2011 "Japanese/American POW Friendship Program"
The government of Japan invited seven former POWs to Japan for a week-long visit beginning October 16, 2011. The participants in the second Japanese/American POW Friendship Program were as follows:
Visit with US Ambassador John Roos
Ambassador Roos said, "I have a son who is 19-years-old, about the same age as you were when
you went through the hardship as POWs. I thank you for your
service to our country.
We should never forget that the good relationship we enjoy today between the US
and Japan is based on your sacrifice."
Mr. Ihara, who recently came
back to Japan from his assignment as
Consul General in Los Angeles, shared his fond memories of the United States.
Foreign Minister Genba expressed his hope that this invitation program would help promote “reconciliation minds” of former POWs, and again offered Japan’s heartfelt apology for their sufferings.
He also thanked for the condolence letter for the victims of the 3-11 disaster sent by the last year's delegation.
Mr. Robert Vogler praised the invitation program while others expressed their hope that the Japanese companies would follow their government by offering a sincere apology and joining the invitation program.
Mr. Vogler presented a commemorative medal to Foreign Minister Genba.
The medal had the American and Japanese flags crossed on the front side with the title of the program “Japanese/American POW Friendship Program” around the edge. On the other side appeared "Hopes, Dreams, Freedom & Friendship, Finally Achieved.”
All the participants brought these coins to people in Japan as their gift of
remembrance of this historic event.
Meeting with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tsuyoshi Saito
Mr. Saito said that he had attended the exchange meeting with last year’s POW delegation organized by member of the House of Councillors Yukihisa Fujita and that he considered this invitation program to be very meaningful.
Public lecture at Temple University
The Q&A session can be seen at: With Former US prisoners of war in Japan
October 18 -19
Trip to Takaoka, Toyama
Mr. Harold Bergbower and Mr. James Collier visited Takaoka, Toyama Prefectur,
where they had been held at
Nagoya-6B-Nomachi camp from September 1944 to the end of WWII. They were
welcomed by officials of Japan Metals & Chemicals, the successor company to Hokkai Denka for
whom they had been forced to work.
Mr. Takashi Toriyama, the Director of Japan Metals & Chemicals’ Takaoka Works, (sitting across Mr. Bergbower) said, “If you don’t mind, please tell us how our wartime colleagues treated you because we want to learn.”
Ms. Debra Bergbower-Grunwald, the daughter of Mr. Bergbower, described what followed.
generation from the Japanese Metals Company in Takaoka, Toyama, and these two
gentlemen, Mr. Jim Collier and my father Harold Bergbower, sitting down at a
small table, drawing a diagram, and discussing what the camp history was in
1944. And then those men laughing and talking and communicating—that was where
the friendship was. This
was the peace that happened on Tuesday afternoon. And this peace of mind helped
and is helping my father at the age of 91.
I want to thank the Japanese government and others for helping my father with
Visit with Mayor of Takaoka, Mr. Masaki Takahashi
Mayor Takahashi said, “It is important that we citizens of Takaoka realize that there were people who suffered in the history of our city and that we should remember the past.”
Collier later reflected on the trip to Takaoka, whose natural beauty he had
never recognized while being a POW:
Mr. Ed Friese visited Omuta city on October 19, where he was held at Fukuoka #17 POW Camp. He was forced to work for Mitsui Miike coalmine from July 1943 to the end of WWII.
He first visited the Coal Industry and Science Museum, where he was welcomed by
staff members of Omuta City Government, Board of Education and local people.
Documentary film Director, Ms. Hiroko Kumagai, presented him her prize winning
DVD, “Echoes from the Miike Mine,” which records the POW labor, and is shown at
the museum every day.
Mr. Friese shared his experiences with media reporters, shook hands with Mr. Kensuke Morooka, representing Association for Recording Omuta Bombing, who proposed to hold shared belief that war should never happen again, based on the knowledge of the past facts. “I’m happy to meet all of you. I had many prejudices but they are all none now.” Mr. Friese said
The warm welcome that Mr. Friese received in Omuta had a very positive impact on him. His wife, Lauretta, writes after they returned home, “He had an appointment with his V.A. Physician last Monday who was amazed at the difference in Ed's attitude towards Japan.”
Visit to former Omori POW campsite
On Oct. 19, Mr. Robert Vogler and his son-in-law Mr. Kyle Andrew, Mr. Oscar Leonard and his wife Mary Ida, and Mr. Ralph Griffith and his wife Mary visited former Omori POW campsite. Ms. Taeko Sasamoto and Ms. Yoshiko Tamura of POW Research Network Japan accompanied them.
Ryozen Kannon in Kyoto
Kyoto Museum for World Peace
Exchange meeting with Diet members
Press Conference at Japan’s National Press Club
The event was hosted by Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshiyuki Kato.
Visit to Commonwealth War Cemetery
Exchange meeting with citizens
The meeting was hosted by the Organization to Promote Exchange with POWs and their families, with POW Research Network Japan and US-Japan Dialogue on POWs supporting.
(Mr. Vogler and Mr. Kyle Andrew with Mr. Masaaki Okada and his wife, Yumiko. Their late father was the guard at Kamioka camp with whom Mr. Vogler developed friendship.)
The group headed back to the US.
* Read also POWs Trip 2010