WASHINGTON — Rep. Michael Honda (D-San Jose) introduced a bipartisan resolution honoring U.S. veterans who were held as prisoners of war during World War II, according to a statement his office issued June 22.
The resolution commemorates the men and women who were taken as U.S. prisoners of war in the Pacific. It also commends the government of Japan for the steps it recently took to provide some justice to former U.S. POWs; recognizes the strong alliance between the two nations; and calls on the private Japanese companies that profited from U.S. POW labor to apologize and support programs for lasting remembrance and reconciliation.
With fewer than 500 surviving POWs believed to be alive today, Honda wishes that Congress will show their appreciation for them. “I have long felt that Congress has a moral obligation to honor the men and women who suffered grave injustices during World War II,” said Honda.
An estimated 27,000 men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces were captured by the Imperial Japanese military, Honda’s office said in a statement. The POWs were subjected to forced labor and faced brutal and inhumane conditions; nearly 40 percent perished, the statement added.
Dr. Lester Tenney, a 90-year-old former U.S. POW and survivor of the Bataan Death March, expressed his support for Honda’s resolution. “It reminds both Japanese and Americans that no apology is ever too late and that justice for American veterans cements the postwar peace and friendship between the U.S. and Japan,” he said.
Tenney served as the last national commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. He also served as chairman of Care Packages From Home, a nationally recognized nonprofit that sends boxes of necessities to U.S. troops serving overseas.
The resolution comes after the Japanese government issued an apology to the former POWs. Last year, Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki, delivered an apology at a U.S. POW convention. The government of Japan also invited several U.S. POWs, including Tenney, to Japan for an exchange program for reconciliation and remembrance.
The Descendants of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor also applauded Honda’s resolution. “As a daughter of an American POW who witnessed the official apology and visited Japan during the first year of the Japanese/American POW Friendship Program, I can attest to the importance of continuing the program and expanding it to include educational initiatives,” said Jan Thompson, the group’s president.
Fifteen original co-sponsors from both parties support the resolution.