Jack Warner, a 93-year-old former U.S. prisoner of war, has met the bereaved family of the then head of a prison camp in the Iwate Prefecture city of Kamaishi, where the American man was held during World War II.
Warner was visiting Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government. There have been movements for reconciliation among the children and grandchildren of wartime Japanese prison officials and former POWs. Jack Warner and his 66-year-old daughter Pamela Eslinger met eight bereaved relatives of the late Makoto Inagi, who was the then head of an internment camp in Kamaishi.
Among Makoto Inagi's family members at the meeting, which took place on Oct. 12 at the Yokohama War Cemetery in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, were his 59-year-old son Minoru, and 60-year-old daughter Harumi Kogure.
Warner, a marine at the time, was held captive in the Philippines in 1942. He was transferred to the prison camp in Kamaishi in May 1945. During the meeting, Warner cracked a joke -- telling Minoru Inagi that he is more handsome than his father. Warner also showed his respect for Makoto Inagaki by saying that he had never allowed prison staff to use violence against prisoners.
The meeting was arranged by Makoto Inagi's 34-year-old granddaughter Satoko Kogure, who resides in the United States. After reading her grandfather's notes that had been published, she started to look for people who had had grueling experiences at the prison camp run by her grandfather. She found Warner living in the state of Oklahoma in 2013.
According to the POW Research Network Japan, children and grandchildren of former U.S. prisoners of war have started to become proactively involved in efforts to resolve POW-related issues. In Japan, some "third generation" descendants of wartime prison officials, such as Satoko Kogure, have come forward in recent years to face the problems that were created and experienced by their grandparents' generation.
POW Research Network Japan secretariat director Taeko Sasamoto commented, "People who experienced (the war) tend not to have objective views of their experiences, but those in the second and third generations can think more expansively."
Japan took about 140,000 allied soldiers captive during World War II. Nearly 36,000 of them were transferred to Japan, where they were used as forced laborers. At least 30,000 POWs, including those both in Japan and abroad, are believed to have died before the war's end.
The Japanese government has been inviting former POWs and their relatives to Japan since the 1990s in an effort to promote reconciliation.