Former U.S. POWs Visit Japan


On 12 October 2015, 9 US former prisoners of war returned to Japan for a Memorial Service – 

View their 2 minute video Here!

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nine former American servicemen who were held as prisoners during World War II were in Japan on Monday to revisit some of the places where they were held seven decades ago and recount their memories.

The men, all in their 90s, opened their tour with a memorial service for their fellow fallen soldiers at the Commonwealth War Graves in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

As they marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, the emphasis was on reconciliation.

George Rogers, of Lynchburg, Va., said he had no hard feelings. Now 96, he was taken captive by the Japanese after surviving the infamous Bataan Death March in April 1942 and forced to work at the Yawata steel plant in southern Japan, or today’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.

image (1)

During his nearly 3 1/2 years of captivity, Rogers was given meager food rations and sometimes beaten.

He said that he was lucky to survive, but that he harbored “no hard feelings” toward his captors.

“Just like we do what we’re told to do as far as the Army is concerned, your (Japanese) men do the same thing. They tell them to do it, they do it,” he said. “Other than that, I think we lived.”

A month after Japan’s Aug. 15, 1945, surrender, Rogers returned to the U.S. in skin-and-bone state, weighing only 85 pounds (38 kilograms) despite being 6-foot-3. His doctor told him — he was 26 then — that he would most likely not live past 45 or 50, keep his teeth or have children.

Rogers still has his teeth, and has five children. One of them, Jeffrey, accompanied him on his trip to Japan.

“They didn’t give me any food, and I didn’t get much water when I needed it, but other than that, it was a long trip, very far,” he said.

His hope to revisit the steel plant wasn’t accommodated. The Yawata plant was chosen as a World Heritage site.

William Chittenden, Carl Dyer & Joseph Demott. 3 of the 9 former Pow's at the Commonwealth War Graves, 12 Oct. 2015

William Chittenden, Carl Dyer & Joseph Demott. 3 of the 9 former Pow’s at the Commonwealth War Graves, 12 Oct. 2015

During the Bataan march, thousands of prisoners were forced to walk more than 60 miles under severe, sweltering conditions while being abused by their captors. Many died.

Historians say some 30,000 Allied force members were held as prisoners in Japan during World War II.

At Monday’s memorial service, the nine veterans, assisted by their family members and U.S. servicemembers, laid flowers for their fellow countrymen who perished while in captivity.

The participants, visiting Japan at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry under a program for reconciliation that started five years ago, are scheduled to visit some former camp sites, including Osaka, Yokohama and Kamioka, central Japan.

Japan has similar programs with Australia and Britain. Many former POWs still harbor hard feelings because of harsh treatment by the Japanese.

It took 94-year old Arthur Gruenberg, from Camano Island, Wash., 70 years to come back. The former Marine surrendered at Corregidor, Philippines, in May 1942, and was eventually shipped to a Fukuoka mine in southern Japan. By then he was blind in one eye due to vitamin A deficiency.

Gruenberg said he was simply impressed by Japan’s postwar development and hoped it remains a peace-loving nation.

“Everything is just amazing, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I can’t say it (my feelings) has changed much, I just hope we don’t have any more wars.”

Article from “Stars and Stripes.”


Military Humor – 


Click on images to enlarge.


Farewell Salutes – 

Alan Brecht – Canberra, AUS; RA Navy, Commodore

Thomas Campbell – Beaumont, TX; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Don Edwards – San Jose, CA; US Navy, WWII228685_214560631902034_100000442955388_742352_2701778_n

Quin Johnson-Harris – Milwaukee, WI; US Air Force, Afghanistan

Robert McCombe – Whangamata, NZ; RNZ Army # 056196, WWII, Hawkes Bay Regiment

Sam Ozaki – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 442nd RCT

Charles Ragland – Bethesda, MD; US Army Lt., Vietnam, Siver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Josephine Stetson – NYC, NY; US Army civilian employee & USO, WWII

Steve Theobald – Goose Creek, SC; US Army, Iraq, SSgt.

Marvin Voltech – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO


About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 14, 2015, in Current News, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 82 Comments.

  1. I hope they remain peaceful as well, I don’t like them trying to remove Article 9 from the Japanese constitution, I’d say it’s a bad omen :/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Powerful. The Japanese were cruel to the Koreans they colonized as well. They changed my dad’s (and his brothers’) names (to ones based on the Japanese alphabet) when they were little. But we can’t live in the past, can we? On that note, happy new year. =)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Poignant. Touching. These gentlemen are class acts.


  4. A remarkable contrast to the Chinese, who will never lose their bitterness (my wife is Chinese). What they endured is beyond comprehension. They cannot forgive. These men are simply remarkable. Heroes all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seconded: “I just hope we don’t have any more wars” Great accounts. Real people. It’s invaluable accounts like these that help writers like me add the detail to the fiction to get it right. Real lives get relegated to the past and what is remembered, whilst factual, barely scratches the surface of feeling what it was like to be one of these people in such extreme circumstances. Keep up the great work


  6. It is hard to imagine these survivors could find it in their heart for forgiveness.
    After everything they have been through and seen, they still have the gift of forgiveness to extend. They are elderly heroes now, and most likely do not comprehend the World political stage as they did in their younger days.
    I find sadness in that last comment by Gruenberg, I just hope we don’t have any more wars.he states.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I cannot comprehend the power of the emotions flowing through their veins as they participated in the ceremony. The sea of Dress Blues with Japanese civilians in front must have brought a clash of thoughts into their hearts. They are giants if they have forgiven. The one comment a survivor said in the video is my point always: It’s the damn leaders that foul up, with the results being civilians suffer incredibly and so many young soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors paying the ultimate price. I salute these warriors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure you saw in the comments that I received many mixed emotions on this – some felt they could forgive and others – NO. I think looking back at it from this far away and not having gone through the rigors of a work camp – my answer is blowing in the wind. You know I agree and join you in that salute to those troops!


  8. This would be a very tough trip to make. I hope for those who decided to take it, they got some mental comfort…they certainly deserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello GP,

    Anyway, here’s a lil’ glimmer that helps to brighten the day, Fox News probably has a video clip available on it sometime today. Enjoy.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I edited your comment so we could keep that link here – it is fantastic – thank you for taking the time to bring it here!
      As for the question you asked – there are many things going on these days that are a direct correlation to the 1960’s Cold War. I really don’t wish to live with that again!! Isn’t ISIS enough?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for sharing the reunion story. I think it would be very difficult to forgive such treatment, but forgiveness is always good for the soul. Why do people have to be so cruel to each other in war…and on a daily basis?

    Liked by 1 person

    • After the war, it was looked upon as a mixture of harsh discipline, national fervor, religion,childhood education, obedience over individuality and a demand for allegiance and bravery that was enforced with physical punishment – today’s cruelty? I can not explain. I am encouraged by your interest, Bev. Thank you.


  11. I’m not sure that I would ever be able to get past such a horrible experience with such understanding .


  12. Hate and revenge are such a burden. Forgiveness takes tremendous inner strength, but maybe The Greatest Generation can be that light.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As many have said, for these old heroes to forgive is amazing and benevolent and a shining example for a continuing way of life. The problem is, we are living in a situation today when being forgiving is taken as a sign of weakness. The well of human insanity and wickedness seems to never run dry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Human nature has changed very little over the centuries, I agree, but remember – back in WWII, the Japanese felt that forgiving and surrendering were a sign of weakness – now they are trusted allies. Granted, it seems to be an isolated case at this present time, but maybe we can work on it? I appreciate you expressing your opinion, Jim.


  14. Reconciliation is the key, if we wish to have peace. Great post, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for liking my Solidarity post . . . nice to be in solidarity with my blogging community, too. K


  16. “It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.” Thanks for this story GP, and the hope that it brings. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was excited to see this article, I knew I had to bring it to everybody! People like yourself can truly appreciate what transpired there! I thank you, as always, for reading here, Curt.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wouldn’t miss it, GP.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry GP, gotta hit the brakes on this one.

        Optimist vs Realist.

        Optimism is based on potential or “hopeful” **possibilities**, things that may or may **not** occur. While optimism can be useful and beneficial at times, it is an intangible **emotion** that can not be quantified and is not consistent. Realism is fact based and does not incorporate perspective nor “potentialities”. Reality is static and unchanging in it’s meaning and function. I am a realist.

        History vs Revision.

        Historians record (and/or) report factual details of **actual** events, meticulous efforts are made to exclude inaccuracies, speculation and perspective. History is literally the record of reality. Revision in it’s **proper form** is used only to **add** previously unknown or undiscovered **factual** details to an existing historical record. When **revisionism** is improperly used it incorporates “potentialities” and/or “perspectives”. More commonly, revisionism attempts to **rewrite** history based on an agenda.

        While this article does focus on a significant and historical event related to WWII and sheds light on the natural path of healing that many former POW’s have been **forced** to follow. (ie..Forgiveness) Beyond that important aspect, I find this article to be poorly written and agenda driven. It opened well, then quickly degenerated into an amateurish attempt to gloss over historical facts. Frankly GP, I’m a bit surprised you seem so enthusiastic about this article.

        Perhaps it’s because it is very difficult to find many glimmers of “hope” or examples of positive results of the war, and it is natural to focus on that given the time elapsed. Everyone wants to put the past behind them and naturally so, it IS the past. Or as most would call it, “History”. So I can imagine that it is refreshing to find *any* kind of story that can be viewed as hopeful or positive related to WWII in the Pacific, as long as it is factual. As you well know, these kinds of “feel good” stories are few and far between when one examines the facts. While I commend you and others for helping to hasten the natural healing process for us all, I must point out that the historical record does not lend itself to this. Least of all for those who were there.

        Let the past be the past, in reality that is exactly what it is. But by the same token, let the present be the present. Let us not **forget** to take into consideration the present state of affairs in Japan, nor the agenda that supports it. Apologies are one thing, actions are another. Even a precursory inquiry into the current and elaborate activities throughout the Japanese historical and educational systems should be more than enough to demonstrate the ongoing efforts to **revise** the history of WWII in Japan. The same can be said about much of SEA.

        Without further verbosity (and apologies) I will say this; I for one will **never** forget the factual details of of the historical record of WWII in Japan. Nor will I accept or acknowledge insincere “apologies” issued as part of an agenda. Forgiveness is a natural part of the healing process for all POW’s, but in reality far too few ever reach that point . The war is never over for them. Let us not forget, shining examples that they are, every single POW of the Japanese that survived long enough to finally find forgiveness, was **forced** to do so.

        Let history clearly speak for itself, let the present do the same, and let forgiveness be for the deserving. The truth is often brutal, but it does not change. “Revision” vs Reality. Is there really a choice? You decide.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I appreciate you taking the to voice your opinion. I did not write this, the Daily Mail did, but I felt it brought home the realities of war – one situation of which our president feels we should stay in even longer. How soon would our troops be pulled out if his 2 daughters were POWs? Some can forgive and some can’t – that is reality. So is hatred and anger which eat a person from the inside out.

          Liked by 2 people

  17. Thank goodness we humans can find forgiveness in our hearts. As long as there is forgiveness, there is hope for the future…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Maybe the politicians should listen to these guys. They are incredible people.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So glad that they were able to go back and revisit and to have no bitterness. To be skin and bone and recover like they did is amazing. Such courage and excellent article, Everett!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Good story. I would never imagine this could help so many. Thank goodness someone thought of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Looks like George Rogers outlived his doctor. I like this post, because it makes me aware of what will probably be one of the last of these kinds of reunions. World War II is fading fast from our living memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Wow! These were incredibly strong men.


    Liked by 1 person

  23. It’s so heartwarming to still see the humility and willingness to forgive being expressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Amazing story. And while ridiculously difficult to do at times, forgiveness is more for the person doing the forgiving so that that weight is off them.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. I wish I lived closer to Lynchburg to interview the one man in person. I’d go today if I could!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Wow! This is quite a trip for these people. Their attitudes of forgiveness are amazing and an example to all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Amazing to see the lack of hatred and bitterness in these grand old guys. Time must indeed be a healer.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. This is remarkable I can only imagine what these soldiers endured and to return here at the age of 90. They are tough and tenacious souls. It makes me sad to know that our greatest generation is drawing to a close. Than k you for the fine article Brad

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I have no idea how they can achieve reconciliation, let alone peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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