Remembrance is ‘compensation’

Carlsbad, California

This week, seven former American POWs of the Japanese will travel to Japan and revisit former campsites where they were held during World War II. Some of them will also visit the companies for whom they were forced to work. Although their memories of Japan from 68 years ago are still painful, they know that they will be welcomed by today’s Japanese citizens and that they will enjoy a beautiful autumn in Japan.

For the third straight year, the Foreign Ministry is inviting former American POWs to Japan under the “Japanese/American POW Friendship Program.”

In 2009, Japan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki traveled to Texas to attend the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (a national organization of former POWs of the Japanese), of which I was the last National Commander. He stood before the surviving POWs and their families and apologized for Imperial Japan’s abuse of POWs.

The following year, Ambassador Fujisaki and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell worked together to have six former POWs, including myself, invited to Japan, where Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada directly delivered Japan’s formal apology to us. In 2011, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba graciously repeated the same apology to that year’s POW delegation.

These sincere apologies played a vital role in our regaining the dignity once taken from us. Official Japan reached out to us POWs with respect and the invitation program has been so successful in bringing former POWs and today’s Japanese citizens closer.

Today, I feel assured that our wartime experience will be remembered by the Japanese people through this invitation program, which I hope will continue not only for former POWs but also for their widows and descendants in years to come.

I have been hearing that so-called comfort women are still waiting for the Japanese government to offer them a sincere apology. I hope they will receive it soon. As someone who also had freedom, health and dignity taken away, I know how much a genuine apology like the ones we received will mean to them.

Most importantly, Japan needs to demonstrate its sincerity by remembering all its histories as a proud nation. To be remembered is our “compensation.”

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

lester tenney