Comfort Women


comfort-women-5I ran across an article, an eye-witness testimony actually, today that was really something.  Let me just include a letter I wrote to Professor Herbert Ziegler of the University of Hawaii, and then I will put all the URL’s below for you to follow up.

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Professor Ziegler –

This is an interesting and difficult subject.  I was reading today in an online “Testimony” by a woman who lived through the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies.  I looked her up because I was seeking more information about the Japanese atrocities committed there at the start of the war.  I searched further on “Comfort women” after reading her article, and found you were involved in this subject just recently!

Let me back up.  Last year, my wife and I visited a nautical antique shop just south of Los Angeles, called “Antiques of the Sea”.  The owner, Eric Bakker, was also there in the Dutch East Indies during the Japanese invasion and occupation.  He was a small boy, and spent the entire war (nearly 4 years!) interned in a camp with his mother.  He was fortunate.  His father, whom he said was an assistant to the Viceroy before the Japanese invaded, had fought with the Dutch East Indian Army (against the Japanese), was captured, put into a pig’s cage (a bamboo cage about 2′ by 3′) and tossed into the ocean (to feed the sharks he said), along with about 8,000 other men as the Japanese “Purged” the islands of their former “Western” imperialists.  What is simple for you and me to realize is they were simply replacing one form of imperialism with another, but that’s a different discussion.

So, forward to my search today.  I’m always following up ideas, checking stories, searching for more facts, some day I should probably write a book on WWII, I’ve always just been seeking a subject nobody else has already covered.  So, I was checking the atrocity (the killing of the Dutch East Indian Army volunteers as I mentioned above) when I came across another site that had a story by a woman named Elizabeth Van Kampen.  Fascinating story!  I will list her site, along with Antiques by the Sea URL’s below.  But, basically, to our point here, she mentions that at one point all the European teen girls are lined up and inspected (by Japanese soldiers), and several dozens (hundreds?) are marched out to be used as “Comfort women”.

I did not know that fact!  I knew there were Korean and Chinese girls forced into “Sexual slavery” but I had no idea that European women were used (abused) as well.  I don’t know if you knew that either, but I found it quite shocking.  I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.  The level of the barbarity of the Japanese knew practically no bounds in the Pacific theater.  I have dozens of books on the war, including a couple which cover the “Rape of Nanjing” (Nanking) as well as others that cover the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and so on.  I read extensively, and I have studied WWII since I was a small boy.  My father served in the Navy, flew in a PBY / Catalina flying boat on anti-submarine patrols in the Gulf of Mexico, and my mother held various jobs including at a bomber plant here in Los Angeles thus earning for herself the distinguished title “Rosie the Riveter”.  Two years ago, my wife and I were privileged to hear Louis Zamperini speak to a packed church audience down near San Diego.  I just have a passion for (thank you Tom Brokaw) the “Greatest Generation”.

The stories must not be forgotten, as well, the triumphs and tragedies must not be either.  I’m writing partially to thank you for your standing up to the Japanese!  Only just this past week did the Japanese government ever officially apologize for the pain and suffering caused by the war!  Amazing!  But I also wanted to pass along those tid-bits of information that I came across, and some possible sources for your future “Footnoting”.  I do not know if Mr. Bakker has ever “Officially” shared his story in a public fashion.  He told us his story on a quiet day, sitting in his shop, and I could tell how deeply wounded he was – even to this day, over 72 years later!  His story, like Mrs. van Kampen’s, need to be told and remembered, if for no other reason than for their “Eye-witness” quality.

As of 2009, when Mrs. van Kampen wrote her story down, she was involved in an organization called ” Foundation for Japanese Honorary Debt”.  Please read her story, because at that time, there were still surviving Dutch women who had been “Comfort Women”.  They may still be alive even today.

The atrocities of the NAZI’s consume us because they were so massive, but I appreciated your comment in the interview when I read, that “300,000 dead in Nanking didn’t make it any less an atrocity than 400,000 dead” (sorry, quoting from memory on that one).

Antiques of the Sea – owner Eric Bakker

http://www.antiquesofthesea.com/

Mrs. Elizabeth van Kampen’s story:

http://www.japanfocus.org/-elizabeth_van-kampen/3002/article.html

I also hope these may lead you to more fresh angles to cover in your history texts – for future generations.

Thank you again,

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In addition, on the “Japan Focus” site, the reason I emailed Professor Ziegler I found this, from March – OF THIS YEAR!

“Japanese Government Pressures American Publisher to Delete Textbook Treatment of Wartime Sexual Slavery: An Interview with Herbert Ziegler”

http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/246

I also left a comment for Mrs. van Kampen, which I hope and pray she is still alive and can read it and get in contact with Mr. Eric Bakker, but I don’t have the comment available right now, it was submitted and is pending approval.  If and when they approve it, I will add it to this article, since I think there’s a sensitive “Wound” here that we are all still dealing with that 70 years of time have not eased, nor have the causes been erased, but they are in danger of being forgotten.

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