Former POW Robert A. Brown returns to Mukden camp
Chief Master Sgt. Robert A. Brown (USAF. Ret.) was interned
at the Mukden POW camp from November 1942 to August 1945, together with some 1,500
American POWs. It was my privilege to accompany him on his first return trip
since the end of WWII to
this former camp in Mukden, now Shenyang, China. Here are some of the highlights
of our trip.
Feb. 21. 2005
Arrived in Tokyo.
We visited the family of late Juro Oki, the Japanese
Army doctor for whom Bob had worked at the Mukden POW camp. He had visited Dr.
Oki in the late 50s to thank for his kindness during the war. This time, the
reunion was attended by Mrs. Oki, all three children of Dr. Oki and other family
members who welcomed Bob with warm hospitality.
Bob visiting Dr. Oki in the 50s
In the same room, Dr. Oki joined, if only by picture
We visited two members of the Japanese National Diet, Mr.
Yukihisa Fujita and Ms. Eiko Ishige, both of whom belong to the Democratic Party
of Japan, the largest opposition party. The two lawmakers listened to Bob’s POW
experience on the Bataan Death March and that in the Mukden POW camp.
With Diet member Yukihisa
Fujita With Diet member Eiko
Bob also had an opportunity to meet with a group of former
Japanese soldiers who were taken to Siberia by the Soviet forces after the war. (About 600,000 Japanese soldiers who were in Manchuria at the end of the war
were taken to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union and were forced to
work under extremely harsh conditions for 3-5 years. About 60,000 perished.) Bob introduced himself and talked about his POW experience in
Japanese! Each member of the group shared with Bob their experiences in Siberia.
Bob said that he could relate to their suffering and felt a sense of camaraderie
with these former Japanese
soldiers. He found out that several
of them were in Hoten (Mukden) when the war ended and even
saw American OSS
officers as they parachuted down.
With Siberian forced laborers
In the evening, members of the POW Research Network
hosted a welcome dinner for Bob.
Arrived in Shenyang, China in the afternoon. Bob and I
were invited to dinner at the residence of the U.S. Consul General David
Kornbluth. Mr. and Mrs. Kornbluth and Consulate staff members
were fascinated by Bob’s scrapbook where he kept many interesting photos and
documents from his POW days. We also visited Japanese Consul General Ogawachi the
next day, with whom
Bob shared his memories of the Mukden POW camp.
With Consul General
Kornbluth With Consul General
We visited the former POW campsite where a part of the
hospital building Bob had worked in 60 years earlier still stood. Local
historian Mr. Yang Jing, who has been working on the history of the Mukden POW
camp for the past ten years, was our guide. Half a dozen or so reporters and TV
crew came along with us as well. Bob said, “So many memories came back…”
During the first winter after American POWs had arrived in Mukden from the
Philippines in 1942, over
200 died because of the extremely cold and appalling condition of the first
camp. Three POWs were executed after their unsuccessful escape. On Dec. 7,
1944, the third anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, B-29 bombing killed 19
POWs (18 Americans and 1 British) and wounded 54 in the camp. As a medic,
Bob worked 40 hours straight tending wounded POWs.
Bob in front of the prison
We visited the 9-18 Museum in Shenyang where the history of
Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria was chronicled.
Bob received one more interview from a Chinese newspaper
before leaving Shenyang for Tokyo.
Left Tokyo for the U.S. Bob’s final thoughts on the trip
were, “This is an once-in-a-lifetime trip for me. I am glad that I made it. I
don’t have bitter feelings toward Japan today, but want our POW history to be
Our stay in Shenyang could not have been as fruitful as
it was without the help of Mr. Yang Jing, a local
historian. He is a member of the preservation project of the camp site now
underway. I asked the local media that they see Bob’s trip that was
assisted by me (a Japanese) and Mr. Yang (a Chinese) as an example that we could
all work together to remember and learn from our common history.
With Mr. Yang Jing
Bob’s return visit to Shenyang was front page news of three
Chinese newspapers. It was also reported in the morning TV news. In Japan, the
Asahi Shimbun reported his story.
Liaoshen Evening News Times Economic Daily
Business Morning View Asahi Shimbun
My deepest gratitude goes to Bob who trusted me to arrange this
trip. He taught me that learning history together
bring us all closer, regardless of which
country we came from.
A. Brown right after liberation in August, 1945
* Mr. Robert Brown passed away on October 15, 2008