May 25th, 2024

Remembering those on both sides of conflict

By Lethbridge Herald on November 13, 2020.

Most soldiers on both sides of conflict sincerely believe that they are fighting for a good cause. That’s why it’s important to remember and honour all soldiers who went to war. My uncle Mitsugu fought the U.S. Army, for example. I will never demonize him just because he fought under the wrong flag. He was the uncle who gave me a ride on the back of his bicycle. I remember him fondly.
Every Remembrance Day, I remember 12 men I knew personally who went to war. Two were Americans, five Canadians and five Japanese.
Two Americans: Jacob de Caesar was a gunner on a B17. He suffered terribly for four years in a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan. After liberation, he went to a theological seminary in the States. He came back to Japan as a missionary. He worked with my father. Bill Savage was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. He married my cousin Midori and became a flight instructor.
Five Canadians: Frank Carey was a missionary in Japan and recruited me to come to Canada; he was in the infantry. Garth Legge and Ian MacLeod were Spitfire pilots and stationed in Southern England. Garth was my mentor and supervisor when I worked in Africa. Ian became a missionary in Japan. Don Rae was a navigator on a Halifax bomber and became General Secretary of the United Church of Canada. All four became ministers after the war. Jack Mellow was my father-in-law and was a RCAF mechanic maintaining Spitfires in England.
Five Japanese: Grandfather Yukichi served in the Imperial Cavalry as a veterinarian. Grand uncles, Masao and Shiro Mitsui, died in the war against Tsarist Russia in 1904 long before I was born. They were legends in the Mitsui household; their pictures and stories were everywhere when was I growing up. Masao was blown up with a cargo boat in trying to block the narrow passage into Port Arthur by scuttling it at the mouth of the port. It was the base of Russian Pacific Fleet. Shiro died in a field hospital of dysentery.
Uncle Shin Kuroda was an army surgeon. Uncle Mitsugu was only 18 years old when he went missing in the battle of Guadalcanal. He is technically still “Missing in action.”
I remember them. I can still see their faces. Rest in peace. We promise not to make the same mistake.
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui

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nothing personal, tad – and i fully appreciate this and others of your thoughtful and compassionate entries – but why does our govt not press for apology and compensation for families of victims at the hands of the japanese war criminals that tortured cdn prisoners of war? canada, and rightly so, did as much with regard to victims of internment and theft of property of what were seen as japanese-canadians at that time. how do we allow those war crimes to go without redress? is this not an utter disrespect to our soldiers that suffered enormously as prisoners of the japanese?
if we want to fully respect the victims of war, we should work hard to avoid them. diplomacy and sharing are key aspects. moreover, what if we conscript and send the wealthiest first to the front lines, given they have the most to “defend”? always start with the families of politicians and the multinationals – even ahead of our soldiers. i think we will find peace in that approach.