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U.S. POW Delegation to Japan, October 12-12, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HONDA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on National POW/MIA Recognition Day to honor prisoners of war from America's greatest generation and thank the Government of Japan for recognizing the sacrifices these men have made for peace. On October 12, seven former members of the U.S. Army, Army Air Corps, Air Force, Marines, and Navy who fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II will travel to Tokyo as guests of the Japanese government. This will be the third U.S. POW delegation to Japan.

These brave veterans all suffered as prisoners of war of Imperial Japan. The conditions in which they were held are unimaginable. For most, their first trip to Japan was on aging freighters called ``Hellships,'' where the men were loaded into suffocating holds with little space, water, food, or sanitation. At the POW camps in the Philippines, Japan and China, they suffered unmerciful abuse aggravated by the lack of food, medicine, clothing, and shelter. Each POW also became a slave laborer at the mines, factories, and docks of some of Japan's largest companies, including Mitsubishi, Nippon Express, Ube Industries, Rinko Corporation, and Fushiki Kairiku Unso.

In September 2010, the Japanese government delivered to the first American POW delegation an official apology for the damage and suffering these men endured. Although the Japanese government had hosted POWs from U.S. wartime Allies, the 2010 trip was the first to Japan for American POWs. It was also the first official apology to any prisoners of war held by Japan.

This historic apology and continued support for the trips by the Japanese government has improved our relations with Japan and, more importantly, had a positive effect on the former POWs. Japan's Foreign Minister, Koichiro Genba, said the trip promotes ``reconciliation of minds'' of U.S. POWs. Even more, James Colier, a delegate on the second trip to Japan in 2011, said, ``After meeting the kind people at JMC [Japan Metals & Chemicals' Takaoka Works] and after observing the beautiful surroundings of the city, I realized that I had been robbed of the opportunity of truly knowing this place for the past 66 years. Takaoka had always remained as a dark and depressing place in my mind. Yet this visit has finally afforded me the opportunity to appreciate its beauty.''
I know that the American POWs fought hard for this recognition. I appreciate the courage of the Japanese government for their historic and meaningful apology. I thank the POWs for their persistent pursuit of justice, and commend the U.S. State Department for helping them.

Still missing, however, from this significant act of atonement are the apologies from the myriad Japanese companies that used and abused POWs for slave labor to maintain war production. It is time now for these companies to break their silence and to follow the successful example of their government by offering an apology and supporting programs for lasting remembrance and reconciliation. Furthermore, I invite my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in making a small, but significant, gesture to show these men that Congress has not forgotten their experience and sacrifice by cosponsoring House Resolution 333.

Significantly, this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Defense of the Philippines, Bataan Death March and the Fall of Corregidor, and the third U.S. POW delegation to Japan includes three survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March, two who were captured at the surrender of Corregidor, one on Guam, and one shot down over Tokyo. One of the veterans believes that he was subject to medical experimentation. Their traveling companions include four wives, one daughter, one son, and one close friend. I wish these men and their companions a fulfilling trip to Japan, and I know that their journey will contribute to the historic peace and friendship between the peoples of the United States and our important ally Japan.


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