Friday, April 25, 2008

Memorable Events of 2007 -- 60th Anniversary Mukden

Ann Lamkins reads a poem at the POW memorial service.
Michael Hurst, standing.

In November last year I received a letter from my good friends Ao and Pat Wang in the States advising me that they were organizing a tour to Shenyang in Northeast China to take former Mukden POWs and their family members and friends back for a visit to see the former Mukden POW Camp that had recently been preserved and renovated by the Chinese government. They asked if I would help in the organization and planning of the program and if I would help to lead the tour as well. I was delighted to say yes and so we spent the next seven months working together to try to prepare the best program we could.

May 21st will certainly be a day that most won’t forget as we arrived at the site of the former Mukden POW Camp and were met by a barrage of reporters and cameramen. After a brief tour of the museum, a ceremony was held so that the former POWs and family members could present donations of artifacts and other memorabilia to the new Mukden POW Museum. Following this there was a time for touring the camp and museum more fully.

At 11:00 am the 65th Anniversary Memorial Service commenced. Former POW Ralph Griffith read the opening poem “A Special Journey” by Maurice Rooney and following that I made some opening remarks on behalf of the former Taiwan POWs who were held in Mukden Camp. Former POW Oliver Allen then told how he and the first group of POWs got to Mukden Camp - their journey on the hellship and the conditions when they first arrived there.

Ann Lamkins, the sister of POW Charles Wilbur who died in the camp in December 1942, read the poem “The Man We Never Knew” in memory of her brother and all the other POWs who gave their lives at Mukden. Next Roy Weaver told what life was like from day to day in the camp and what the men suffered there.

Randall Edwards, also one of the original POWs, gave a rendering of the poem “We Will Remember Them” – referring to the men and their mates, and then Hal Leith, a former S/Sgt. in the OSS who parachuted into the camp to help evacuate the POWs in August 1945, told a little of that incident and how he felt at the time.

Jerry Ostermiller, the son of former POW Leo Ostermiller, read the “POWs Tribute” and this was followed by a message and prayer of Remembrance by Shelly Zimbler who, although not a POW himself, has been active for many years with the Mukden Survivors’ Group helping to organize their programs.

Ao and Pat Wang then laid flowers on behalf of the entire group and POWs John Lippard and Erwin Johnson laid poppies in tribute to their mates. This was followed by taps, a moment’s silence and then reveille played on a bugle.

This Trip to Mukden Will Stay In Everyone’s Memory

On the last day we had a tour of the 918 Museum in the morning and then returned to the POW camp for one last time in the afternoon. This was perhaps the best visit as everyone just got to wander and see and do what they wanted. Here are a few photos from that time:

Following the museum visit, we were hosted by the Mukden Study Group, a local organization devoted to the study of the Mukden Camp and to remembering the POWs. Everyone had a wonderful time and there was much warmth and friendship shown by our hosts as we fellowshipped together.

Our tour completed, the following day we returned to Beijing and I flew back home to Taiwan – to get ready for the next leg of my POW journey. I’m sure that this trip to Mukden will stay in everyone’s memories for a long time to come. We wish all the Mukden Group good success and the best of everything in the future.

Mukden POW Remembrance Society

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