We learned of the Soto Dam Memorial in doing our research for The Peter Hansen Story. Many of the same individuals involved in that effort are involved in this one: Mary Ann Stickney, Wes Injerd, Barry Kelso to name a few. We discovered new names of people, including many Japanese, dedicated to the reasons for which the memorial stands. Many individuals have been working for years on behalf of the American and other POWs of the Japanese in WWII.
There are memorials to those allies who gave their lives in WWII in Japan. These were built and maintained by the allies, the American, British, Australians and the Dutch. The importance of the Soto Memorial is that it was erected by the Japanese. When it was discovered relatively recently that there were some errors on the memorial, the Japanese have shown a willingness to make the corrections. While that is well and good as to the correct names being memorialized there is a much larger issue at play here - one of accountability.
When the City of Sasebo provides the funds and effort to make the corrections to the memorial, they will be making history. For the past several generations the war and all the problems it brought into the lives on all sides was something the Japanese chose to not address. School history texts barely covered the war at all. This rankled those whose lives were changed forever by the actions of the Japanese before and during the war. It was as though by not discussing the war, or admitting to some of its details they could somehow put it behind them and focus on the now and the future. The Japanese were not being accountable and whereas as other losing belligerent forces in the Second World War such as Italy, Germany and Vichy France have been not forgiven but reconciled with, reconciliation can and could not be made with a country never admitting fault to the degree they never even told their own children what really happened so that now there are generations of Japanese who know nothing of their armies actions during the war. They do not understand the rage and anger of the Koreans, the residents of Shanghai, many Dutch families and many, many others including the POWs in their care and the families thus involved whose feelings of Japan have never been softened in anyway by the Japanese making an attempt at accountability - except for now.
The truth is there have been many instances of attempts by individual Japanese to rectify the way things were, but they were held at length both by the governments of Japan and by its people as a whole. That appears to be changing and while I can not say it has been caused by the Soto Dam story it does seem to be coalescing behind it. What you will find here are pieces of the story from different sources. There are links to Japanese initiatives and to American initiatives. You have already been exposed to some of them in the Peter Hansen Story, people like Wes Injerd and others. Now meet and join the many others attempting to make the reconciliation work in a positive way to strengthen the future without unaddressed eddies of the past working against the foundation of what should be a better future.
It was brought to my attention as I said doing my research for The Peter Hansen Story, but it was an e-mail from Barry Kelso telling me of the efforts of a journalist, historian in Japan, Phil Eakins, trying to get the names right on the plaque that recognized those who died during its construction. Following the Japanese article in the Nagasaki newspaper is an e-mail Phil sent to Barry translating the article and Phil's reaction right after several Japanese media had reported what he was trying to do, in itself a major change.
*** NAGASAKI SHIMBUN ARTICLE 15 NOV 07 ***
Sasebo Soto Dam Monument
Monument's most names of American POWs who died building Soto Dam
Soto Dam POWs died after forced labor
Former U.S. Navy journalist to request Sasebo City for corrections
It was found out through a former U.S. Navy journalist's research that
26 out of 31 names of Americans, listed in the Soto Dam monument as
fallen prisoners of war who died building Soto Dam during World War II,
are incorrect. The former U.S. Navy journalist has an intention to
provide the correct list to Sasebo City and request the city to change
the name plaque.
Soto Dam was constructed by the former Japanese Navy and turned over to
Sasebo City After the war. Sasebo City constructed the monument in 1956, which has 31 American names and a note, "23 unknown others," inscribed in it. It also includes several names of Japanese who died building the dam.
According to Sasebo City's history, foreigners whose names are listed in the monument were "U.S. Forces personnel" who were taken prisoners by the former Japanese forces. About 230 Americans were put to forced
labor until the dam construction was completed in 1944.
Mr. Phillip Eakins, 42, has been doing research about Sasebo's history
since he came to Sasebo as a U.S. Navy journalist, and recently found
out that one of those listed on the monument actually survived the war.
In June this year, a family member of an American POW who died after
forced labor at the dam but is not listed on the monument contacted the
U.S. Navy Sasebo Base and requested his name be added to the monument.
Eakins then began his serious research.
Eakins obtained two diaries kept by two Soto Dam POWs who survived the
dam construction and a list compiled by a Japanese force medical
officer, and verified that 53 Americans actually died at the dam and the causes of their death which includes pneumonia, starvation, and so on.
Eakins also found out that these Americans were not U.S. Forces
personnel but civilians who were employed by a construction company and
constructing a U.S. Forces base on Wake Island in the Pacific and that 265 civilians were taken from the island to the Soto dam construction
On the other hand, in the book published by the Pacific Island Employees Foundation, there is a list of POWs who died from natural causes in Japanese POW camps, but there was no mention about where they died. This list almost matched the monument's list. Thus, there is a high possibility that the list from the book may have been used as the
In front of the Soto Dam monument, the U.S. Navy Sasebo Base holds a memorial service in May every year. "Those Soto Dam POWs who are not
listed in the monument are forgotten," said Eakins. "It is sad."
Officials of the Sasebo City Water Bureau which manages the dam said,
"We would like to verify the information and think about what we can
Next is Phil Eakins e-mail to Barry Kelso
Here's the translated article from today's Nagasaki Shimbun.
Yesterday's media event was a little overwhelming at the beginning. Some of the TV crews filmed me coming out of my car after I arrived; they wanted video of me walking up the stairs to the memorial, opening the gate, looking at the memorial, touching the plaque, etc. I spoke for about an hour and then got some digital shots of the dam for you after the interviews were over. Because the water level is low due to the drought, I saw some kind of stone platform at the edge of the water (it is underwater when the reservior is full) and wondered if it might have been some kind of guard lookout during the dam's construction. The caretaker also showed me the "homesick" rock but the word can't be seen clearly. Turns out this is the huge rock everyone passes on their way to the memorial tower! The caretakers gave me some information which I will mail to you.
I watched three TV stories of the interview last night, and missed the other three while channel surfing. This appears to be the hot story of the moment. I'm confident Sasebo city officials will do the right thing when I present them with the updated list of POW names and request the plaque be changed.
I'll send you the other translated stories as they become available.
Hope all is going well!
Memorial to U.S. POWs at Sasebo may be corrected
By Travis J. Tritten and Hana Kusumoto, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, November 24, 2007
Travis J. Tritten / S&S
Amateur historian Phil Eakins stands beside the Soto Dam memorial plaque, which lists names of American prisoners who died building the dam. Eakins says his research has uncovered many new names of casualties and proves that many names listed on the plaque are incorrect.
Travis J. Tritten / S&S
Soto Dam in Sasebo, Japan, was built using American prisoners of war as slave labor.
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan They died in a Japanese slave-labor camp, but during more than six decades, their names became lost to history.
Now, with the help of uncovered historical documents, 53 Americans who died building Sasebos Soto Dam during World War II could finally receive their proper memorial, according to local military historian Phil Eakins.
Eakins said he used survivor accounts and Japanese military records this year to comb the original 31 names and 23 anonymous casualties listed on the dam memorial plaque. One name originally listed on the plaque was deleted because it should not have been included.
The records have provided names of anonymous casualties and also showed that only five named casualties were listed correctly on the memorial, he said.
Eakins plans to present his findings to Sasebo city in the coming weeks and ask that the memorial be amended.
The city created the memorial in 1956 near the site of Fukuoka Camp 18, where about 265 American civilian contractors from Wake Island were held. Some died in the harsh conditions.
The prisoners of war were forced to take over the dam project in January 1942 and toiled through two winters in only the light tropical-climate clothes they were wearing when captured.
They were mostly used as slave labor to mix the cement and dig up the rocks, Eakins said.
Disease and malnutrition were widespread, and the prisoners subsisted on thin soups, flour balls and an occasional piece of fish, he said.
Pneumonia and dysentery took many lives, Eakins said.
Their individual stories remained buried until amateur historians began to dig in earnest.
Eakins, an unofficial base historian, had been fascinated with the dam memorial since he first came to Sasebo in 1989, particularly with finding the names of anonymous casualties.
His break came this summer when he came in contact with another man with a longtime interest, Barry C. Kelso of Boise, Idaho, who is the nephew of Camp 18 casualty Orval Allen Kelso.
Kelso never knew his uncle but began researching his military service in 1981 through a Wake Island survivors group. He approached Sasebo Naval Base in June about adding his uncles name to the dam memorial.
That connection led Eakins to an unpublished manuscript and a set of records from two Camp 18 survivors. Those documents contain matching lists of the men who died at the camp.
Records kept by survivors were compared to Japanese military records of prison camp casualties, Eakins said.
I was overjoyed beyond belief when the three sources agreed, he said.
However, Kelso said he believes there might still be more undocumented casualties.
There are possibly 100 or more POWs unaccounted for, as the Japanese would take men out of the camp and that would be the last they would be heard from, he said. I think that Camp 18 may [have] had about 250 or 350 men in it when it first had opened.
The new list of 53 casualties will be presented to the citys water authority later this month or in early December, and the department said it likely would fulfill the request to amend the memorial.
The corrections could help heal old war wounds between the two countries, said Yuka Ibuki of US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, a group that works to foster understanding and forgiveness among former prisoners and their captors.
It would be a real healing process if the names of the memorial are corrected and former POWs revisit the site and meet Japanese residents who remember them from the war, Ibuki said.
The real human relation will be renewed, she said.
Those who died at Camp 18 ...
Wake Island civilian workers who died at Camp 18, Sasebo, Japan, and their dates of death:
Bailey, George Edward: Feb. 6, 1943
Brown, Edward James: May 6, 1943
Davis, Lee Russell: April 21, 1943
Dixon, Theron B.: March 7, 1943
Dyer, Pat: Oct. 1, 1943
Easter, George Carey: Feb. 27, 1944
Esmay, Wayne Edic: Feb. 19, 1943
Farstvedt, Knut: March 26, 1943
Follett, Frank Fay: March 23, 1943
Franklin, Mark Baum: Jan. 12, 1943
Gehman, Ralph Alison: Jan. 22, 1944
Greve, Louis: March 15, 1943
Grim, William Bertson: March 9, 1943
Hance, Loren Howard: April 25, 1943
Hardisty, Herbert Arthur: July 4, 1943
Hart, Irving Warren: March 19, 1943
Hensel, Theodore: May 1, 1943
Hewson, Albert Arthur: Jan. 11, 1943
Hill, Norman Lester: June 4, 1943
Huntley, John William: March 1, 1943
Jimison, Harold Elmore: Nov. 9, 1942
Johnson, Edwin Waldeman: March 30, 1943
Kelly, Frederick William: March 8, 1943 brother
Kelly, Samuel D.: Oct. 26, 1943 brother
Kelso, Orval Allen: April 8, 1943
Kent, Lloyd Robert: Feb. 27, 1944
Knox, Elbert Henry: Jan. 15, 1944
Larson, Julius Leonard: Feb. 17, 1943
Lindquist, William Oscar: Feb. 22, 1943
McEvers, Ralph: March 22, 1943
McKeehan, Lloyd Sterling: Feb. 25, 1943
Meyers, Lester Thedore: April 29, 1943
Miller, Charles Myrlin: Feb. 14, 1943
Miller, Frank B.: April 27, 1943
Miller, Silas Warren: March 21, 1943
Nicks, Quinton Doke: April 2, 1943
Niklaus, John Florian: Jan. 26, 1943
Nygard, Andrew: March 15, 1943
ONeal, John Hubert: Feb. 27, 1943
Pawlofske, Richard Paul: Feb. 17, 1943
Peterson, Hjalmar Magnus: Nov. 2, 1942
Proteau, George Francis: March 30, 1943 father
Proteau, Lawrence Harold: March 23, 1943 son
Puccetti, Elmer: March 11, 1943
Reid, Russell: Aug. 16, 1943
Robbins, Paul James: March 25, 1943
Stone, Clinton Manchester: March 20, 1943
Thomas, Owen Griffith: April 30, 1943
Villa, Edward Elyson: March 20, 1943
Walker, George Milton: May 4, 1943
Williams, Donald MacLeod: March 8, 1943
Yeramian, Vahram John: Jan. 5, 1943
Zeh, Fred: Feb. 26, 1944
I filed the below correction to the Soto Dam story published in Stars and Stripes over the weekend. Thanks for notifying me of the mistake.
A story published Saturday [Nov. 24] on the Soto Dam prisoner-of-war memorial in Sasebo , Japan , incorrectly identified the date POWs began work. The prisoners began construction on the dam in October 1942. Stars and Stripes apologizes for the mistake.
Stars and Stripes
Latest corrected list (in Excel) >
Map of dam area, hand drawn by local >
Next we have pictures of the dam, The Memorial at the Soto Dam and the annual U. S. Navy ceremony at it.
The Soto Dam
The Soto Dam
The Memorial is located up a set of staircases at different plateaus of the dam hill side.
The Memorial that is being asked to be corrected
Next are photos from the May, 2008 US Navy ceremony
As shown by the following report by Communication Speialist 3rd Class Casey H. Kyhl the new memorial has been and was dedicated on May 30 of 2010 -
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Casey H. Kyhl, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det., Sasebo
YUNOKI, Japan (NNS) -- A memorial service organized by the Sasebo Chief Petty Officer's Association and Kyushu Military Retired Association was held at Soto Dam May 30 to honor the American and Japanese laborers who died constructing the dam during World War II.
Sailors from Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) joined more than 30 Sasebo community members for the ceremony which included the unveiling of a new plaque, a 21-gun salute and the posting of ceremonial wreaths at the memorial.
"The Soto Dam has provided this community with water for more than 65 years and is very important," said Sasebo Mayor Norio Tomonaga. "I hope that the souls of those who died here will rest in peace."
In 1956, then-Sasebo Mayor Yamanaka Tatsujiro dedicated the Memorial Tower to the 53 Americans and 14 Japanese citizens who lost their lives during the dam's construction. A plaque was mounted in honor of the Americans who perished, but because of imperfect records only 31 of the deceased were listed and of those, only five names were correct.
"It was very important to me that these men were recognized for what they had done," said Phil Eakins, a civilian who works for the Navy.
Starting in 1990, Eakins began his effort to find or correct the names of all the Americans who lost their lives at Soto Dam. After extensive research, Eakins read a correct and complete list of 53 names on May 25, 2008 at the annual Soto Memorial Ceremony. Those names were inscribed on a bronze plaque that was unveiled at this year's ceremony.
"It is important that we reflect on the sacrifices that these men made," said CFAS Command Master Chief Richard Hatton. "These names will be here for a long time to come and I think it's great that someone took the time to make sure they were correct."
After the ceremony, many of those in attendance took the opportunity to get a closer look at the memorial and take pictures from the top of the dam.
"It is important to show respect for the sacrifices Americans have made," said Tiffany Tardif, a ceremony attendee. "The dam itself is a monument to those that built it and I hope that people continue to make the effort to come and see it."
The Soto Dam Memorial as it appeared in June , 2010 showing the original monument and the new plaque with updated names with a wreath in front
The new plaque with corrected names
Links to concerned others -
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