CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — The suffering he endured during World War II still haunts 95-year-old Lester Tenney, who has black lung disease from working as a prisoner of war in a Japanese coal mine.
The former Army staff sergeant believes President Barack Obama should keep ex-POWs like him and others in mind when he makes his historic visit to Hiroshima on Friday.
"I'd like to have Obama say that the war took the lives of many people and not just one group, or one segment of the society, but thousands of people suffered because of the war, and, I think he should make sure that he says that," he said. "This is not a memorial just for those who died at the atomic bomb. I think he should make sure that he says this is a memorial for all those who were victims of the war."
Editors: Part of a series of perspectives on the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, released this week as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Hiroshima.
The 95-year-old retired accounting professor, who lives north of San Diego in Carlsbad, California, has been instrumental in moving the Japanese government to acknowledge its wartime military's abusive treatment of POWs. His friendship with then-Japanese ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki led to Japan hosting the first group of American POWs in 2010.
Three years before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Tenney witnessed Japanese soldiers torturing and killing captured American troops on the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942 on the Philippines' Bataan Peninsula. He spent more than three years in Japanese prison camps, and still has the blood-stained, bamboo stick Japanese troops used to beat him across the face.
"If you didn't walk fast enough, you were killed. If you didn't say the right words, you were killed, and if you were killed, you were either shot to death, bayonetted, or decapitated," he said. "I'll never forget it. And so for that reason ... there's no reason for us to apologize to them, not any reason whatsoever."
Tenney has never received an apology from the wartime mine operator that forced him to shovel coal, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Nagasaki. Americans dropped a second atomic bomb on that southern Japanese city three days after Hiroshima, and Tenney remembers seeing a large cloud, with a stem-like cloud at the bottom.
For Tenney, that was the day his life was saved.
Excerpts of video interviews with Tenney, other U.S. veterans and Japanese atomic bomb survivors are available at http://apne.ws/243ZLSD