SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The White House has invited a former prisoner of war to accompany President Barack Obama on his historic visit to Hiroshima, a group of former POWs said Saturday.
“As you can imagine, we see this as a positive step . . . and that maybe, finally, (the government is) noticing,” Jan Thompson, president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, said at a news conference during the society’s annual convention in San Antonio, Texas.
Daniel Crowley, 94, a former U.S. Army air corpsman, has been chosen to make the trip to the atomic-bombed city on Friday, according to Thompson, who added, “I think it’s powerful because the victims must face each other in order to become the victors of peace.”
The society sent a letter to the White House, urging the president “to focus your remarks at the upcoming historic visit to Hiroshima on the events leading to the decision to use the bomb and recognize the effects it has had on the people of both countries.”
“The Pacific War must not be remembered simply as the legacy of one new weapon, for it is not the weapons of war, but rather the causes, conduct, and lessons of that war that matter most,” the letter also said.
Thompson pointed out that for many former POWs, Obama making a momentous visit to Hiroshima without acknowledging the pain and suffering that all victims, including the POWs, endured would only serve to further muddy the history of the war.
“I understand that he’s going to go there and remember the victims. I think that’s right. That’s morally correct,” she said.
“But (Obama) has to remember the POWs who were abandoned by the government and (who) made sacrifices, who died right there on that land that he’s stepping foot on, who were used as slave labor. To me, it’s unfathomable for him not to.”
When asked about Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, some of the POWs did not see a problem with the visit, while others questioned or opposed it.
Ralph Griffith, a 93-year-old former army private, said he has “nothing against him going.” But he also said, “I don’t want him to apologize.”
Griffith was one of the 10 former American POWs who attended the four-day convention, along with relatives and other supporters of the POWs.