Onomichi site serves as POW memorial
War is a horrendous business; families torn apart, relationships put asunder and servicemembers killed or taken captive. Dignitaries attended a memorial relocation and dedication ceremony held April 15, 2013, to pay homage and honor to enemy prisoners who were captives at Hiroshima Prisoner of War Sub-Camp No. 4 during World War II.
On a stretch of bustling road in the heart of Onomichi City, in the Mitsugi District of Hiroshima prefecture, Japan, sits a very unassuming grocery store named “Every.” Right outside its walls stands a stoic monument to Hiroshima Prisoner of War Sub-Camp No. 4. The ground the store occupies was once the camp.
As the saying goes, if we do not know our history, we are doomed to repeat it, that only by learning from our mistakes can we understand ourselves and grow as a people.
“Any site of rest and memory to those servicemembers who have gone before us and who have made the ultimate sacrifice warrants our continued visitation and remembrance,” said Col. James C. Stewart, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni commanding officer. “Today’s ceremony signifies the collective remembrance and dedication of all nations to those military servicememebers who have endured the privation of detention during conflict.”
The part of Onomichi where the memorial stands was once known as Mukaishima, and it is here where more than 200 Allied servicemembers toiled in shipyards, carrying materials until the war’s end in 1945.
Most of these men were brought there aboard Japanese “hell ships,” war-era transports especially known for their dreadful living conditions and barbaric treatment toward captives. One hundred British airmen arrived at the POW camp in November 1942 by way of the hell ship, Duinichi Maru, along with another 100 American troops who came from the Philippines by way of the Noto Maru in September 1944. Twenty-four of those 200 died from the combination of
backbreaking labor, inhumane treatment and conditions suffered in that time period. One of those was U.S. Army Air Force Pfc. George B. Scott, who died from his wounds Feb. 13, 1945. An additional 10 POWs arrived Aug. 8, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 bomber crashed into the Japanese Sea 50 miles off the coast. At the end of the war, all surviving members were transported back to their homelands.
The ceremony opened with a guitar rendition of “Amazing Grace,” followed by remarks by Mitsuo Minamizawa, Onomichi Red Brick Society and Japan-U.K. Friendship Monument Society chairman, followed by both a Christian and Buddhist invocation.
Once unveiled, a floral tribute commenced with bouquets laid at the base of the memorial, followed by guest remarks and a song by students from the Mukaishima Chuo Elementary School.
The theme of the ceremony focused on passing an understanding of the sacrifices made by the departed to future generations.
“I greatly hope from this occasion today this memorial plate will be a symbol of peace and friendship and extend friendship amongst our people,” said Yuko Hiratani, Onomichi City mayor. “I sincerely hope our wish for eternal peace is passed down to future generations.”
Etched in one of the memorial’s plated faces are the names of the British troops. Old Glory, the Union Jack and the Hinomaru (circle of the sun) flap in the wind above, silent guardians to the memory of the dead and an example of the continued unified support of the three nations toward everlasting peace.
“It is important for us to continue to remember the men and women from all nations who fought in the great conflict,” said Stewart. “This memorial will stand as a reminder of their tremendous sacrifice and our desire for world peace. Today, Japan and the United States and the United Kingdom form the strongest and most important security alliance in the world.”
After nearly 70 years, representatives from the three nations continued to reflect and sustain the hope for abstinence from war, the endurance of their alliance, and the wish to never need similar monuments in the future.