The Australian Government has welcomed Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara’s apology to Australian Prisoners of War (POWs) for the horrors they endured under Japanese control in World War II. Foreign Minister Maehara’s apology was made in a spirit of reconciliation during the visit to Japan of five former Australian POWs and their carers under the auspices of the Japan-POW Friendship Group.
Foreign Minister Maehara also announced Japan would return to Australia historical records of former Australian POWs held by Japan during World War II. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, thanked the Japanese Government.
“I welcome their offer which is made in the spirit of cooperation. These index cards were originally offered to Australia by the Japanese Government in 1953, but the Australian Government of the time chose not to take up the offer, believing that they would not contain any new information,” Mr Rudd said.
Minister Snowdon said the Japanese records may shed light on the fate of the members of Lark Force, many of whom were lost when the Japanese transport Montevideo Maru was sunk by a US submarine in 1942.
“The Government recognises that there are families who remain uncertain about the fate of those captured by the Japanese during World War II,” said Mr Snowdon. “In recent years, the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society have maintained interest in the fate of Australian prisoners of war and have pressed the Australian Government to seek access to the card system.”
The records are expected to be housed in the Australian War Memorial.