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:

  Robert Vogler   Oscar Leonard   Harold Bergbower   Edward Friese      James Collier      Harry Corre        Ralph Griffith

October 17

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."

Luncheon hosted by Director General North American Affairs Bureau, Mr. Junichi Ihara

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.

Visit with Foreign Minister
Koichiro Genba


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.

Friends of Dr. Lester Tenney, Bataan Death March survivor and the last National Commander of ADBC, Clay and Dorothy Perkins of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, contributed funds for the production of these coins.

Media coverage
Foreign Minister apologized to former American POWs (Jiji Press)

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.

Just liberated POWs at Takaoka Nomachi camp
                    (Mr. Bergbower 4th from the right in the 5th row, Mr. Collier far left in the 2nd row)


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.

…the 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 this.
                                                                          (At the National Press Club on October 21)

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.”

POW researcher Ms. Sizu maekawa, Mr. Kevin Ladd (Jim's son-in-law), Kinue Tokudome,
and Ms. Debra Bergbower-Grunwald joined the visit with Mayor Takahashi

Media coverage

Mr. Fujihiko Hayashi of the Foreign Ministry interpreted for the media

Two former American POWs (Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2011)
Former POWs:  “dialogue for a new journey” (Mainichi Shimbun, Oct. 20, 2011)

Mr. Collier later reflected on the trip to Takaoka, whose natural beauty he had never recognized while being a POW:

“After meeting the kind people at JMC and after observing the beautiful surroundings of the city, I realized that I had been robbed of the opportunity of truly knowing this place for the past 66 years. Takaoka had always remained as a dark and depressing place in my mind. Yet this visit has finally afforded me the opportunity to appreciate its beauty.”

Trip to Omuta, Fukuoka

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.

Fukuoka #17 POW camp in 1945 (photo courtesy of Roger Mansell)

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 arrived at the Coal Industry and Science Museum

Inside the Coal Industry and Science Museum

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 Frieses Leaving Mikawa Pit Main Gate   

                        The Frieses with Ms. Yuka Ibuki and Mr. Akira Kawada of the Foreign Ministry
                                                                      with Mt. Aso in the background

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.”

Media Coverage

Ex-US POW Visits Omuta After 66 Years (Nishinihon Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2011)
English translation

Ex-US POW Visits Omuta after 66 years  (Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 20)
US Ex-POW Had Bone Broken To Avoid Mine Work (Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 20, 2011)

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.

In front of “Peace Kannon (female Buddha symbolizing compassion)”   
The sign says that this is the former site of Omori POW camp.

With Mr. Masahiro Sato, President of Keikyu Kaihatsu Co., Ltd (Far left),
which owns the area where Omori POW camp was located.

October 19-21

Visit to Ryozen Kannon in Kyoto

The group visited the temple where name cards of 48,000 foreign soldiers who died on Japanese territory were kept.


Kyoto Museum for World Peace

The group attended an exchange meeting at the Kyoto Museum for World Peace, Ritsumeikan University
. After sharing their POW experiences with members of a civic group they saw Museum's  exhibit on Japan’s Fifteen Year war.

In the lobby of the Hotel in Kyoto

October 21

Exchange meeting with Diet members

Back in Tokyo, the group attended an exchange meeting with Diet members who belong to IC (Initiatives of Change.) http://www.iofc.org/  The meeting was organized by Vice Finance Minister Yukihisa Fujita, who has been a longtime friend and supporter of Dr. Lester Tenney. Member of the House of Representatives Hiroyuki Moriyama hosted the event. The delegation shared their POW experience and thanked for the invitation program.

(Photo courtesy of the office of member of the House of Councillors Yukihisa Fujita)

Press Conference at Japan’s National Press Club

The entire proceeding can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j4IzQl9tR8

Farewell Party

The event was hosted by Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshiyuki Kato.

    Vice Foreign Minister Kato                                                             Vice Finance Minister Yukihisa Fujita

October 22

Visit to Commonwealth War Cemetery

The delegation visited the cemetery in Yokohama and laid flowers for the 48 American POWs who were memorialized there. Most of the them died in Moji after surviving the Oryoku Maru- Enoura Maru- Brazil Maru voyage.


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. Leonard and his wife Mary Ida     Mr. Corre         Mr. Griffith and his wife Mary    Professor Utsumi and Ms. Nishisato


Media coverage
Former American POWs return to Japan to visit site of internment
 (Stars & Stripes, October, 20, 2011)

POW camp survivor promotes reconciliation,
(Japan Times, Oct. 23, 2011)

This story was about Mr. Vogler's friendship with his former guard, Mr. Masao Okada, and his family.

 (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.)                

October 23

The group headed back to the US.

* Read also POWs Trip 2010