One of the issues that came up in last night's broadcast, and in the hundreds of emails that we have received, is that bad things happen in wars. This is so obvious, that it shouldn't have to be said. But what happens after the war, long after? Should people who suffered, be somehow compensated? For that matter, is there any level of compensation that could make up for the things that happened?
Germany and Austria, and private companies in those countries, have wrestled with this issue. There has been some compensation for Holocaust victims, and those who were forced to work as slave labor for specific companies. Again, can any money possibly ease the pain? Or is the symbolic value more than whatever number is actually on the check? Is it enough that someone says, "We're sorry?"
One of the most famous cases involving Japan centers on the so-called "comfort women," women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers. I don't believe that they have received anything, and in fact Japan has actively resisted their claims.
In recent years, America has gotten used to quick and relatively painless military victories. Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm. Military actions that were over in days, with a small number of casualties. Just as an aside, I have always thought that it must be very painful for the families of those who were killed in those operations to hear them described as "painless." Vietnam was different, for obvious reasons.
But even in the darkest days of that war, it can't compare with what it must have been like for my parents' generation in the early days of World War II when all of the news was bad, defeat after defeat. And one of the worst early disasters was the loss of Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines.
Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were captured and forced to endure what came to be known as the Bataan Death March, in which thousands of soldiers were killed. Those who survived were sent to Japan, and many were put to work as slave labor for Japanese companies. You'll hear from survivors tonight just how terrible that ordeal was. Now, as their numbers dwindle as time takes its toll, they are asking for compensation, for payment for the labor they performed.
And this is where it gets complicated. The Japanese companies, and many of them will be well known to you, say that they are not really the same companies that existed during the war. But the biggest obstacle is the final treaty that ended the war between the U.S. and Japan. That treaty waives any further claims. The argument was that Japan needed to be strengthened after the war to help offset China, which was being taken over by the Communist Party. This was the Cold War, after all.
And much to their dismay, the survivors are being told by their own government that there's nothing that can be done. They are out of luck. And so, as death takes its toll on the survivors, it appears that they will lose their final battle. We'll tell their story tonight.
Leroy Sievers is the Executive Producer of Nightline.