by Lauren Bothe
Granddaughter to former POW Austin Andrews, Sr.
"The Pacific War"
SHALL RETURN” words oddly familiar, but cannot be placed. As quoted by General Douglas MacArthur on
March 11, 1942 as he departed from the island Corregidor. These words were not so distantly
forgotten in the minds of the embattled men of Bataan & Corregidor who suffered the atrocities and
deaths at the hands of their captors the Japanese. MacArthur left behind 90,000 American and
Filipino troops, lacking food, supplies, and support. The
war in the Pacific is one of the least known about in the History of America, covered up by
Japanese and American officials alike who felt that the truth was to much for the world to handle,
at the expense of our soldiers and the American public.
The decision to cover up this historical atrocity and to deny implementing it into the history books is wrong. The war in the Pacific should be openly examined and placed into the history books. First, the current treaty with the United States and Japan should be abolished; which would then allow us to inform our society before the last of the greatest generation vanishes. Secondly, we can learn from the past, and take with the errors of our forefathers. As with many life’s experiences; learning from mistakes and moving forward with historical knowledge, correcting where possible the errors of humanities frailty. Finally, with the truth out Veterans can finally receive the benefits they deserve; knowledge of what they went through and the ability to talk about it openly.
Although the United States tried to stay neutral in the beginning of the war; with continuing peace talks with the Japanese empire. The battle over oil caused an ambush attack on Pearl Harbor that sparked the United States to enter the war. As quoted by President Roosevelt “December 8, 1941. A day that will live in infamy.” To this day the repercussions’ of what happened in the Pacific still haunt our nation.
The world may never forget World War II; but they have a right to know the entire story and learn from it.
To the American public; the only thing that happened in WWII was the holocaust. Little do they know that the holocaust isn’t the only atrocity that affected several thousands of Americans. The Pacific War is a collaboration of much more than just fighting. The war in the Pacific to survivors and descendants represents: death marches, packed box cars, hell ships, slave labor, forced prostitution, malnutrition, starvation, lack of medical care, shootings, beatings and decapitations, public executions, cannibalism and terrorism (Berg). “While 1% of the American POWs in Germany during the war died in camps there,37% died because of the abuses in Japan’s company camps (Sahagun).
The poorly treated men whose rations had been cut to half’s and thirds before the surrender were forced to eat horse, deer, lizards, iguanas, wild pigs, dogs and monkeys. It was a long running joke on Bataan that “They are the 26th Calvary right out of the saddle”. One soldier said that eating monkey the least favorite item on the menu “Was like eating your little brother” (Glusman). The biggest battles in the Pacific took place on the island of Corregidor and the peninsula of Bataan (Andrews).
“The History Place” has recorded that on April 9, 1942 the U.S. forces on Bataan had surrendered. This was due to lack of ammunition, food and morale (NWTravel Magazine). When asked about surrender Al Felsen a former POW said “We didn’t surrender, we were given to those assholes.” The very next day the beginning of the Bataan Death march took place. More than 76,000 POWs were forced to walk 70 miles in the excruciating heat without food or water. The men were walking to an unknown destination, but soon to be discovered the infamous death camps. Abie Abraham a death march and POW survivor and author of “Ghost of Bataan” and “Oh God Where Are You?” stated that “It had to come from the heart to take one step in front of the other. They wanted us to move fast. We couldn’t break formation or we’d be killed.” Not only were American soldiers being bayoneted or shot for stepping out of line or stopping in the march, the Filipino people who tried to help them or sneak them water were killed right on the spot. There were over 140,000 American POWs in Japanese prison camps (“Japanese POW Camps“). Hundreds of thousands of American, Chinese, Filipino, British and Asians were murdered by the merciless hands of the Japanese. For the American soldiers their stories of bravery, strife and patriotism may never be told.. This a picture of a prison shack; where POWs slept on the floor vulnerable to mother nature
First, the current treaty with the United States and
Japan should be abolished. The San Francisco Peace Treaty between the Allies (United States) and
the Axis Powers (Japan) is the one thing preventing the American stories from being told.
The treaty that served to officially end World War II and end Japan’s position as an imperial power, needs to be abolished. (Wikipedia, Treaty). The treaty was signed in San Francisco on September 4, 1951, by 48 countries (Global Alliance). Countries in attendance include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam (Wikipedia, Treaty).
Also, because of the Chinese war neither the Republic of China nor the People’s republic of China were invited to attend. Also not invited to attend was North Korea, South Korea and Italy. The treaty was used to signify the effects of Japan’s relationship with the United States and it’s role in the world as determined by this treaty and shall be used to discuss the ways in which these effects have governed Japan’s post war history (Wikipedia, Treaty).
the treaty was signed Harry S. Truman was the current president of the United States and Minister
Yoshida Shigeru was the Prime Minister for Japan. And although the treaty states the ending of the
war and that the atrocities that occurred in WWII at the hands of the Japanese will not be
discussed. Neither the government nor the POWs can inform the American and Japanese people of what
took place (Andrews). The real reason that the treaty was negotiated was for the gain of U.S.
military bases on Japan’s homeland due to the cold war (Answers.com).
This treaty still in effect should be abolished. One reason the treaty should be abolished is that it’s wording has led to many controversies and unresolved war related issues such as damages and compensations. In reference to damages the term is talking about damages to Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and anywhere that Japan had inflicted destruction. Unresolved compensations are such as POWs or “comfort women”(forced sex slaves) not getting fairly paid for slave labor (San Francisco). POWs were only paid a dollar a day they worked under slave labor and on top of that their rights to sue and win against the Japanese government for compensation was taken away (Andrews). If the treaty is abolished; former POWs can now rightfully sue the Japanese government without interference of clause 16 (Wikipedia, Treaty).
Clause 16 of the San Francisco treaty states that “It is equally understood that the transfer provision of this Article has no application to the 19,770 shares in the bank for International Settlements presently owned by Japanese financial institutions“(Wikipedia, Treaty). This prevents POWs from suing Japanese corporations such a Mitsubishi Corporations, Mitsui and Nippon Steel Corporation whom were responsible for slave labor and reeked the benefits after slave labor(Sahagun). Sahagun quoted David Casey Junior a lawyer representing POWs in a lawsuit against Japan has said that “It’s outrageous that these companies ,which profited from slave labor are celebrating in their boards rooms.”
The biggest reason that the treaty should be abolished is that POWs can have the freedom to talk about what they experienced and survived (San Francisco). Austin Andrews a former POW of the Japanese for 31/2 years said that “We were told that we couldn’t talk about what happened and how the Japanese treated any of us. If we did we would be discharged with no benefits or care.” Sahagun quoted Sheldon Casey a history professor at Cal State Northridge stating that “The shameful thing is that the U.S. government continues to support the Japanese position.”
The second reason why this part of history should be implemented into the history books is: we can learn from the past, and take with us the errors of our forefathers. By learning from the past we can build better and stronger homeland defenses and also enforce stricter punishments on those whom violate our policies. When we look into the past, we see into our future.
“If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.” -Aristotle . By reviewing our past history we see how history repeats itself (World Village). It’s important to study from past history because you learn from the mistakes from the people who came before you. By learning from our mistakes we can better how we do things in the future.
Pearl Harbor which took the United Sates by surprise is a lesson it in itself to be taught. The United Sates had heard speculations of an attack but took no further time to look into it or to prepare just in case (National Geographic). If the United States would have been prepared just in case of an attack the course of the war may have been altered a totally different way. We could have defended Pearl Harbor and more importantly saved important aircrafts, ammunition and the lives of thousands of innocent American soldiers defending the homeland (Norris).
The United States dropped it’s guard because it was to focused on aiding nation’s that had fallen subject to the war while still trying to remain as neutral as possible without being dragged into the war itself. From this we can learn that we are focus number one, this was the U.S.’s biggest mistake. We always put other’s before us and then fall victim when we let our guards down (Norris). When the United States joined the war it was already crippled from Pearl Harbor because of lack of insight. Because of this American soldiers were left overseas without aid and or supplies to last them just in case. Why? Do you ask; because the United States Government didn’t think that far ahead. Not only did we let our guards down we underestimated the enemy. It’s important to learn from Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific so that we don’t let this happen again (Andrews).
One of the things we can learn from this historical error called Pearl Harbor is to build better defenses. American’s can definitely take this to heart since the September eleventh attacks in 2001(Norris). The department of defense is in charge of coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government relating directly to national security and the military. The D.O.D. or Department of Defense was formed September 18,1947; it was built as a national military establishment to serve the United States (Wikipedia, Department).
This program was set up to guard our countries defense against foreign countries. The United States realized that after WWII and the mishaps in the war with Germany, Italy and Japan; that we needed stronger resistance against distant countries. With stronger defenses our military can allow itself to build up and grow. In the department there’s also a branch of counter intelligence which also allows us to better defend our homeland. With people working on the inside we can keep an eye on suspicious countries and cover our backs with a strong military to back it up. With this we will then be further prepared for anything to come in the future (Wikipedia, Department).
Another reason that is a bonus from learning from our past history is the idea to enforce stricter foreign military policies. During World War II the Japanese took advantage of weak foreign policies of the United Sates. With stronger foreign policies the United States can keep a stable control over how things are run. The U.S. needs to stronger international treaties. They need to draw guidelines that define the meaning of the word “war crime” Criminal laws need to be stronger. A permanent court could help control war crimes. Cracking down is a deterrent to aspiring “Hitler’s” (Criminal).
The Geneva Convention is a prime example as to why the U.S. needs to enforce stronger military policies. If we’ve learned anything from our past it’s to protect ourselves. To do this there were conventions called to discuss the problems of warfare. The Geneva Conventions are four international treaties governing the protection of civilians in time of warfare. The first convention covers the sick and wounded in war, this was signed in Geneva, Switzerland in the year 1864. It was then amended in 1906. Since then two other conventions we made to protect sick, and wounded prisoners of war (Geneva Conventions). The terms of the Geneva Convention were ignored by the Japanese who made up rules and inflicted punishments at the whim of the Camp Commandant (History on the Net). The Japanese felt that they didn’t have to follow the Geneva Conventions because of their “Bushido“ , or also known as the warrior's code. They were taught that surrender wasn’t an option and that it was a honor to die in battle for the emperor. If you surrendered you were to commit suicide or to never show your face again because to surrender is to shame your family name (Wiki Answers).
This picture is an example as to how POWs were starved and brutality treated while under the control of the Japanese.
The United States needs to have stronger foreign military policy so that the treatment of prisoners of war aren’t treated the way they were by the Japanese. There was no control over the Japanese and that’s a big problem. If no one can regulate a striving world power, then rules are broken and the situation turns to straight chaos.. It’s a necessity for the United States to have a stronger military policy and well built defenses.
The Final reason that The War in the Pacific should be implemented into the history books is for the benefits for the Veterans. They are the ones who deserve the most out of anyone. They went through hell and back and survived only to have their compensation taken away from them, their recognition and appreciation taken from them and their pride in their survival frowned upon.
One of the biggest benefits for Veterans is a bigger and well deserved compensation. As stated earlier many POWs were only paid a dollar a day they worked under slave labor (Andrews). That is highway robbery considering that everyday that these men went to work they were beaten, tortured, and on top of that they were starved and deprived of food and water. They never got the compensation they worked for; they helped build major world Japanese corporations that are still successful today. It should be jointly decided by the Veterans’ that are still living to decide how much they would like from these Japanese corporations and government. If they survived it hell; they have a right to decide what they deserve for it.
Appreciation and Recognition are the final reasons why this part of history should be included into the history books. When the boys from the Pacific came home, there wasn’t a huge fan fare welcome. People weren’t lined in the streets and reporters weren’t there to take their pictures; only ambulances to take away the wounded and the sick (Andrews). “The death march and the Japanese POW camps became ancient history, and most Americans didn’t want to be reminded of those unpleasant events. So the Ghosts of Bataan and Corregidor, as with all POWs of the Japanese, tried to slip back into the mainstream of civilian life, aided only by their loved ones” (Breuer). These men were told to forget about what happened and to not bring it up because the United States only wanted to celebrate the victory; not realize what these men to help aide us in our victory. It’s sad to think that when these men were released from being prisoners of the Japanese they made an American flag and hung it in their prison camp. Austin Andrews a POW in a prison camp in Japan at the time said “We took the flag back into camp …at 0800 the next day, we stood at attention and saluted until the flag was raised…It was an extremely emotional moment, and tears were streaming from every man while we sang.” To think that this was the same flag that left them there 31/2 years ago. If that isn’t patriotism, then I don’t know what is. “Patriotism is selfless. And it is not the generals who are the bravest- they usually have the means to stay away from the battle and thereby lengthen their lives. The bravest are usually those whom we do not know or hear about…It has always been the many faceless men, those foot soldiers, who have died. It is they who make a nation.” -F. Sionil Joe, Dusk
The time has come for these men to be seen for the war heroes that they are. They deserve nothing but the same treatment as every other soldier who had fought for his county and came home.
In conclusion, the War in the Pacific should be openly examined and placed into the history books. First, the current treaty should be abolished and would then therefore allow the story to be set free. Secondly, we can learn from the past history and embrace the future. And Finally, the veterans can receive the benefits and recognition they deserve. Time is of the essence and we neto thank the last of the veterans before the last of the “Greatest Generation” vanishes.
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