A fatherís POW years are put to rest
by Kathy Holcomb
To The Japan Times (link)
Oct 7, 2014
On Sept. 8,
my husband, Jeff, and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Ishihara Sangyo
in Yokkaichi, the company that my dad, Harold Vick, was forced to work for while
a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II.
surviving the infamous Bataan Death March, he was held at several POW camps in
the Philippines and was eventually sent to Japan. Of some 13,000 American POWs
sent to Japan, 1,115 died in Japan due to the inhumane and abusive treatment
that they received.
Kobayashi, director and managing executive officer of Ishihara Sangyo,
apologized for what took place at their company where they used POWs as forced
laborers. He used the word ďapologyĒ and didnít just talk around it. I could
tell they werenít just words he felt obligated to say because of the
circumstances; it was a heartfelt apology. I had trouble holding back the tears.
On behalf of
my father, I accepted the apology. I so wish my father could have heard it.
Unfortunately he passed away on July 6, 2007, before even receiving the apology
from the Japanese government, which was offered by Foreign Minister Katsuya
Okada in 2010.
on the tour of their plant was at the memorial for those POWs who died within
this camp. It was beautiful and well kept. I thought about the men Dad told me
about that didnít make it back.
emotions overcame me. They had fresh beautiful flowers for me to lay at the
site. The memorial plaque says:
Nothing is more sublime than to
sacrifice oneís own life for the sake of others. This is dedicated to those who
fought and died bravely in the name of peace and freedom during World War II.
also a board near the memorial that says in Japanese:
This is the monument dedicated to
the soldiers of the Allied Powers who unfortunately passed away here during
World War II. Let us put their souls at rest for ever and ever
with the bouquet of our passions for peace.
I said a
prayer for Dadís friends who had died there and told Dad this visit was for him
and I was doing it as he could not be here.
our tour. I asked if I could get out of the bus as I had to stand where he might
very well have walked. In my mindís eye I could picture him and his friends
walking down this street. Here I was in good health and well fed, while it
probably took every ounce of his strength to walk these roads.
stop was the bay where copper ore was unloaded. This might be where Dad was when
he said he could see the U.S. bombing of Nagoya across the bay. They told me a
building near that point was one that was standing during that time. I was
allowed to walk over and touch the wall of the building. I took in the smells
(sulfur and ocean) and how the air felt, thinking how Dad too had experienced
these things, wondering if he had touched the same wall 69 to 70 years ago. The
tears flowed with the thought this was a spot where he was in such agony.
I tried to
take in everything while thinking about Dad being there during the darkest days
of his life. Itís very hard to put into words how I felt.
When we went
back into the conference room, they gave me a gift, as a token of our
friendship, of a Japanese fan on a stand. It is beautiful.
them from the bottom of my heart for taking the time and incurring the expense
of several peopleís salaries, the flowers, etc., and their apology. It meant so
much to me and I know it would have to my Dad as well.
I grew up
hearing stories of the Bataan Death March, the POW camps in the Philippines, the
Hell ships and Dadís time at the camp run by Ishihara Sangyo. He suffered from
post-traumatic stress disorder his whole life. He had pain his entire life from
the broken foot he sustained at Ishihara Sangyo when the train on which he was
riding carrying copper ore derailed.
The war and
the cruel treatment he received by the Japanese was a part of his life. It was
with him every single day. I think if he had received the apology and visited
the camp and seen the sincerity of the people now in charge, it would have made
him feel better.
have shown him that the Japanese people alive today regret the actions of their
predecessors and that now it is time to move forward and put the past behind us.
trip to Japan, I also had the opportunity to ring the bell in the Peace Park of
Hiroshima with a Japanese lady. We both had tears in our eyes.
generation wants to move on past the harm Japan and the U.S. did to each other.
I am so thankful I had the opportunity to visit both Hiroshima and Ishihara
Sangyo and to receive the apology and to forgive. I will never forget their
kindness. I think Dad would have been proud of me.
Sangyo is one of the very few Japanese companies that have apologized for
wartime POW forced labor. Other companies, such as Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Nippon
Steel, refuse to do so. It is my hope that these companies will follow the
example of Ishihara Sangyo.
Mr. Kobayashi, Jeff, Kinue, Mr. Tsuchimoto, Kathy, Mr. Kimura
* Please also read TIME article on
Kathy's visit to Ishihara Sangyo.
The American POWs Still Waiting for an Apology From Japan 70 Years Later