Guam senator seeks apology from Japan
June 5, 2009
Now that Japan has officially apologized for atrocities during the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II, Guam wants an apology, too.
On Saturday, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, attended the 64th annual meeting of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and formally apologized for the atrocities committed on the prisoners of war who were forced to walk 65 miles after the Philippines fell to the Japanese.
It is estimated that 11,000 prisoners died during the brutal trek to prisoner of war camps.
Guam Sen. Frank Blas Jr. says a similar apology to the people of Guam would help grease the skids for passage in the U.S. Senate of a bill that would allocate $126 million to the survivors of the Japanese occupation and their families.
"An apology would help, but it’s more important to compensate the victims," Blas said during a telephone interview Wednesday.
The Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February and is now before the Senate, which has voted against it in the past. It recognizes the suffering Guamanians endured during the occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army "by being subjected to death, rape, severe personal injury, personal injury, forced labor, forced march, or internment."
"I firmly believe an official apology from Japan would greatly assist in our effort to have this bill passed," Blas said, pointing out that Japan also has made formal apologies for atrocities committed against the people of China and Korea during the war.
"Almost everyone who has family members who lived on Guam during the war has tales of horror perpetrated by the Japanese soldiers," Blas said. "My mother-in-law was brutally raped, her husband was beheaded, my grandmother was subjected to torture, starvation and flogging."
Seisuke Shimizu, Japan’s deputy consul general on Guam, told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that Japanese officials "have repeatedly expressed their heartfelt apologies to the people who suffered during the war."
"The apologies were directed to all the victims, not just the people of Guam," he said.
He said he was not aware of any move by the Japanese government to issue such a formal apology to the people of Guam.
After World War II, the U.S. and its allies waived all wartime reparation claims against Japan in a peace treaty signed in 1951. That’s why Blas is looking toward Congress to pass the reparations bill.
At the time, Japan was struggling to rebuild and it was believed payment of reparations would be impossible, Blas said.
That left a traumatized community, said Patricia Cruz, a Guam psychologist who treats occupation victims for post-traumatic stress disorder.
"A formal apology could help heal some of the wounds," she said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Guam. "By not requiring Japan to make reparations — and Japan not apologizing — it robbed us of the process of healing, atonement and acknowledgment.
"It’s as if nothing happened," she said. "The horror of the occupation — where people could be beaten and killed for not bowing correctly — is something not many people outside of Guam know about."