The Yamaguchi Newspaper, October 19, 2012
Ex-US POW’s Visit to Former POW Camp in Mine-City
“I’ll Pass on My
Experiences to Next Generations”
On October 18, a former US Army soldier visited Mine-City. During WWII, he was held in the POW Camp, which used to be at Shiraiwa, Okubun, Ohmine-machi, Mine-City, where a coal mine was. He visited the Memorial built by some local citizens, and they all renewed a shared desire for peace.
The visitors are Mr. John Leloy Mims (89 years old) and his wife Nena (74years old). Mims was captured by the Japanese in Bataan, and was held in the POW Camp in Mine-City from 1944 to 1945.
The couple visited Mayor Koji Murata at the Local Government Office. They were welcomed by the children of a nursery school nearby, who greeted them with flags of the US and Japan that they made themselves. Buddhist Rev. Seiki Hazama (84), Mr. Fumio Yamamoto (80) and others, representing the local citizens, accompanied them as the couple visited the Memorial and the remaining exit of the closed mine. They had compiled and published war experiences of the citizens, and built the Memorial funded by the profit of the book sale.
Mims dedicated flowers to the Memorial, and then he shared his memories, mixing some Japanese phrases he remembers. He was paralyzed for sometime because his neck was damaged by the violent treatment he received at the camp. Immediately after the Japanese surrender, the POWs shared the food delivered by the US planes with the local villagers.
“I tried to keep away those painful experiences from my memories. But now I’m so happy I could come back here. I want to live 100 years longer, and see the people who visit this Memorial. I believe it is important for me to pass on my experiences to next generations,” he said.
The couple came
over to Japan through the US-Japan Grass Roots Exchange for Peace, sponsored by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan. In Mine-City, around 500 British and
American soldiers were held in the POW Camp, and were engaged in the coal mine
labor from 1942 to 1945.