Japan Apologizes to Bataan Survivors

SAN ANTONIO- At the Bataan Death March survivors’ reunion, Japan’s ambassador to the United States gave his country’s first in-person apology for the 65-mile forced walk of U.S. troops and allies during World War II that left about 11,000 prisoners of war dead.
Ichiro Fujisaki spoke Saturday in San Antonio at the final scheduled reunion of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, its 64th annual convention, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Fujisaki’s apology was welcomed by some of the 73 surviving Bataan Death March veterans of the Army and former Army Air Corps members in attendance. But others criticized it, saying it was long overdue, not aimed directly at Americans and didn’t seem to come from the Japanese government as a whole.

In 1942, Japanese captors marched about 78,000 prisoners of war – 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipinos – for six days on the Bataan Peninsula on the Philippine island of Luzon to a prisoner-of-war camp. Many were denied food, water or medical care, and some were stabbed or beheaded. As many as 11,000 prisoners died, according to the U.S. Air Force.

“As former prime ministers of Japan have repeatedly stated: The Japanese people should bear in mind that we must look into the past and to learn from the lessons of history,” Fujisaki said. “We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula, in Corregidor Island in the Philippines and other places.

“Ladies and gentlemen, taking this opportunity, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the war, and after the war, and their family members.”

Fujisaki got a standing ovation from about half of the 400 to 500 attendees, which included relatives of the ex-POWs.

“Well, we finally got the apology that we wanted,” said retired Tech Sgt. Joe Alexander of San Antonio. “They ask how do I feel? … Now we can rest at ease. We’re satisfied.”

But while some shook hands and posed for pictures with Fujisaki, who had flown from Washington for the last-minute speech, others gave him an earful. Former POW Hershel C. Boushey told the ambassador that he did not accept “your apology,” and that the atrocities and mistreatment many suffered was severe.

Abie Abraham, 95, of Renfrew, Pa., who was a POW for more than three of his nine years with the Army, said it was time to move on.

“I was never one of those guys that worried about whether we got an apology or not,” said Abraham, who is known as “The Ghost of Bataan” because he stayed 2½ years after being rescued so the bodies of his fallen comrades could be given proper burial.

“The way I look at it is – Japan is now our ally,” Abraham said. “Why should we get an apology from them?”

Paul Ropp, a retired Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel who is with the organizing group, said there might be some cultural differences and nuances that made the apology seem lacking in clarity, sincerity and directness to Americans.

“This is about as candid an apology as anybody’s going to get,” Ropp said.

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