The invitation program by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, entitled “2011 The Japanese/POW Friendship Program”, aims for the promotion of mutual understanding of the people between Japan and the United States through encouraging reconciliation minds by inviting former American POWs, their spouses and their descendants to Japan, who hold special feelings toward Japan due to the experience during the World War II. The program started last year.
Born in Virginia in 1923. Enlisted in U.S. Army Coast Artillery in 1940 at age 16. Captured on Corregidor in May 1942. Held at the following camps:
- Cabanatuan from 1942-43
- Clark Field early 1944 through August 1944
- Nomachi Skojo (near Toyama) September 1944 to September 1945 when liberated.
After WWII he earned two master’s degrees: One in the Teaching of English and one in School Counseling. He married Joan Rothwel in 1952 and had four children. He taught English and Psychology and worked as guidance counselor in high school and community college for 31 years. He retired in 1983 and went into property management.
Robert J. Vogler JR.
Entered Army Air Corp in Jan. 1940. Stationed in Manila, P.I. and completed air craft instrument training. Promoted to S-SGT. PAY, attended University of Philippines studying engineering. Maintained AC on Bataan, then fought as combat infantry, death march, Camp O Donnell and Cabanatuan. Shipped to Mukden, Manchuria. Worked as a grinding specialist at MKK factory. Transferred to Kamioka, Japan to work in lead mine for punishment and control, with 150 POWs. Stayed in military for 20 years. Employed at General Dynamics as manufacturing and development engineer for 16 years. Retired in 1976. Currently married and live Rancho Bernardo, San Diego, CA.
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 1, 1923. A few years after I graduated High School, I joined the US Army & was sent to the Philippine Islands for my tour of duty. I was captured on the Island of Corregidor and was in many POW Camps for 2 years before I was shipped to Omuta, Fukuoka, Japan. I worked in the Omuta Coal mine camp #17, for 1 1/2 years till the war ended. When I returned home I worked a number of odd jobs for about 4 years and then moved to Los Angeles, California. I returned to school and graduated as an Electronic Engineer. I worked in the Aerospace Industry for 40 years.
I am presently working at the Los Angles, California, Veteran Administration Hospital as a Patient Advocate, & I am also a Veteran Service Officer for the American Ex- Prisoners of War & POW Coordinator for the Veteran Administration Hospital & Los Angeles VA Regional Office.
Roy Edward Friese
When W.W. II ended, I reenlisted in the U.S. Army then in 1947 transferred to the U.S. Air Force. I was mostly in Reconnaissance working on cameras in the planes. I retired after 20 years in Sep. 1961. In civilian life I was employed doing various types of electronics. In 1975, I established my own Company installing & repairing micrographic equipment. My first marriage ended in divorce but I have been with my present wife since Jan. 1974. She was a Registered Nurse before we both retired in 1990. For 13 years we traveled full time all over the United States & Canada in our 40′ Motor Home (towing a little car for sightseeing). We settled down here in Southern California still pursuing our hobbies of travel & photography. I also do woodworking & collecting antique clocks. She keeps busy researching our Genealogy.
Deciding to serving his country, Oscar Leonard joined the horse cavalry in Idaho and then the Army Air Corps which took him to the Philippines. He and his lieutenant were ordered to surrender to save American lives. He was held as a prisoner of war in Malaybalay prison, Bilibid prison, then carried on the Hellship Tottori Maru to Japan. In Japan he was held prisoner in Kawasaki prison, Mitsui Madhouse prison, Nippon Steel #5 prison, and Hitachi Copper Mines prison. Leonard was a slave laborer during this time for Japan. After release from prison and after 40 days on a ship back to Manila, Philippines, he weighed 85 (eighty five) pounds.
After the end of World War II Leonard figured he was too old to return to medical school and decided to go to pharmacy school. At pharmacy school he met his would be wife, Mary Ida, in the large class of 22 students, of which only two were ladies. Mary Ida says if she had known how old he was, there never would have been a first date! The couple have had three children and are proud of their four grandsons. At 92 he still works, relief, at the local pharmacies, sometime helps his youngest daughter plant trees on her ten acres of land, cuts and chops his own fire wood, and still enjoys world traveling.
Harold A. Bergbower
Graduated from high school in Illinois and joined the military in May of 1939. I was a prisoner of war held be the Japanese for 39 1/2 months, imprisoned in several camps ending up at Toyama, Japan. On my return to the states I continued my military career. I married in1946 and we had 3 children. Then the Air Force training command sent me back to Japan to help set up the Japan’s Air Force. With hesitation my family and I went. My family and I lived in Japan from 1955 – 1957 giving us many experiences. I am honored to have served my country for those 30 years. I retired in 1969 to a life of golf and leisure in Sun City, AZ. I am currently living in Peoria, AZ keeping busy by caring for my 2 horses, exploring new technology, traveling, and spending time with my family and friends.
Ralph E Griffith
I enlisted in the army at the age of 17, and was sent straight to the Philippines. I was on Corregidor a year before Pearl Harbor. I was captured in 1942, I spent 3 years 8 month in Mukden Manchuria. When the war ended, I returned home to my home town of Hannibal Mo. I went to work for the railroad for a few years, then I went to Alaska and worked on the Alaskan railroad for 2 years, not liking the cold weather I went to work for a railroad in northern Indiana, that is where I met my wife Mary. After 37 years I retired from the railroad and returned to my home town of Hannibal Mo, where I was born and raised. During my early years I took up flying and had my own airplane for 45 years. I also took up music —organ and piano. My wife and I bought 3 acres of wooded land in the country side and built our present home. I have been retired for 26 years and now am 88 years old.