2010 "Japanese/American POW Friendship Program"

The government of Japan invited six former POWs and two descendants to their country for a week-long visit beginning September 12. 2010.

The group was being led by Dr. Lester Tenney, the last National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.  Here were the participants:

            Lester Tenney         Joe Alexander            Ed Jackfert          Robert Rosendahl

             Earl Szwabo           Donald  Versaw       Jan Thompson           Nancy Kragh 
father Robert. Thompson   father Clarence White

September 13

Visit with US Ambassador John Roos

Ambassador Roos expressed his appreciation for the service of the six former POWs

Visit with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada

"I offer my deep, heartfelt apology for the inhuman treatment you suffered."
                                                                  ---Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada

           Lester Tenney                          Joe Alexander                     Edward Jackfert

         Robert Rosendahl                       Earl  Szwabo                           Don Versaw

Nancy Cragh and Jan Thompson

related news:

AP. Sep. 13      "Japan offers 'heartfelt apology' to U.S. POWs"
Wall Street Journal, Sep. 13 “Former U.S. POWs Visit Japan as First-Time Guests”

Luncheon hosted by Foreign Ministry's Director-General North American Affairs Bureau

Attendees of luncheon hosted by Mr. Kazuyoshi Umemoto,
Director-General North American Affairs Bureau

Visit with
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama

Secretary Fukuyama extended two apologies—“a heartfelt apology to the POWs” and “heartfelt apology to the family.”   Lester Tenney presented a POW coin to Mr. Fukuyama.

                                                                    Tenney explains the coin's significance

Lester Tenney designed and had manufactured the coin depicting the visitation program. One side with American and Japanese flags crossed, with the title of the program “Japanese/American POW Friendship Program” around the edge. And the other side with the Eagle and barbed wire around the head of the Eagle, and around the edges all the places (names like Bataan, Corregidor etc.) where Americans were captured by the Japanese.  Each participant gave these coins to people in Japan as their gift of remembrance of this historic event.


Friends of Lester Tenney, Clay and Dorothy Perkins of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, also contributed funds for the production of these coins. (Plaque presented to Mr. Perkins)

In the evening, the group visited the International Christian University and shared their POW experiences with students there.

September 14-15

Lester and Betty Tenney visited the gravesite of Mr. Toru Tasaka, who they had hosted 40 years earlier in San Diego.

The Tenneys and Mr. Tasaka developed a very special friendship that helped Lester overcome his bitter feelings toward Japan. 

His widow calls the Tenneys, "Papa-san" and "Mama-san."


Don Versaw and his daughter Judy visited the gate of former Nittetsu Futase coalmine (Fukuoka #7B) where he had been forced to work.  There was a plaque with a picture of the mine.  He was greeted by Mr. Tetsuo Ikenushi, who was 15 years old when the war ended and who remembered B-29 food drops. Mr. Ikenushi and Mr. Versaw shared a lot of memories from those days. 


Nancy Cragh and Jan Thompson visited Moji, where many Hellships arrived during WWII.



Ms. Terue Nagaki, who had lived next door to Moji prison camps,
which was in an old YMCA, shared her memory of WWII days with Jan and Nancy

Judy, Don, Jan and Nancy were joined by Kinue Tokudome and 
two staffers from the Foreign Ministry for a visit to Dazaifu Tenmangu

Earl Szwabo and his wife Liz visited Ishihara Sangyo in Yokkaichi (Nagoya #5) for whom he had been forced to work. It was very emotional and rewarding for Earl to see the memorial that Ishihara Sangyo built for some of his comrades who died at the factory. 

                             Phote courtesy of Toru Fukubayashi)

Related News on Mr. Szwabo

Ed Jackfert and Joe Alexander visited Showa Denko in Kawasaki for whom they had been  forced to work. They met with company officials. 

                               (Photo courtesy of Mainichi Shimbun)

Related news:
Ex-POWS touring Japan disappointed at not receiving apologies from firms over slave labor

Robert Rosendahl visited Beppu where he and his son, Ben, had the opportunity to visit with some of the populations members who did experience the War in Japan.


September 16

The group visited Ryozen Kannon in Kyoto whose memorial hall keeps name cards of 48,000 foreign soldiers who died on Japanese territory.


                                                                 Nancy found the card for her father, Clarence White

The group was treated to a Japanese tea ceremony.


The Tenneys met their friend Mr. Koichi Ikeda, former Siberian forced laborer, and his wife

September 17

The group returned to Tokyo and attended an exchange meeting hosted by members of the National Diet belonging to International IC.  The meeting was arranged by member of the House of Councillors, Yukihisa Fujita.


Later in the afternoon, the group attended a press conference at the National Press Club. The entire press conference can viewed here.

"We are still waiting for an apology from companies."(Photo courtesy of Kyodo)

The group attended the farewell party hosted by Vice Foreign Minister Koichi Takemasa


September 18

The group visited British Commonwealth War Cemetery in Yokohama where 48 Americans were memorialized.  Most of them survived the Oryoku Maru- Enoura Maru- Brazil Maru voyage only to die in Moji.  Ms. Keiko Tamura of POW Research Network Japan distributed the roster.



In the afternoon, the group attended an exchange meeting hosted by POW Research Network Japan, US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, and the Organization to Promote Exchange with POWs and their families. Among the attendees were many young people, with whom the group had a lively discussion.


September 19

The group departed for the United States.

* Please watch 
     U.S. POW's want Japan apology  
     CNN  Sep. 16,  2010  American POWs Seek Acknowledgment