Winners of the Essay Contest on POWs
of the Japanese
US-JAPAN DIALOGUE ON POWS, INC., a
California non-profit organization, is pleased to announce two winners of its
first essay writing contest. They are:
Asako Yoshida from Saitama, Japan
Adam J. Donais from Chattaroy, WA. USA (Spokane Falls Community
Both winners will attend the
annual convention of American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (an
organization of former POWs of the Japanese) in Phoenix,
AZ from May 18 to 21, 2006. They will be meeting with many former POWs and their family members, while having a dialogue between themselves
on learning the POW history.
Contest was made possible by the generous support from Dorothy and Clay Perkins.
Here are their winning essays.
60th memorial summer after the end of World War II, I joined a Project
entitled “Their Past, Our Future” held in Tokyo. I first came to know there
about the POWs who passed away while being forced to work in Japan. Through
reading their story, I realized that what I have learned about the war at
school was not enough and that I had not understood what war was really like.
this was just events that happened in the past for me. History lessons in
Japan require just memorizing as many events as possible. However, what is
important is not memorizing what happened and when it happened but knowing how
the people lived when each historical event happened.
reading My Hitch in Hell: The Bataan Death March written by Lester I. Tenney,
I could know how people lived and felt in the terrible war situation. There
was cruelty, anger, sadness, fear, fellowship and love. I have never
experienced any war but I have experienced those feelings that human beings
naturally have. Those emotions helped me to understand the war situation. I
realized that when we read a book, we are not just reading letters but reading
feelings and emotions that the letters convey.
reading the book made me quite emotional. I could hardly believe that such
terrible thing was a reality and words could not describe the agitation I
felt. I found that in extreme situations such as the Bataan Death March,
living in POW camp and working as forced laborers, there is no rationale.
There are only a slough of despond, and torment. With the growth of
civilization, not emotions but rationales helped people to develop theories or
techniques in science and improved our life. However in war, being rational
would never save lives and reason would never stop the war. I realize that
emotion or feeling that human beings have naturally is the most important
things which tortured me the most was the fact that human beings can be so
cruel. During World War II, the Japanese military took many peoples’ lives
without humanity. They were not a special group of evil people but our
ancestors. This made the cruelty not isolated from my own life. The young
people in Japan tend to think that the wars happened in the past and its
responsibilities have nothing to do with us. We even feel anger against being
blamed for the war after 60 years. However, we have to remember that this can
happen to us too. We can be such cruel persons once war happens. Ordinary
people can be terrible soldier as the war eats away not only human’s lives,
reasons but also humanities. Being damaged and killed in the war is of course
the most dreadful thing but it would be equally terrible to become the one who
will damage and kill the people. The cruelty that is hidden within us has been
a real terror. That leads to the war, deprives us of humanity, and kills
people. We have to be aware of this human nature.
like to make sure that I am not telling this to escape the Japanese war
responsibility from World War II but for the possible danger in the future and
all the war and violence happening now everywhere in the world.
have been very hard for Dr. Tenney and a lot of other former POWs to recall
the terrible experiences from the war. If they cared about only themselves,
they would not tell anything because it was too hard to remember. If they
cared about only themselves, they could try to forget all the things by any
means. However they didn’t. Moreover they have written about their experiences
not only for themselves but for those POWs who passed away to show how they
lived as they can no longer tell and also for our future. I cannot thank them
enough for that.
they are telling their story and warning against the madness that people could
have inside, there are still wars everywhere in the world. There are wars
because warmongers, politicians, and elite military cliques who don’t fight at
the front start wars. They should know that they do not have any right to tell
people what to do. Sending people to war is to sentence people to death.
at history, there were a lot of wars. In old age, nations have a great power
and people had to obey. People lived in decided life and history, but it
should not be like that. People are not living in the history. How people
lived makes the history. The story written by POWs were apparently neither
happy nor peaceful. The piles of tragedies of POWs cannot be a history of
happiness. No war makes peace. Only a pile of each person’s happiness and
peaceful lives can produce a history of happiness and peace.
soldiers used to go to wars to protect their family and their nation. I pay
homage to all men who have died in wars. As I have written, however, all the
people who went to wars were definitely not happy. After a battle, there must
be revenge. That chain of violence should be stopped in the first place. To
make a peaceful world, each person has to be happy. Even if we are in
different countries and speak different languages, we are all human beings
having one universal language. We feel sadness, happiness and fears in the
same way. Cruelty or evil of the war is not the other country or other
countries’ people. War itself is the evil which takes away the humanities and
makes people completely changed. Enemies we have to fight are in ourselves.
After all, it is human beings who start wars and who stop wars.
year was the 60th memorial year after the end of World War II. Many events
wishing peace were held all over Japan. I joined an event commemorating the
60th anniversary from the atomic bombing held and supported completely by
volunteers in Hiroshima.
There were no negative feelings. There were just sincere prayer to the peace
and people’s wills to desire the peace. Nationalities did not a matter at all.
People from all over the world shared the same moment with a prayer for world
peace convinced me that we human beings definitely can achieve world peace. We
should show the other people not the negative feelings but a positive one and
we should believe the positive power that human beings have.
change from time to time. Humans are also changing according to the
situations. It lasts as long as we live. The problems we encounter would be
very difficult and also different from age to age but we have to keep living
as human beings with humanity. In this modern world, we still should be aware
of the importance of humanity and should struggle to keep it.
read all POWs’ stories being put on a website of US-JAPAN DIALOGUE ON POWS,
but I think it never get enough to understand all. It would be a great
opportunity for me if I could meet former POWs and listen to their personal
became aware of Japanese WWII war crimes when I spent the previous year
studying Chinese in Hangzhou, China. I noticed that several Chinese friends
occasionally expressed an intense animosity towards the Japanese and upon
exploring beyond the surface of these feelings I found significant events that
somehow had been left out of, or at least barely mentioned in my public school
Throughout my high school
classes I do not recall ever being taught about the Rape of Nanjing in 1937 in
which according to sources such as Iris Chang's book "The Rape of Nanking"
more than 300,000 Chinese civilians were raped, tortured and mutilated by the
Japanese army. Similarly, I feel my awareness of American Prisoners of war of
the Japanese was severely lacking. Napoleon said, "History is a set of lies
agreed upon." I'll venture to agree with that statement, but I'd prefer to
choose for myself which set depicts reality rather than the set seeking
political correctness by glossing over morbid details in order to replace them
with cold watered down facts. I find it disappointing that someone chooses
such history I am expected to become acquainted with and I wish the content of
history classes was designed more to inspire awareness, respect and a desire
to understand the past.
The situation seems to be similar in Japan. I recently talked with a Japanese
friend about what sort of information regarding American Prisoners of war he
remembered studying during high school history courses in his country. He said
he couldn't remember any mention of such events towards any nation by his own,
and that WWII history lessons usually focused on America's bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maybe some students really aren't interested in
history, but I have often read about the Japanese Ministry of Education,
Culture, Sports, Science and Technology intentionally omitting such events
from school textbooks that show the harsh reality of Japanese war crimes.
incident deserving of more awareness is the Bataan Death March, in which after
formally surrendering to the Japanese in 1942, thousands of US soldiers were
forced to endure disease, malnutrition, and the sadistic treatment of their
Japanese guards. Former POW
mentions that during his experience on the Bataan Death March he witnessed a
POW with severe malaria buried alive along with another who was shot for
refusing to bury his fellow POW.
Another former POW, Louis Read, states that during his experience enduring the
Bataan Death March he witnessed a random POW being tied to a tree and used as
bayonet practice, and the Japanese soldiers tossing the body into a clump of
bamboo and then washing the blood off the bayonets with water from the hydrant
Mr. Read was about to get water from. Both Mr. Tenney and Mr. Read were forced
into becoming slave laborers. Mr. Tenney shoveled coal in a mine owned by the
Mitsui Company for 12 hours a day for over 2 years. During this time he and
the other prisoners often received severe beatings, and to this day he and
other former POWs have yet to receive a formal apology and compensation from
the Japanese government and corporations that were responsible for enforcing
such inhumane treatment.
Tenney and other former Prisoners of war have filed lawsuits demanding that
acknowledge and apologize for the atrocities they are responsible for and
deliver compensation. So far all these lawsuits have been dismissed by
authorities, saying the Peace Treaty signed by Japan and the U.S. barred
former POWs from making any claims. A similar event occurred in 2002, when a
lawsuit filed against the Japanese government involving 180 survivors and
relatives of victims of Japan’s mass biological warfare experiments in
demanded Japan acknowledge their involvement in germ warfare, apologize, and
provide reparations. The Japanese court determined that a 1972 treaty between
China and Japan denied china’s right to seek compensation for damages from
incidents of the war. The terms of treaties are not decided upon by the
victims of wartime abuse. Japanese officials seem to employ these treaties as
an excuse to manipulate their way out of apology and compensation for
who endured and suffered by the Bataan death march, dealt with subhuman
conditions in POW camps, and whose rights as human beings were violated when
forced to be slave laborers for Japanese companies deserve the dignity and
honor that would be restored upon a simple apology and the acknowledgement of
past transgressions against humanity. An apology would be a step towards
ensuring such atrocities never occur again.
Louis Zamperini's book Devil at My Heels, he describes the inhumane
circumstances the Japanese subjected him to after his B-24 crash-landed in the
Pacific Ocean. After drifting on a rubber raft for forty-seven days he was
captured by the Japanese. In describing an incident that occurred while
imprisoned at Kwajalein Atoll Mr. Zamperini says: "One morning I heard a
commotion and many voices. Suddenly soldiers lined up in front of my door. Was
this it? My last day? Luckily -or- unluckily no. This was a submarine crew in
for refueling, supplies and shore leave. On a sub you never see the enemy;
what a treat when they heard two POWs were on the island. Perhaps eighty men
lined up as if at a movie theater. Phil and I were the feature. As each sailor
passed he cursed us, spit, threw rocks, jabbed us with sticks, and treated us
like caged animals. I thought I was already in the worst shape of my life, but
this dehumanization and torment had proved me wrong."
He was later transferred to the Ofuna prison camp near Yokohama, a secret
interrogation camp of the Japanese Navy. Ofuna was hidden from relief agencies
which meant no Red Cross supervision and prisoners were not registered as
official prisoners of war with the Geneva POW convention. I believe the
existence of such installations condoning obscene dehumanization of fellow
human beings serves to show us the importance of abiding by basic morality,
especially while engaging in war. I believe history classes in both America
and Japan should place more emphasis on the moral lessons we can learn from
atrocities of this nature and their relation to understanding each other as
human beings. In my opinion, placing such events outside of prescribed history
lessons just leaves an empty space for them to occur again. Open discussion of
such atrocities should be a means of promoting a moral understanding of each
other. This is evident in Mr. Zamperini's ability to forgive the Japanese for
the treatment he received. He realized how detrimental to American and world
society it would be to perpetuate such animosities.
"What I feared most was that my generation would teach the hatred and
resentment I was learning at the hands of the Japanese to our own children and
the cycle of disaffection and violence would never stop."
I believe young people in the United States and Japan should be well aware of
such events and that understanding and promoting open discussion of these
topics is paramount to enhancing peaceful connections between our nations.
Japan does not need to be embarrassed by its past, but would find itself
deemed more amiable by its neighbors if it were to encourage the students in
its education system to gain insight from the past so that they may be better
equipped to correctly deal with the future.
The American prisoners of war dealt with a great deal of morbid circumstances
and I feel tragedies of such caliber do not disappear by being ignored and
should be addressed through understanding dialogue. I would be glad to openly
approach and discuss this and many topics with the chosen Japanese student
while meeting with former POWs in the event I am given the opportunity to do