Remembering Mr. Yoshio Terauchi

Yuka Ibuki

Mr. Yoshio Terauchi, Director of All Japan Association of the Former Internees in Siberia and Mongolia, passed away on October 20. Having expected around a fortnight in the hospital, he called Mr. Mitsuo Hiratsuka, General Secretary of the organization, on October 18 to have an eager talk on the on-going fight for justice. He was an excellent leader who spoke logically in his strong voice that was trained during his five-term, eleven years as a member of Tochigi Prefecture Assembly. An old hand in volleyball, he served thirty-two years for the Tochigi and Utsunomiya-city branches of the Japan Volleyball Association (JVA). He treasured and loved people around him, and brought up some Diet Members. He was interned in Siberia for two and a half years; remembering the buddies who couldn’t return, he joined the formation of the organization for recording/memorizing the Internment, and restoring dignity of the Internees, and served as the 3rd Director since 2003.

He made a powerful appeal at the General Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives in December of 2006, and his speech at the Memorial Ceremony on August 23, 2008 was TV broadcast. His habitual phrase was, “Let’s support each other and keep fighting on.”

At the funeral on October 23, Mr. Hiroyuki Tani, a Democrat Party Diet Member from Tochigi, Mr. Hiratsuka, and the local JVA Director expressed appreciation and determination to continue his fight. Among the flowers were those from the Sakufukai Association of the former Siberian Internees from Korea, and Mr. Lee Hak Rae, Director of the Association of former BC class war criminals from Korea. Dr. Lester Tenney, Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, sent a heartfelt condolences for the passing of his “newly found friend.”

It is with sadness in my heart that I have just heard of the passing of a new-found friend with whom our lives have so much in common.  Mr. Terauchi, was the force behind the fight of the survivors of the Internees from Siberia and Mongolia, to hold the Japanese government accountable for their forced labor, this is so much like my life because I am the leader of the survivors of Bataan and Corregidor who are asking the Japanese Government to be accountable for our forced labor. 

In addition, the former internees from Japan and the former POWs from the United States want the Japanese government to acknowledge and take responsibility for our sufferings and tell their history to the future generation so that it will never happen again. Mr. Terauchi wanted for his group the same thing I want for our group:  our honor and dignity returned.

It is sad that my friend, Mr. Yoshio Terauchi, could not have lived long enough to see his wishes fulfilled, I hope that I will live long enough to see our wishes fulfilled, our honor and dignity returned.

Rest in peace my friend, you have served your country and your friends honorably.

Lester Tenney, Ph.D.
National Commander, American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, Inc.

Mr. Tenney visited Japan this year, representing the former US POWs, and a meeting was held in his honor with the former Siberian and Mongolian internees on June 4 in Tokyo. They supported the appeal made by the ADBC to the Japanese Government and companies that benefited from the slave labor of the POWs, exchanged mutual experiences, and a picture painted by Mr. Ryokuya Nagatani, a former internee, was presented to Dr. Tenney from the board of directors. Dr. Tenney thanked Mr. Terauchi with a bow, “Now I bow for friendship, not for fear.” On May 31, in Kyoto, two former internees who have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government attended the Tenney Event, and the two groups encouraged each other.      Dr. Tenney bowing to Mr. Terauchi

Mrs. Betty Tenney, Mr. Terauchi, Mr. Nagatani, Dr. Tenney

The American former POWs held by the Japanese and Japanese POW Internees held by the USSR: the encounter of the two groups began in 2002 when Mr. Koichi Ikeda of Osaka was moved by and respectfully responded to Dr. Tenney’s op-ed piece that appeared in the Asahi newspaper, through Ms. Kinue Tokudome. Dr. Tenney and I met in 2000 at the annual Memorial Service for the Allied POW victims at the Commonwealth War Cemetery near Yokohama, where he was the speaker, and later Kinue introduced me to Mr. Ikeda. In 2003, a party commemorating the publication of the Japanese edition of Dr. Tenney’s book, My Hitch in Hell,  translated by us four teachers was held assisted by many, welcoming Dr. and Mrs. Tenney. A number of Internees could join it because their national meeting fell on the same day. Website “US-Japan Dialogue on POWs” has posted Mr. Ikeda’s and some other articles introducing internee experiences and their current situation in Japan.

Letter to my American Friends by Koichi Ikeda

One More Fight for Redress: Siberian POW Internees  by Yuka Ibuki

Both POW group members have straight-forwardly lived their hard lives caused by their POW experiences. They have in common their thoughts of their friends who couldn’t make it home, their invincible spirits of pursuing justice and return of dignity, and their love of people. Through offering my little assistance in monthly dispatch of the Internee News, annual Memorial Ceremonies and Exhibitions, I respected Mr. Terauchi’s distinguishingly sharp sense of human rights, and warm personality. At the August Ceremony, he was glad for the print-outs I had sent from our website, and said, “Let’s go on working.” Then he parted to see a comrade in the hospital. With his words in my heart, praying for an earliest arrival of the day when their fight will win a proper appreciation, I will renew my effort for a future of peace and friendship.

Mr. Terauchi at the memorial for those who died in Russian forced labor camps
(August 2008, with Executive Director, Ken Arimitsu)

* Yuka Ibuki is Tokyo representative of US-Japan Dialogue on POWs.