Former U.S. POW group chief calls for "establishing a fund" for reconciliation

ASAHI (Page 14) (Full) 
Eve., June 4, 2008

Lester Tenney (87), the chairman of an organization of former prisoners of war (POWs) who were forced into slave labor after being captured by the former Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, arrived in Japan. On the afternoon of June 4, Tenney is to meet with Japanese lawmakers, including Upper House President Satsuki Eda, and to ask them to work on the Japanese government to acknowledge the cruel treatment of POWs and to establish a reconciliation fund.

Tenney was taken prisoner by the former Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines in 1942 and he survived the Bataan Death March. In 1943, he was sent to a POW camp in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture and forced to do slave labor at a Mitsui-Miike coal mine until Japan's defeat in the war. Tenney filed a lawsuit in the U.S. seeking compensation and an apology from the Japanese company, but in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his case, noting, "The U.S. waived the right to claim under the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan."

This May, Tenney assumed the post of chairman of the former POW organization American Defenders of Battaan and Corregidor. He said this organization will be dissolved next May because the advanced age of the members. As the last chairman of the organization, he came to Japan, paid for by the contributions of his friends, in order to call on the Japanese government and companies associated with the POW issue to move to establish a fund. Tenney also has asked to meet with Prime Minister Fukuda.

On June 3, Tenney visited the Wadatsumi no Koe Memorial Hall," (located in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward), which displays the belongings of students killed in the war. In a speech, Tenney said, "I will not ask for compensation. It is my hope that Japan will invite former POWs and their family members to Japan so that Americans and Japanese can understand each other and will never repeat such a tragedy." He is appealing for the creation of a fund for reconciliation and friendship.