On Wednesday, February 18th, an assistant to the Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki called Lester Tenney. He said that the Ambassador would not be traveling next week to San Diego. The Japanese Prime Minister was coming to Washington. Thus, it would not be possible for the Ambassador to meet with him to continue the quiet dialogue they started on Japan's reconciliation with the American POWs of Japan.
Dr. Tenney,88, Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, has tried for 65 years to get recognition and an apology for his and other POWs of Japan's forced labor for Imperial Japan's military and private Japanese companies. Strangely, the Japanese have offered apologies to and created a Peace, Friendship, and Reconciliation Initiative for all the other Allied POWs. Only the Americans were excluded. No answer why has ever been given.
Dr. Tenney then asked about the possibility of meeting with the visiting Prime Minister to discuss resolving this sore on US-Japan relations. After all, Mr. Aso had just admitted that his family company used POWs in his mines during the war.
The Japanese diplomat laughed at him.
The young man's blunt response resurrected a bitter memory in Dr. Tenney. He flashed back to end of the Bataan Death March. Starving, exhausted, and sick the surviving POWS stood at attention in Camp O’Donnell while the Japanese Commandant told them [the POWs] that they were “lower than dogs” and “they [the Japanese] would treat them that way for the rest of their lives.” Then the Commandant said, “We will never be friends with the piggish Americans.”
Dr. Tenney is only asking for fairness for the American POWs. He wants the American POWs and their descendants to be included in a new Japanese government initiative to fund visits and research on the POW experience, and to help former POWs to overcome and cope with their negative wartime experiences and to promote a spirit of reconciliation with Japan and the Japanese people.
After all these years of goodwill and friendship between the US and Japan, is this too much to ask?