Ex-Marine Oscar Fargie doesn’t need to remember the pain o
HONOLULU (AP) _ Ex-Marine Oscar Fargie doesn’t need to remember the pain of World War II. He feels it every day in the emphysema that began when he was a slave coal miner for the Japanese.
But here was the gritty old sergeant, on oxygen and an electric cart, wading into a crowd of Japanese war veterans to make his peace. And there, rushing up to him, was Shigekio Kawabata, who bombed Pearl Harbor, to shake an American’s hand and apologize for the ``secret″ attack.
The rush of English and Japanese, after a half-century of remembered hatreds, soon had their interpreter tangled up in plane designations and military ranks.
To ``Banzai!″ toasts and Christian prayers for the dead, hundreds of Japanese and U.S. veterans of the world’s deadliest war came together for a remarkable evening to share food, drink and deep-felt wishes for peace and reconciliation.
``Our hearts are full of deep emotions as we meet with American veterans and are able to shake their hands,″ Takeshi Maeda, a leader of the Japanese veterans, told the gathering.
The scene sometimes looked like history-turned-fantasy.
At one point, a smiling Maeda, also a Pearl Harbor bomber pilot, strolled a buffet lawn wearing the sporty blue baseball cap of the USS Yorktown, one of the aircraft carriers that ``got away″ from the Japanese that fateful day, Dec. 7, 1941.
The reception, along with the dedication later today of a U.S.-Japanese plaque at the national cemetery here, was sponsored by the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii and other unofficial ``friendship″ organizations.
The Pentagon had organized three tightly scripted days of commemorative events here this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of World War II’s end, on Sept. 2, 1945. But those events, led by President Clinton, included no active role for the Japanese.
``Governments don’t have mechanisms for reconciliation,″ said John DeVirgilio, one of the organizers of the ``friendship and peace″ program.
``But just because guns and bullets stop, and there are winners and losers, it doesn’t mean the feelings stop. They go on for years.″
About 200 Japanese veterans and an equal number of wives and widows flew in from Tokyo, and at least 400 American veterans and wives attended.
Although a corps of interpreters was on hand, the language gap produced some awkward moments among the gray-haired, flower-shirted crowd, gathered in a Waikiki Beach hotel garden. But it seemed that just a handshake, or a stiff embrace, or a two-minute exchange was enough to lift an old burden from old shoulders.
Some took the direct approach.
Joe Morgan, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain and Pearl Harbor survivor, marched up to Koichi Adachi and his wife, Etzuko, and announced through an interpreter, ``My God has told me to forgive the Japanese. I wish the Japanese to forgive me″ _ for having borne a hatred against them.
The couple seemed amazed, and then seemed to melt. ``I am very moved,″ Adachi told Morgan.
In the evening’s main event, Pearl Harbor attackers and survivors gathered on a stage to lead the entire group in ritual handshaking.
Kosichi Hasebe, who was a 15-year-old suicide pilot trainee when the war ended, saw lasting benefits in such face-to-face meetings.
``Before World War II, we didn’t have this kind of communication,″ he said. ``That was one reason for the war.″
For Fargie, the old Marine who now lives in Honolulu, the war was a grim experience: He fought with Filipino guerrillas around Bataan until captured by the Japanese in May 1942. He then spent over three years working in the brutal conditions of a coal mine outside Tokyo. But he bears no lasting bitterness.
``Any I had toward them ended with the war crimes trials in Japan. They got everybody I was mad at, mostly the camp commander. I submitted testimony.″
As clutches of newfound friends lined up for group snapshots, Jim McGowan, a retired Army first sergeant from Fort Worth, Texas, surveyed the scene with a sense of finality.
``The fat lady sang,″ he said. ``It’s all over. It’s history. And I’m sure the other fellow feels the same way.″