Anti-Guerrilla Warfare in Panay
On June 23, 2011, I had a splendid and gratifying experience. Ever since I heard about Susan Fertig-Dykes, she has served as a symbol of a horrible Japanese atrocity called the Hopevale Martyrdom that occurred on the Philippine island of Panay in December 1943. In 2002 I was introduced to this shocking incident by my good friend Lou Gopal, the film maker of “Victims of Circumstances: Santo Tomas Internment Camp”.
In 2003, I read a book “The Blood and Mud of the Philippines: the worst
Anti-Guerrilla Warfare in the Pacific”, written by Mr. Toshimi Kumai, former
Adjutant and Captain of the Panay Garrison at the end of the war. It is a
straight forward record from the Japanese side of the severe Anti-guerrilla war
in Panay, which was published in 1977. The author was involved in the Joint
Punitive Expedition, where the execution of “more than ten Americans” occurred.
I wished to share the book among people of the countries involved, and wrote to
the author to ask for his permission to translate it into English. Luckily Mr.
Kumai agreed, introduced me to Prof. Ma Luisa Mabunay, who graciously edited it.
Prof. Mabunay invited Prof. Ricardo T Jose, the specialist of the Philippines
under Japanese occupation. He kindly provided footnotes for the early chapters.
The book was published in a limited edition of 700 copies in March 2009, for
distribution at the memorial events held at the Nikkeijin Kaikan (the
Japanese-Filipino Hall). (See the story at:
www.kumaibuki.com) We expect the formal publication when the footnotes by
Prof. Jose have been completed.
Two photos of Hovepavale Memorials in CPU, Iloilo-city: Hopevale Story and 17 Names of Victims、including the children and the Hopevale Martyrs
On P72 of the English version printed in Panay, there is the following description of the incident:
In December of 1943, as the punitive force was moving south along a tributary of the Aklan river, we bumped into a bushy-bearded American. He was in a torn pair of shorts, bare-footed and limping. Captain Watanabe himself sternly investigated this man. He identified himself as Mr. King, and said, “I used to be a guerrilla officer, but with the Japanese campaigns, my unit scattered. Since I am conspicuously an American, neither the guerrillas nor the locals want to tae me in. So I have been wandering along the river.” From what he said further, Captain Watanabe found out there were more Americans near Egue near the town of Tapaz, 13 kilometers north of Calinog.
Watanabe instantly dispatched the whole company and found more than ten Americans, including a couple of around 50 years of age and their son of 12 or 13. From their interrogation, we learned that there were still more Americans further in the mountains, and my platoon was sent to capture them.
The men were already exhausted, but I encouraged them. We strained to march in the dark, sometimes crawling as we made our way with a local resident as guide. When we reached the village, all residents, including the Americans, had already disappeared. We managed to return to the field headquarters at midnight and slept like the dead under the hut. Next morning, when the company was getting ready, there were no Americans in sight. I asked an NCO attached to the unit headquarters, and he told me, “Captain Watanabe executed them all.” I had thought that all the captured Americans would naturally be sent to the interment in Manila, so I felt furious about the cruel approach of Captain Watanabe. On hearing the story, my subordinates were all compassionate and outraged. “How could he kill the family of three since they were obviously civilians?’
Neither the Battalion Commander Ryoichi Tozuka nor Captain Kengo Watanabe said anything to anybody about the execution of the Americans probably because of pricks on their conscience. (Later on, I learned that it was Captain Watanabe who reported the capture to officers at the garrison headquarters in Cebu City and that he did the executions following their order. There were rumors that the order was to bury the fact that—unknown to others, including the Manila headquarters—they wanted to avoid the complexity of formal procedures in dealing with these persons and their transport to Manila.)
[On P75, Route map of 170th Independent Infantry Battalion (Tozuka Unit), Joint Punitive Expedition ( July 3 to December 31, 1943) Note: the figure 16 is serial number for diagrams in the book. ]
(2) Ms. Susan Fertig-Dykes
I was introduced to Susan Fertig-Dykes by Mr. John B Lewis. His father, Lt. Col. John Lewellyn Lewis, organized the 61 Field Artillery Regiment in Panay, became a POW in Mindanao and lost his life in his third Hellship, the Brazil-maru. I sent an English copy of Kumai’s book to thank him for his encouragement on the translation project. He said, “Susan was born on a banana leaf in the jungle of Panay.” As soon as Susan and I started corresponding through e-mail, we exchanged two books; Kumai’s book in English, and “Guerrilla Wife” by Mrs. Luise Spencer. She and her husband had been with Susan’s parents Mr. Claude and Mrs. Lavern Fertig, through all the hardships of hiding and escape to safety, with the help of the devout local people of Panay. This book shows the honest courageous spirit of the authoress and those close to her. Susan also introduced me a new book,” The Edge of Terror” by Mr. Scott Walker who did detailed research on the individual missionaries, teachers and their families, including some of the surviving members. The shock of knowing about them so intimately had a serious effect on me and I had to put the book down for some months. I couldn’t even write to Susan for a long time, but I finally sent her a brief note during Lent in 2010. Susan responded so sweetly, comforting me, through her faith in the Love of Jesus.
On April 9, 2011, Dr. Lester Tenney wrote in the listserve of the Descendants Group of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (DG ADBC) an article called “Why me?” talking about his constant questioning why he was saved and returned home, while his buddies perished under the cruel Japanese. Susan instantly responded to him. She had had the same question for forty years, but suddenly she realized she should just do what she could, knowing God’s love is enough for her. As I was preparing to register in the DG ADBC Convention in Pittsburgh, I suggested that we meet at the Convention, and Susan graciously agreed. It was like a dream come true.
(3) Mr. Kumai Joins the Dialogue
After our meeting date was fixed, I resumed reading “The Edge of Terror”, more calmly this time. I finished it and introduced both books to Kumai. He was very interested, read the relevant sections, and was happily surprised to know Susan was born in Pany during the war. Her father must have been pursued by the Japanese, very probably by Kumai’s platoon. He was so happy they had failed in that mission, and said for him Susan was the person he now would like to meet most. Kumai had prepared a few recent photos of himself that could be given to her if she wanted them, and for me he gave a ten dollar note, saying he had kept it ‘somehow’. Since Kumai doesn’t have access to the internet, he learned the names of Reverend Covell and other victims for the first time through the two books. He said he just knew that there were ‘ more than ten’ Americans killed.
At our first meeting in 2003, Kumai was earlier as is his habit. “It’s such a pity what happened to them,” he said gravely. He told me of his recent experience listening to an early morning radio show, where he heard the above mentioned story. He clearly remembers the perfect gentleman who came up and spoke to him in beautiful Japanese. To an astonished Kumai, the man said he was teaching at a university in Yokohama. Even Captain Watanabe would have been impressed with this person and would have saved the captured civilians. He introduced the gentleman, whose name he confirmed in 2011 as Reverend Covell, to Captain Watanabe, the punitive force commander, who obviously was impressed, and was in an excellent humor expecting praise by the Manila Headquarters for the “great war results”.
For an evening and half a day in Pittsburgh, Susan and I had a wonderful time sharing our thoughts. She was working for her church at the time, but previously had worked for USAID and visited the areas scarred by war including Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Earlier she had lived for 6 years in Croatia and Bosnia during the conflict and afterward, while working for another organization. She even came to Japan for a conference in the 90s and met with the Prime Minister’s Office on the issue of Comfort Women. I was grateful to see her gladly accept the photos from Mr. Kumai and write a message to him. Our meeting was so good that we are already looking forward to seeing each other again at the next DG ADBC Convention.
On my return, Kumai was very happy to receive Susan’s message. During my absence, he had also read the late Rev. Mitsuo Fuchida’s memoir. Fuchida was a former Naval pilot who led the Pearl Harbor Attack, and later, he was converted to Christianity when he heard about the Covells, and met Rev. Jacob DeShazer, a former bombardier with Doolittle’s Raiders. Now Kumai has started working hard to see that the Hopevale Martyrdom and its victims will be remembered throughout Japan, calling this his last mission. Fuchida wrongly thought and has written that the incident happened in Luzon, which has prompted Kumai’s desire to spread the truth. His wish for peace has been very much accentuated through knowing Susan Fertig-Dykes, a daughter of a guerrilla officer of Panay.
(4) Kumai and the Pacific War
As the translation work of his book started, I found Kumai an amazingly reliable
source with a clear memory, profound knowledge based on research, and the Panay
human network he had built up through the years. He had difficulty hearing, but
is always well-organized, tirelessly concentrated, patient, humble and
considerate of others, with strong sense of responsibility. He studied forestry
and agricultural chemistry at college, and can communicate in simple English. He
used his English skills at various times during the war in the Philippines. He
was sent to Bataan in March 1942, as a reinforced machinegun platoon leader.
(See Mr. Kumai’s Memoir on Battle of Bataan:
His knowledge in military jargon in both Japanese and English was helpful. While
the English version of his book has made progress through the great efforts by
the two Philippine professors, he also found a sponsor for his long term goal to
move a memorial from deep in the Panay mountainside to Iloilo city, including
newly set up War Material Museum, based upon materials he accumulated. (Story in
www.kumaibuki.com) Actually he came to know the Buddhist sponsor through an
article by Dr. Mabunay, whose special academic area is on the Japanese
immigrants in the Philippines before the war.
In March 1945, at the time of the US Forces’ landing on Panay, the Japanese Garrison retired to Bocari basin, where there was food and water. They left Iloilo without burning the city, and all the military documents were saved and have been returned to the National Institute of Defense Studies (NIDS) in Tokyo. (Several years ago, the materials related to Comfort Women were published by academics and researchers by Nashinoki Publishing.) After the garrison surrendered in early September, Kumai and other officers were eventually held as War Criminal Suspects, because 10,000 local people of Panay were sacrificed in the anti-guerrilla war. Kumai was sentenced to twenty-five years of imprisonment and served eleven years in the Sugamo Prison. His unit commander and some of his close colleagues were given death penalty.
II. More about Mr. Kumai: His Post War Life up to Now
In his post-war life, Kumai managed to resume his career as chemical engineer, started his family and then set up his own small business that dealt with air transport of dangerous substances like chemicals. He says all his experiences during the war helped him. On the other hand, in 1970’s, he began going back to Panay, first trying to find the location of mass suicides where more than forty Japanese mostly women, children and elderly killed themselves, after giving up attempts to follow the troops to the safety of Bocari. Since he was the highest rank surviving officer of the Panay Garrison, some bereaved families asked for his help. With cooperation of the former guerrilla officers, he and his surviving colleagues found six children who were brought up by villagers near Sujac area and succeeded in finding some of their Japanese relatives. They also succeeded in recovering the remains of as many Japanese soldiers as they could, and built several memorials for the war victims of the Philippines, US and Japan. Kumai remains concerned that those memorials be preserved. To date he made six trips to Panay the most recent is in March 2009 at the age of 91.
Kumai has recently been cooperating in the 9th Special Exhibition of the Women’s
Active Museum (WAM), ”The Philippines : Lolas Now Stand Up: From the Islands
Tramped by the Japanese”:
http://www.wam-peace.org/english/ He gave a talk at their opening event, and
in October, he gave a talk with a question and answer session. On July 7, I
participated in a meeting with Ms. Felicidad, who came over from Manila, Kumai
and others at the exhibition venue, serving as a loud speaker for Kumai. It was
a shock for him to hear Felicidad’s story of how she was enticed with bits of
toys by some Japanese soldiers who came to her elementary school. At the age of
fourteen, she was then taken, held and raped for three days by the Japanese
In August, I received a request for Kumai’s message for a lady’s 85th birthday, which was sent by her granddaughter, Karen, in Antique, Panay. The grandmother, Florecita, and her two sisters were famous beauties from Antique, and were working for a Japanese company in Iloilo, as mentioned in p73 of Kumai’s book. Actually the grandmother was a bit enamored with a handsome subordinate of Kumai, in the Catholic society of Iloilo. He and Kumai survived the war and Florecita’s husband kindly assisted them with their post war efforts in Panay. The other two passed away, but Karen says Kumai’s message will bring out a big smile of her grandmother. Let me quote Kumai’s message, with everyone’s permission:
This article, which was started in summer 2011, was interrupted during the two visits by former POWs from the US and Australia accepting invitation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan. Kumai attended the meeting on October 30 of the US POWs and Citizens with a copy of his Battle of Bataan Memoir, which was later given to Mr. Robert Vogel, a survivor of the Bataan Death March. I met Kumai again on December 19. He found out the Baptist Union of Tokyo is located in the building in front of the WAM, and has made an appointment for a visit with the Baptist Union on December 20, the 68th anniversary of the Hopevale execution. He has prepared a letter requesting a project to remember the victims of Hopevale, with attached materials. So far, he has learned that Kanto-gakuin University has remembered Rev. Covell by naming the students’ dining hall the “Covell Hall”, which is far from adequate in Kumai’s view. His heart problem has gotten worsened, but as usual he is strong, alert in spirit, and cheerful as he says, “I must hurry up.”
III “Hopevale Martyrdom” : as Mr. Toshimi Kumai Knows
In February 1943, Lieutenant General Shizuichi Tanaka, new Commanding General of 14th Army, inspected Panay followed by Staff Officers. Neglecting the warning by General Inoue of Cebu Garrison, the delegation passed through Junjuay in high quality cars, which resulted in a mudcovered humiliating escape by the General from a guerrilla attack. That led to the reprisal Joint Punitive Expedition of Panay from July 7 to December 31, 1943. Hopevale Martyrdom occurred toward the end of the expedition. Ryoichi Tozuka, Battalion Commander, and Staff Officer Hidemi Watanabe had already returned respectively to cities of Iloilo and Cebu, and the other two companies of Tozuka Unit were returning to Iloilo by different routes.
The Headquarters Company consisted of three sections. The Headquarters under Captain Kengo Watanabe, the Commander of the Expedition Forces, included W.O. Otsuka, a sword master, two interpreters, one of English and one of Visayan language, several soldiers in charge of wireless and code, local luggage carriers and spies, which made the total number of around a dozen. The main platoon consisted of around 35 soldiers on active duty, commanded by 1stSgt. Kuwano. Around 30 petty common soldiers attached to the Headquarters were formed into an extra platoon, which was led by 1stLt.Kumai, Battalion Commander’s Punitive Adjutant. The total number of the company was around 80.
It was a member of the Kumai platoon that bumped into Mr. King, who was walking in a tributary of the Aklan River. He was exhausted, weak, and limping. After interrogation by Captain Watanabe, he was with the Kumai platoon while the whole company was approaching Tapaz. While they sat around a fire in a hut, relaxing King beautifully sang some Filipino songs like “Mama Yo Quiero”, which the platoon enjoyed. When they came close to Tapaz, he was summoned by Captain Watanabe, and pointed toward an area around 500 meters ahead. It was around 9:00 a.m. and by 10:00a.m. all of the Americans were captured. While Kumai platoon was taking a rest, a most perfect gentleman came over to Kumai and talked to him personally, representing the captives.
According to the information obtained from the Americans, Captain Watanabe dispatched Kumai, who happened to be near, and his platoon to capture them. “You go. There are some guerrilla officers.” It was around noon. Panay Garrison lost a number of soldiers through ambushes by guerrillas using mines, and it was believed there must be some mine engineers who had access to explosives. Led by a local as guide, they arrived near the village and waited till it was dark, and searched every hut but they were all empty. The platoon managed to return to the field headquarters toward mid-night and slept like the dead. Next morning, however, the Americans had vanished.
In August 1944, Kumai became adjutant of the Panay Garrison, This gave him a chance to do his personal investigation among the Headquarters personnel, especially those who were in charge of wireless. As the wireless carried by the field headquarters was small and had little range, Captain Watanabe’s report of the “glorious war results” had to be sent through Iloilo headquarters to the Punitive Operation Headquarters in Cebu-city, where General Staff Hidemi Watanabe forwarded the news on to Manila, also expecting praise. The Manila response returned directly to the field headquarters was a severe criticism and rebuke according to the soldier who received it. This astonished Captain Watanabe. It ordered him to “dispose of the captured immediately without letting any nearby locals know.” Kumai believes that at Manila, the top of the Headquarters never wanted to get involved in capture of missionaries, contrary to Watanabes’ expectation of praise. This is what must have led to the horrible tragedy; the Execution and disappearance of missionaries without trace. Kumai speculated that a hut was chosen, the victims must have been called one by one into a room and were beheaded without time to yell or scream. There were two officers in the headquarters company, who had the sword skills necessary to instantly and silently behead a person. Then the bodies must have been burned, hut and all. All this happened in one day, December 20.
Kumai believes Rev. Covell trusted him and because of that trust he thinks it's his mission to remember what happened to the victims.
IV. Message from Susan Fertig-Dykes to “US-Japan Dialogue on POWs”
As soon as Yuka and I exchanged our first emails, I knew we would be friends. We were a little tentative at first, perhaps afraid of offending each other, but quickly we saw that we could be open with each other and speak truthfully about anything on our mind. Like Yuka reading Scott Walker’s book, when I received Mr. Kumai’s book I had to read a bit and then put it down. It was hard to read things that were different from the perspectives or information to which I had been exposed; and there were times I felt angry, even though I was only a baby when these things happened, so I do not have personal memories, only the oral history from my parents and others who did experience everything themselves.
When Yuka suggested we meet at the ADBC Convention, and so kindly offered to share accommodations, I knew I had to go and meet her even though I had not previously thought about attending. I drove about 5 hours to get there, and as I was waiting by the elevator, the doors opened and I knew instantly the person emerging was Yuka. We embraced and then found a quiet place to spend our first few minutes of getting to know each other face to face. It was a delight. Yuka is such a gentle, caring person; I felt an immediate kinship with her. And you should see her in that setting—it was hard to find moments to talk alone because Yuka is so well known to and popular with this group of survivors.
When Yuka gave me the personal letter written to me from Mr. Kumai, which she had translated into English for me, I must confess I had a very strange feeling—what would my parents think if they were still alive? In college and all through my adult life, I have had Japanese friends. In fact, several decades ago a young Japanese couple lived with my husband and me and our children for several months while the young man was learning about American business practice as part of his job. But I always managed to keep those friendships separate in my mind from the wartime events surrounding my parents and the massacre of their friends on Panay. Suddenly I needed to decide about a relationship I wasn’t sure was really proper, given that this former Japanese officer might have tried to kill my parents. Yuka was the key. She was the bridge between us. With her brokering the communication, I could accept this uneasy connection with Mr. Kumai; I could even consider friendship with him more than 6 decades later. It wasn’t really a question of forgiveness; it is not for me to forgive. Not only was I not harmed and my parents not killed, but it was not even for me to judge what happened. That belongs to God—to my God who chose to spare me, for some unfathomable reason that I can only hope to fulfill. So now Mr. Kumai and I are corresponding through Yuka, and the conversation continues.
V. From the Mediator
I join Mr. Kumai’s wish for sharing the facts and remembering the victims. Let me again extend my heartfelt thanks to Susan for her understanding and support, which means a lot to us concerned people of Japan, as we work wishing for a better communication, friendship and peace among peoples of the countries wounded under the Imperial Japanese. 2011 was the year when Japan was hit by a great natural and man-made disaster. Consideration towards Japanese people by the world was strongly expressed again by the US and other former POWs, who came accepting the second invitation program by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like the Keidanren Japan recognize the past POW usage and set an educational fund for sharing the history, which is act related to hopeful future and certifies their decency.
There is another thing I’d like to mention. In February 2011, I joined the tour of the Bridge for Peace, a Japanese NPO founded and represented by Ms. Naoko Jin. The activities for reconciliation by Naoko and her group regarding the Filipino victims started in 2007. They film the interviews of Japanese veterans engaged in the Philippine campaign, and give video shows for Filipino survivors. Their effort was gradually acknowledged and in 2011, Naoko was invited as a speaker at the Memorial Ceremony of the Battle of Manila by the host organization Memorale Manila.
A lot of Japanese veterans are eager to pass on the truth of the Asia Pacific War with deep sense of guilt for what they did. However, it’s sad to see it is so difficult, rather impossible, for most of them to come and extend their heartfelt apology directly. God's forgiveness of human sins has not been part of Japanese culture. Heartfelt apology expressed through one’s own death could be called more traditional. At the end of the fanatic war, a lot of senior officers ordered their men never tell any shameful deeds of the Kogun (the Emperor's Forces) but carry them to their graves. Former soldiers are getting themselves free from that restraint, at least.
I am deeply appreciative to see what has been happening between Susan and Mr. Kumai. Prof. Mabunay is very glad the dialogue is ongoing.... and that it will continue for future generations to learn from. She says, “So much can yet be known from all these emerging contacts.” My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who have made this happen. Finally I truly appreciate the kind efforts made by Mr. James Nelson to improve my written English.