Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan and Japan

Janesville Memorial
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has never been to Tokyo or Beijing. Nor has he shown much interest in U.S. foreign policy toward Asia. It is likely, however, he has some strong opinions about Japan and they are not all favorable.

Representative Ryan was born, raised, schooled, and still lives in Janesville, Wisconsin. This small town was one of many that sacrificed much to defeat Imperial Japan. An activated, Janesville National Guard unit fought and lost on Bataan, the Philippines exactly 70 years ago (December 1941 to April 1942) in the first American battle of World War II.

The Janesville 99, as the men of 32nd Divisional Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard, which became Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion are known, remain a revered legend in Ryan's hometown. He grew up with the survivors and went to school with their grandsons.

Ryan knows that only 35 of original Janesville 99 returned after the War. Two-thirds perished as prisoners of Japan. Two were killed in combat, and one died on the infamous Bataan Death March. Japanese brutality, malfeasance, and torture killed the others. They died from disease, beatings, dehydration, and starvation all over Asia: Camp O’Donnell, Cabanatuan, Formosa, Fukuoka, Moji, Osaka, Omuta, Yodogawa, Mukden, Palawan. One was among the five of the 192nd Battalion who was burned alive by the Kempeitai in the December 1944 Palawan Massacre. Fifteen men died when their unmarked POW transport ships were bombed or torpedoed by American forces.

The survivors returned home with sordid tales of battle, abuse, and slave labor. Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Nippon Express, Nippon Steel, and other Japanese companies became names of infamy. They all used Janesville men as slave labor in the most sub-human of conditions. Like Nazi Germany's concentration camps, Japan's POW camps were connected to companies to provide workers.

On the corner of Milwaukee and Franklin Streets in Janesville is the Lions Club WWI plaza. Joining the WWI Memorial is a stele topped with a tank “in fullfillment of a pledge by the Tank C Company boys to their comrades on Bataan.” This memorial installed in 1947 lists both those who died and those who returned home. It personalized the War and focused its story on its individuals. It is a memorial not just to a unit or a battle. It identifies and honors all the men who endured.

HERE you can find a video of the May 2012 annual ceremony to the Janesville 99.

Representative Paul Ryan has been one of very few Republicans to defy House Speaker John Boehner's directive to not support commemorative and honorary resolutions. One result of this order was the first time for Congress to fail to issue a remembrance resolution for Pearl Harbor. December 7, 2011 was the 70th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack.

Ryan is a co-sponsor of H Res 333, that honors the American POWs of Japan and heralds the success of their 70-year effort, with the help of the Obama Administration, to receive an apology from the Government of Japan for their maltreatment. The resolution also asks Japan's companies that were complicit in the abuse and misuse of POWs to mirror their government's efforts toward apology. Nearly all these companies still exist and operate in the United States. Few have acknowledged their use of slave labor; none have apologized.

Thus, it is likely that when Vice Presidential candidate Ryan is briefed on the U.S.-Japan Alliance and Japan's corporate efforts for high speed rail contracts in the U.S. he will pause to remember the Janesville 99. The last time his hometown entrusted Japan with the care of its people the results were disastrous. Having been made to wait 70 years for an apology for Japan's documented war crimes is unlikely to have strengthened trust in Janesville and Mr. Ryan toward Japan.

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