Interview with Mr. Harold Poole
In Soldier Slaves (more), Mr. Harold Poole described what he saw on the Bataan Death March.
Some of the guys would just faint, they were that weak.
This guy was no more than five feet away. He was lying facedown. The guard
poked him and he didn’t move fast enough, so he got the bayonet right
through his back….
The author of Soldier Slaves, attorney James Parkinson, who represented former POWs in their forced labor lawsuit against Japanese companies, wrote about an episode about his client, Mr. Harold Poole:
I got a call in my office late one afternoon from my good friend and Harold’s son-in-law, Warner, who as usual got right to the point.
“Harold’s quitting the case,” he said. “He read President Hinckley’s book and he called me and told me he’s quitting. Parky, you need to talk to him.”
I called Harold. He had indeed just finished reading a new book written by LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something. In the book, Hinckley writes about forgiveness and not attempting to right every wrong through fights and lawsuits. Salvation comes from within, not without, the church leader counsels. Jesus taught to turn the other cheek and love those who despitefully use you.
As obedient a Latter-Day Saint as you will ever find, Harold took the advice to heart. He had forgiven the Japanese long ago. He decided he did not need to push the point any further by suing them.
In the end, Mr. Parkinson would persuade Mr. Poole that the lawsuit was about justice. Mr. Poole agreed to stay in, but said, "It is for the people who did not come back."
Ever since I read about this episode I wanted to meet Mr. Poole and to know more about him. That occasion finally arrived recently in Salt Lake City. Here is our conversation:
What went through your mind when you almost quit your lawsuit?
I read the article by the leader of our Church where he wrote that forgiveness is not just little here and little there, but to forgive everything. You need to forgive whatever happened to you in order to go on with your life and accomplish what you want to accomplish.
It struck me very strongly when I read that. Of course I had forgiven the Japanese people long ago, so I had to cope with this issue when I joined the lawsuit.
Then what was it that made you change your mind and want to continue with the lawsuit, even if you had forgiven the Japanese?
Justice. That was the main thing and we are still working on it. You can forgive people, but justice still must be served. In order for that to happen, it looked like my effort to help the case was needed.
You said that you had forgiven the Japanese people long ago, but wouldn't it still mean a lot if the Japanese side offered an apology?
Yes, it would to me and my colleagues. But I can't say, "Hey! I am perfect." I have my faults, too. I know there will be a time when I have to account for some of the things I have done in my life. Forgiveness is the best thing you can do for your own sake. It's an ongoing thing for me. It's not a one time thing.
I do believe that a person is a lot happier and lives a better life if he has forgiveness in his life.
You keep coming back to your forgiveness rather than the Japanese apology.
I consider "forgiveness" a privilege. It's a God-given privilege.
I was very shy when I was young. I had five sisters and no brother. But now I enjoy speaking to 400- 500 students about my POW experience. The last few years have been the highlight of my life. I had some bad things happened to my life. I lost two wives. I married to my first wife for 30 years and to my second wife for 11 years. I feel I have been well blessed nevertheless because I am still here.
I like to help people. That's a part of my makeup. I am very handy with tools. You might call me a handyman. I do a lot of things and like to help people in my neighborhood.
So the first half of my life was a little bad, but I am very happy today. The bible says the end is better than the beginning. I am happy that my ending is much better than the beginning.
It is amazing that you described what happened to you--the Bataan Death March, almost dying of Malaria, being transported on a Hellship, and two years of slave labor in Japan-- "a little bad." Are you proud of Soldier Slaves? It is your story.
I am very proud of this book. I don't know of many people who has a chance to have a book written about him. I am very grateful to the authors, Mr. James Parkinson and Mr. Lee Benson.
It is a sad story, especially the ending. But it is not a bitter book. It still gives hope for humanity and I think it is due to your character. Thank you for sharing your story.
* Mr. Poole passed away on March 8, 2010