Japan Apologizes for Bataan Death March

                Ambassador Speaks to Last 73 American Survivors of the March  

          Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki delivers an official apology to 73 U.S.
          survivors of the Bataan Death  March at a meeting of the survivors group May 30, 2009, in San Antonio.

                                                    Video link of speech

The Japanese ambassador to the United States apologized in person today to the 73 surviving POWs of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in April 1942 during WW II.
"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 the Corregidor Island, Philippines and other places," Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said at the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor POWs of the Japanese during World War II.
Sixty-seven years after the Japanese captured and force-marched 12,000 Americans and 68,000 Philippines from the island of Corregidor to northern Luzon, denying them food and water, and killing the stragglers, the country apologized.
The ambassador said he was speaking for the government of Japan as he apologized.
"I would like to express my deepest condolences to those who have lose their lives to the war and after the war and their family members," he said.

It is estimated that the Japanese killed nearly 1,000 Americans and more than 10,000 Philippine soldiers on the march. When news of the march reached the United States, it enflamed the anger against the Japanese, which was already high because of the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the country into the war. Lester Tenney, 88, former staff sergeant of the Army's 192nd Tank Division survived to write a book about the wartime injustice, called "My Hitch in Hell."
As president of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor POWs of the Japanese during World War II, he made it his mission to pursue an apology from the Japanese government for the brutal treatment during that 12-day, 86-mile march in which stragglers were bayoneted and their bodies tossed by the roadside. Last November, while in Washington, D.C., to commemorate Veterans Day, he received a call from the Japanese ambassador, who asked him to visit his residence and relate his request. Tenney described to him the tortuous experiences that he and his comrades had endured. The ambassador took Tenney's request to his government and wrote a letter of apology. Upon receipt of the letter, he was invited to deliver it in person to annual gathering.

This will be the last time the POWS will host the gathering, the group has said. Their families, the Descendants Group will take on the memorial mission of the group in the future. Speaking to reporters after the ambassador's remarks to the POWs, Tenney said he "feels good" about his efforts.  He compared finally receiving the apology to "going 15 rounds in a fight and knocking out your opponent."
Whatever Tenney's feelings about his Japanese captors during the war, today he said he admired the ambassador. "It takes an great amount of courage to come in the lion's den" and to express the Japanese point of view, Tenney said.

Fujisaki ended his remarks, "Today Japan and U.S. are the closest friends, best allies. But we should always keep in our minds that this good relations, this status of past experience and efforts," Fujisaki said. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are committed to carry on the torch to our future generations of this excellent and irreplaceable friendship and relations."              Credit:  By VIJA UDENANS -  SAN ANTONIO, May 30, 2009

Note: not all of the survivors attending were Death March participants. Some were fighting on Corregidor or captured on Mindanao.

Another article; different viewpoint

Bataan survivors hear apology from Japan official C 2009 The Associated Press May 31, 2009

SAN ANTONIO At the Bataan Death March survivors' reunion, Japan's ambassador to the United States gave his country's first in-person apology for the 65-mile forced walk of U.S. troops and allies during World War II that left some 11,000 prisoners of war dead.
Ichiro Fujisaki spoke Saturday in San Antonio at the final scheduled reunion of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, its 64th annual convention,
the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Fujisaki's apology was welcomed by some of the 73 surviving Bataan Death March veterans of the Army and former Army Air Corps members in attendance. But others criticized it, saying it was long overdue, not aimed directly at Americans and didn't seem to come from the Japanese government as a whole.

In 1942, Japanese captors marched about 78,000 prisoners of war 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipinos for six days on the Bataan Peninsula on the Philippine island of Luzon to a prisoner-of-war camp. Many were denied food, water or medical care, and some were stabbed or beheaded. As many as 11,000 prisoners died, according to the U.S. Air Force.
"As former prime ministers of Japan 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," Fujisaki said. "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."

Fujisaki got a standing ovation from half or so of the 400 to 500 attendees, which included relatives of the ex-POWs.
"Well, we finally got the apology that we wanted," said retired Tech Sgt. Joe Alexander of San Antonio.
"They ask how do I feel? ... Now we can rest at ease. We're satisfied."     
But while some shook hands and posed for pictures with Fujisaki, who had flown from Washington for the last-minute speech, others gave him an earful.
Former POW Hershel C. Boushey told the ambassador that he did not accept "your apology," and that the atrocities and mistreatment many suffered was severe.
POW survivor Tony Montoya, who lives in Woodland, Calif., said his speech seemed insincere.
"This young man knows very little of the atrocities," Montoya said. "They probably rehearsed him on it."
Abie Abraham, 95, of Renfrew, Pa., who was a POW for more than three of his nine years with the Army, said it was time to move on.
"I was never one of those guys that worried about whether we got an apology or not," said Abraham, who is known as "The Ghost of Bataan"
because he stayed 2 1/2 years after being rescued so that the bodies of his fallen comrades could be given proper burial. "The way I look at it is
Japan is now our ally," Abraham said. "Why should we get an apology from them?" Paul Ropp, a retired Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel who is with the organizing group, noted there might be some cultural differences and nuances that made the apology seem lacking in clarity, sincerity and directness to Americans.

“This is about as candid an apology as anybody's going to get,” Ropp said.     ‘Rest at ease'

Lester Tenney's introduction of Ambassador Ichiro Fujisak

Today my friends we are making history, in fact, we are history. After 67 years of searching for justice, of being a former POW of the Japanese, today is the culmination of those years of searching. For today May 30, 2009, an official representative of the Japanese Government will offer us his country’s apology for the brutal treatment meted out to we former American prisoners of war.
On April 9th 1942, the order was handed down from General King for all troops on Bataan to surrender. Then on May 6, 1942, General Wainwright ordered all forces on Corregidor and other island’s of the Philippines to put down their arms and surrender. This along with those taken on Guam, Wake Island and Midway, and all those captured at sea, more than 27,000 Americans became prisoners of war.
For those lucky enough to survive the Bataan Death March and all the others captured and survived, we were sent to Japan and forced to labor for private Japanese companies. We received little food, almost nothing in the way of medical care, and certainly no pay, but we survived to come home and ask our government leaders for justice.

The song, the Impossible Dream from the musical, Man of La Moncha, is our song; they are saying our words, telling our story.

To dream the impossible dream …To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow...To run where the brave dare not go
To right the un-rightable wrong...To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary...To reach the unreachable star
This is OUR quest...To follow that star
No matter how hopeless...No matter how far
To fight for the right...Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell...For a heavenly cause.
And WE know if WE’LL only be true ... To this glorious quest
That OUR heart’s will lie peaceful and calm
When WE ARE laid to OUR rest...And the world will be better for this
That WE men, THOUGH scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with OUR last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

Our dream for a little justice has materialized today…
I am pleased to introduce the Japanese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America, the Honorable Ichiro Fujisaki.

Linda's Note: There is a passionate discussion as to whether or not this is a "real apology". Regardless of opinions, the one fact we cannot deny is that we,
the Filipinos, and many other nations were robbed of  many, many of their citizens in a most ruthless inhuman way and those surviving have suffered in
ways that words cannot express. There is nothing, not money, not apologies, denouncements, nothing, absolutely nothing, that can ever repair the damage done!

Another article relating to the apology:

Healing the Wounds of Bataan, by Michael Norman

In May, Japan apologized for the Bataan Death Marchthe torturous trek that killed 2,500 men in 1942. Ever since, the survivors have been debating whether to accept it.
On a warm Saturday in late May, Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan's Ambassador to the United States, found himself at a lectern in a large banquet room at the Omni hotel in San Antonio, Texas facing a group of aging American Army and Ai r Corps veterans. Sixty-seven years earlier, these same veterans had been b eaten, starved, imprisoned and enslaved by the ambassador's political forbearers, the right-wing militarists who waged a savage war of savage intent t hat, by some estimates, cost the lives of 25 million people in Asia.
"We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous dam age and suffering to many people," Fujisaki began, "including prisoners of war."
The ambassador's apology set off something of a contretemps among the aging veterans and their families, a debate that filled the summer and is spilling into the fall, raising a question rarely asked after a war: What is the responsibility of the defeated?

Across the years, various representatives of the Japanese government, including a prime minister or two, have issued similar apologies, but this was different. For the first time since the massive bloodletting of World War II , a member of the government of Japan stood face to face with men his country had torturedand the relatives of men it had murderedun armed prisoners of war all, looked them both literally and figuratively in the eye, and said he was sorry.
None of the accounts of Fujisaki's apology mentioned that the particular group of men assembled before him had been part of the first major land battle for America in World War II, the 1942 fight for the tiny peninsula of Bataan in the Philippines Islands, a last stand that ended in the surrender of 76,000 men under American command--the worst defeat in American military history.

The day after that battle, the Japanese rounded up their captives and start ed marching them north under a tropical sun 66 miles to a railhead to prison camp. The men were sick and starved; they'd been fighting for 99 days on less than half rations and were suffering from malaria, beriberi, and dengue fever. Whenever they dropped out of the line of march and fell to their knees, their Japanese guards would shoot them, beat them, bayonet them, decapitate them, bury them alive, run them down like dogs in the road. Some 2,5 00 American and Filipino POWs died on that infamous trek, the Bataan Death March. In the years of imprisonment that followed, the American POWs were made to live on rice and weeds, were worked to death on brutal labor details , were transported to Japan in the suffocating holds of vessels they came t o call "hell ships," and then were enslaved in Japanese mines and factories and shipyards. Some 25,000 Americans in the Philippines went into captivity in 1942. Three years later, more than 40 percent were dead.

For all thisthe deaths, the suffering, the torture, the enslavement tIchiro Fujisaki, plenipotentiary, offered his "deepest condolence s", and later the Japanese government invited the survivors, the some 70 octogenarians and nonagenarians who are the last men standing from Bataan, to visit Japan in the spring of 2010 to, as the Yomiuri Shimbun put it, "promote understanding of this country among them."
To many of those white-haired and mottled men, the ambassador's six-minute apology and the invitation to visit Japan were insults. Fujisaki's regret sounded genuine enough, but some men wondered how anyone could apologize for an atrocity.

No locution, they said, no matter how well framed or sincerely delivered, could act as an emollient for the memory of being starved and bludgeoned for three years. No expression of regret could stop the nightmares of skeletal comrades lying half dead in their own filth or a buddy on his knees begging for his life just before a Japanese guard dispatched him.

Their enmity, of course, is easy to understand. I listened to it for 10 years, researching their history for my book, Tears in Darkness. Some men simply don't want to hear an apology. "I don't give a damn what any of them say ," a former POW doctor once told me. "I still hate the bastards." Others insist on an "official" apology, a resolution of regret voted by the Japanese Diet; without that imprimatur, they say, any apology, even one as earnest as Fujisaki's, is empty. A third group wants atonement in the form of hard cash, either official war reparations or "compensation"$20,000 is the figure most mentionedfrom the Japanese war-time firms that enslaved them. Ralph Levenberg, a death-march survivor who now lives in Reno, Nevada, explains:

"Money doesn't really take the pain away, doesn't wipe out the hurt and nightmares. You can't 'buy' that away, but some guys feel $20,000 would be a n ice apology. The payment is symbolic. Besides, everyone would like to have a pot of money."

Not Ben Steele of Billings Montana. He was with his comrade Ralph Levenberg in San Antonio, and he too found the amiable ambassador's entreaties "shallow" after all these years, "a little late" for a group of men who know the irsurcease is at hand. ("Hell," he says, wryly, "we're all almost dead, you know. We're walking on thin ice. What good does an apology do now?") But there's a difference between Ben Steele and many of his aging comrades.
As a former prisoner of war, he doesn't like he’s suigeneris, different from the other men and women who fought in World War II. Yes, being a former POW confers on him the full status of a causality (he had beriberi and malaria so bad, he was given the last rites three times in one prison c amp). But he is quick to point out that there were close to 680,000 other American casualties (wounded) in World War II.
"Getting captured," he says, "was simply part of my military experience. There's all kind of hazards in war. A bullet in the head or something. You never know. When you're in the military, you're subject to being harmed. You're sticking your neck out."

So he doesn't want special compensation or reparations. POWs, he says, are already given special treatment by the Veterans Administration and most collect full disability, close to $3,000 tax-free dollars a month. Such equanimity in the wake of so much injury is unusual. In part this sang -froid is a product of who Ben Steele is, a former cowboy turned art professor, a man with a remarkably even disposition who greets everyone with a good word and a smile. But his lack of animus also comes from his post-war experience, one day in particular.

He started teaching college in 1959 and on the first day of school he found a Japanese student sitting in his classroom, a boy named Harry Koyama. When Ben Steele saw those almond-shaped eyes, his heart instantly filled with hate.
“This is awful,” he thought. “What am I going to do ?” After class he went back to his small office to think. Okay, he told himself, the war is over. He wasn’t a prisoner anymore and this wasn’t Japan. It was America, and “this kid’s an American, too. I have to treat him like everybody else.”
Everything seemed fine until the boy discovered that his professor had been a former prisoner of the Japanese. Ben Steele could feel his student pulling away, and that troubled the teacher in him, so he sat the young man down for a talk. By the end of the semester, Harry Koyama was among the best in the class. And Ben Steele was beginning to wonder what had happened to all that hate he’d brought home.

That is why now, 92-year-old Ben Steele, unlike many of his surviving comra des, wants the Japanese Foreign Ministry to know that if his aging legs can get him to the front door of the Billings Logan International Airport this spring, he plans to get on a flight to Tokyo, where he'd be delighted to s it on a tatami mat and talk about peace and reconciliation. He does not require an apology, but a Kobe steak and cold Sapporo would be much appreciate d.

Michael Norman, is the co-author, with Elizabeth M. Norman, of recently published Tears In the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 2009), a book that features Ben Steele and his war art. Michael, a former combat Marine from Vietnam, is an Associate Professor in the Literary Reportage program at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University.

For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at editorial@thedailybeast.co m.

Response:

With my greatest respect and admiration for Mr. Steele, he does not have the right to represent the victims of the Japanese during WW II.  M r. Steele is free to go to Japan and be "wined and dined", as "others" have in the recent past, but he can only speak for himself.
Mr. Steele does not have the authority nor the right to speak for the American, Chinese, British, Australian, Dutch, Canadian , Filipino, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, other Asians or Pacific Islanders victims of the "Japanese Devils!" 

Mr. Steele does not speak for the comfort women.  Mr. Steele does not speak for the children in China and the Philippines who were bludgeoned by Japanese bayonets.  Mr. Steele does not speak for the adolescent girls, throughout Asia, who were gang raped and brutally murdered by the Japanese.  Mr. Steele does not speak for the other American or Filipino victims or survivors of the Death March and Camp O 'Donnell.  Mr. Steele does not speak for the Australian nurses who were murdered on Bangka Island.  Mr. Steele does not speak for the victims of the Thai-Burma Railroad.  Mr. Steele does not speak for the victims of the Hell Ships.  Mr. Steele can not speak for the Chinese murdered by Unit 731 in Pingfang and Harbien.  Mr. Steele can not speak for those who were massacred all over Asia and in the Pacific Is lands. 
After Mr. Steele has his "Kobe steak and cold Sapporo beer"  he can only discuss "peace and reconciliation" in regards to himself alone.  He is certainly free to, personally, forgive and reconcile with the Japanese.   If Mr. Steele does go to Japan, I truly hope he has a safe a wonderful trip .  I hope he is "wined and dined", as "others" have been in the recent past.  He certainly deserves this treatment.  He must not forget that he speaks only for himself.
Fred Baldassarre

Good job Mr. Baldassarre -

I have taken the liberty of copying many who are either POW survivors, or relatives of Americans on the Death Railway (2nd Bn, 131st F.A. or USS Houston).  Known as members of the the Lost Battalion Association, its first generation men were captured well before the Philippine Death March.  To my knowledge, none of our group's POW survivors have been asked to fly to Japan for any meeting with government officials.  While I do not speak for this group, as a 2nd generation member I know that my father, and at least those who have said anything to me about it would not be willing to accept any superficial gesture of Japanese sadness for what happened in WWII.  These men, unlike many interested by-standers since, are as close to experts on the inner workings of the Japanese mind as anyone around.  They are a quiet bunch now, but they have seen the Japanese in action as few others have.  These men have observed Japanese political maneuverings since, including forcing Prime Ministers to resign that suggested visits by the B-29s Enola Gay and Bock's Car were inevitable.  They have seen Japanese war criminals elevated to the likes of saint-hood, and seen Japanese text books that do not address Japan's atrocious behavior in WWII.  They have also seen our own US government head off paying reparations to our own POWs year after year while other countries have at least made monetary gestures toward recognizing the pain their own ex-POWs endured at the hands of the Japanese.  Our American POWs maintained their honor, while Japan, a nation that prides itself on honor, will not admit, in a straight-forward fashion, what the terrible acts they committed to millions of POWs and civilians.  As my father Arthur B. Clark of HQ Battery said in his yet to published memoirs - "On a personal note the Japanese are polite.  They bow and they smile.  Those dealing with them should watch their backs."  So, I join Federico Baldassarre in declaring that Ben Steele of Billings Montana, while he has every right to visit with whoever he chooses, does not have the right to speak for our heroes, our ex-POWs. 
Mark Clark  

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