2012 "Japanese/American POW Friendship Program"

The government of Japan invited seven former POWs to Japan for a 9-day visit beginning October 13, 2012. The participants in the third Japanese/American POW Friendship Program were as follows:

Douglas Northam Randall Edwards   David Farquhar     John Mims          John Real      George  Summers   Robert Ehrhart

October 14

Visit to Commonwealth War Cemetery

Forty-eight American POWs were memorialized here. Most of them died in Moji after surviving the Oryoku Maru- Enoura Maru- Brazil Maru voyage.


Exchange meeting with NGOs

Professor Aiko Utsumi, a prominent scholar on Japan’s POW policy, stated at the conclusion of the exchange meeting that she would continue to make efforts in educating Japanese people, especially young generation, on the POW history.

October 15

Visit with Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba welcomed former POWs and restated Japan’s official apology for causing tremendous damage and suffering to POWs. Mr. Douglas Norhtam, on behalf of the entire delegation, thanked the Japanese government for the invitation program. He expressed the hope that the program would continue for many more years and that widows and descendants of POWs would also be included.

         Mr. Gemba spoke as reporters recorded his words          commemorative coin presented to him

Meeting with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tsuyoshi Saito

Mr. Saito expressed his determination that he would make every effort to keep the peace he was blessed with, telling the delegation that he was born right after the end of WWII.

Public lecture at Temple University

The entire program can be seen at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jycpzCn1f4

October 16

Visit with US Ambassador John Roos


Very emotional Ms. Linda Oberman, the daughter of Mr. George Summers, told Ambassador Roos, “If a fortune teller had told my father while he was a POW that he would live to be 90, visit Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government, meet with the US Ambassador, and have his suffering recognized, nobody would have believed him.”

Press conference at the National Press Club

The entire conference can be seen here.

Reception hosted by Mr. Hirotami Murakoshi, Parliamentary Vice-Foreign Minister 

    Upper House member  Mr. Yukihisa Fujita, a  longtime POW supporter, welcomed the delegation

October 17-18

On October 17, Messrs Northam, Summers and Ehrhart visited Osaka, where they had been held.  Mr. Northam and Mr. Summers were held in Umeda Camp  and Mr. Ehrhart in Osaka Sakurajima camp. Their travel companions were Mrs. Hazel Northam, Ms. Linda Oberman, and Ms. Delores Frank.

Kinue Tokudome of the US-Japan Dialogue on POWs
and Mr. Narichika Konno of Foreign Ministry accompanied the group.

They visited Hitachi Zosen for which Mr. Ehrhart had been forced to work. The Sakurajiam factory he had worked in no longer existed (it is now the site of Universal Studio Japan), but company representatives kindly prepared documents on it for visiting former POWs.

Representative of Hitachi Zosen explained the history of Sakurajima factory using company records

On October 18, three former POWs visited Nippon Tsuun (Nippon Express), for whose Umeda branch Mr. Northam and Mr. Summers had been forced to work as stevedores. Company representatives had located some old photos from company archives, which both former POWs recognized. One of the representatives said she was in charge of educating new employees and promised that she would teach this part of the company history from now on.

         Mr. Northam and Mr. Summers explained their wartime labor using company's old photos

          Then and Now:  Umeda freight yard where Mr. Northam and Mr. Summers worked during WWII

   With the representatives of Nippon Express      

The group then visited Takami Elementary School which stands near the former Sakurajima POW camp site. Fifth graders and first graders welcomed former POWs, asking them questions and singing songs for them.

Mr. Northam started his remarks in Japanese:

Watashi no namae wa Doulas Northam san desu. Grandpa.   (My name is Douglas Northam. I am Grandpa.)  This is Grandma Northam. For those of you who have grandparents I would like for you to say to them the next time you see them "Ohayo gozaimasu (Good Morning)" from American Grandma and Grandpa to Japanese Grandma and Grandpa.

Today has become a bright and happy day for Grandma and me.


”Children’s welcome brought tears to this old Marine’s eyes.”
                                                                                ----- Robert Ehrhart  

The group also visited Peace Osaka museum and had exchanges with local people who remembered seeing POWs during the war. Former Japanese Siberian forced laborer, Mr. Koichi Ikeda, also joined.

Media coverage
Yomiuri Shimbun      Message to Children from former POWs of the Japanese
Stars and Stripes    Former POWs share stories of imprisonment with Japanese children


John Leloy Mims Visited Ube-and Mine-Cities, Yamaguchi Prefecture

October 17, Mr. and Mrs. Mims arrived at Yamaguchi Ube Airport. During the Pacific War, more than 500 British and American POWs were engaged in digging coal at Sanyo Non-smoke Coal Mine, which was closed in 1970. At Ube Industries that owned the mine, three members of the Public Relations Department welcomed Mims, and explained the history of the company. Several photos depicting scenes in those days were presented to Mims, and they watched a film recording the work in the mine. Mims eagerly explained blast, framing, shoveling coal and pushing carts to Nena, his wife. After seeing the exhibition area of the company, Mims was guided to the parking lot of the huge trailers made in USA, and was told about transport of cement materials and fuel (imported coal). Mims was interested in employment the company keeps offering.

Surrounding the Mims': Ube Industries Public Relations staff, Mss Haruna Minoura of MoFA,
Yuka Ibuki of US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, Ms. Sakai of Dentsu and Nurse Sasaki.

  In front of 33-meter-long trailer

On October 18, Mims visited Mayor Koji Murata of Mine-City at 10:00a.m. The Mayor said, “Let’s work for future peace and friendship, as we remember the current days are built on the sacrifice made during the past war”. Mims strongly responded, “I share your views.” Rev. Hazama, Messrs. Yamamoto, Tanaka and Morioka, joined them, representing the citizens who built a Memorial at the Omine POW camp site in 1996. Mr. Sasaki, Planning Dpt. Chief of the city, guided them to the Memorial. Mims concentrated in reading the English epitaph. “I’m so happy I could come back here.” The previous night, he excitedly said he remembered well Captain Jerome McDavitt. Here the memories of buildings, the lovely gardens along the village road came back. At the site of the mine, Mr. Iida, Administration Manager, welcomed him. At lunch held by the City, they all enjoyed talking and agreed to work for peace, remembering the facts. Mims visited the local Museum, then enjoyed some scenic beauty created by limestone.

Visiting Mayor Koji Murata

                 With nursery school children                with Mr. Tetsuro Tanaka who tends the memorial

At the Omine Machi POW Memorial

  At the old mine entrance,  Mitsuo Morioka, Hazama, Mims, Yamamoto       The same entrance in 1945

Media coverage      
Yamaguchi Shimbun   
 Ex-US POW’s Visit to Former POW Camp in Mine-City


On October 17,
Mr. Randall Edwards and Mr. David Farquhar visited former Omori POW campsite with their wives. Mr. Farquhar then visited Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces’ Yokosuka base while Mr. Edwards visited US Navy's Yokosuka base.

  Wtih Shizu Maekawa, Keiko Tamura, Taeko Sasamoto and Fuyuko Nishisato of POW Research Network


Mr. John Real's trip to Niigata

On October 17, Mr. John Real traveled to Niigata where he had been held during the war at Tokyo 5-B POW camp. His son Greg accompanied him. Local historian, Mr. Akio Kimura, attended them.

Mr. Real and the dock where he was forced to work

 "I never thought I would have an opportunity to come back to Niigata."
                                                                           --- John Real

The  dock in the 1930s

Media coverage  
Niigata Nippo    American POW spent his time in Niigata


October 19-20

The entire delegation spent two days in Kyoto visiting Ryozen Kannon, where name cards of 48,000 foreign soldiers who died on Japanese territory were kept, and Ritsumeikan University's Kyoto Museum for World Peace.

  Prof. David Moreton explained the history of the name cards        At Ritsumeikan Museum

Media coverage
Kyoto Shimbun   
Ex-US Soldiers Talked about Their POW Experiences

Before leaving Japan, the delegation took this group photo with staff members of Dentsu, who took care of all aspects of their stay in Japan.
      (photo courtesy of Mr. Greg Real)

Thank you for visiting Japan and sharing your stories!

* Picture report on the 2010 POW visit and the 2011 POW visit