September 08, 2010

Thompson to accompany POWs on Japan trip

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An associate professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will take part in history-making events next week when a group of World War II American prisoners of war participates in a Japanese/POW Friendship Program in Japan.

Jan Thompson, who produced the three-part series, “Tragedy of Bataan” earlier this year, will accompany six former POWs to meet with the Japanese Diet and State Secretary of Foreign Affairs during the visit. This year is the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Thompson is in the Department of Radio-Television in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. She is president of the non-profit organization, Descendents Group of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. Thompson’s father was a POW after his capture on Corregidor, but was not in the Bataan Death March. Between 5,000 and 15,000 of the more than 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners did not survive the 65-mile forced march in the spring of 1942.

Thompson interviewed more than 65 veterans over the last 17 years for the three-part series, which includes first-hand accounts of Bataan survivors.

Media Advisory

For more information or for interviews, contact Jan Thompson at 618/549-5418 or by email at Thompson will available until Friday, Sept. 10, and plans to return on Sept. 20.

Thompson said the trip is historic because this is the first time the Japanese government invited POWs from the United States to attend a friendship program. She noted the delay has been in part due to the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended World War II. In addition, several POWs have been suing Japanese companies through the years because the men were slave laborers, Thompson said.

POWs from Great Britain, Australia and Holland are previous friendship program participants, Thompson said.

The POWs are from California, Texas, West Virginia, and Missouri, according to the organization’s news release. In addition to Thompson, the daughter of a POW who died on a “hell ship” used to transport prisoners into slave labor will also attend the friendship program. Thompson said her father survived that ship.

While some former POWs hope for apologies from the companies they forcibly worked for, the veterans also seek “to build bridges of friendship and reconciliation between the nations,” Thompson said. The group will also meet with members of Japan Foreign Ministry, and visit the Ryouzen Kannon Museum in Kyoto and British Commonwealth Cemetery in Yokohama. The group will also have the opportunity to present to Correspondents of Asia at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Thompson said.

Thompson said she plans to take her camera along to shoot video of the events.