World

Former American POWs visit Japan, recall horrors of war, marvel at progress since then

  • U.S. veterans, William Sanchez, center, 96, of Monterey Park, CA., Oral C. Nichols, left, 93, of Carlsbad, NM., and Jack Schwartz,  99, of Hanford, CA, stand together in front of Heiwajima Kannon by the Heiwajima Motorboat Race stand, the former site of Omori camp, where Sanchez was held before going back to the United States, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The three former POWs are among seven invited by a Japanese government friendship program that has brought five groups of World War II prisoner of war survivors, almost all of them in their 90s, to visit the camps where they were held nearly 70 years ago during the war and speak about their experiences. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

    U.S. veterans, William Sanchez, center, 96, of Monterey Park, CA., Oral C. Nichols, left, 93, of Carlsbad, NM., and Jack Schwartz, 99, of Hanford, CA, stand together in front of Heiwajima Kannon by the Heiwajima Motorboat Race stand, the former site of Omori camp, where Sanchez was held before going back to the United States, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The three former POWs are among seven invited by a Japanese government friendship program that has brought five groups of World War II prisoner of war survivors, almost all of them in their 90s, to visit the camps where they were held nearly 70 years ago during the war and speak about their experiences. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. veterans, William Sanchez, center, 96, of Monterey Park, CA., Oral C. Nichols, left, 93, of Carlsbad, NM., and Jack Schwartz,  99, of Hanford, CA, stand together in front of the Heiwajima Kannon, a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, at the site of the Omori prison camp, where Sanchez was held before going back to the United States, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The three former POWs are among seven invited by a Japanese government friendship program that has brought five groups of World War II prisoner of war survivors, almost all of them in their 90s, to visit the camps where they were held nearly 70 years ago during the war and speak about their experiences. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

    U.S. veterans, William Sanchez, center, 96, of Monterey Park, CA., Oral C. Nichols, left, 93, of Carlsbad, NM., and Jack Schwartz, 99, of Hanford, CA, stand together in front of the Heiwajima Kannon, a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, at the site of the Omori prison camp, where Sanchez was held before going back to the United States, in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The three former POWs are among seven invited by a Japanese government friendship program that has brought five groups of World War II prisoner of war survivors, almost all of them in their 90s, to visit the camps where they were held nearly 70 years ago during the war and speak about their experiences. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. veteran William Sanchez, 96, of Monterey Park, CA., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Sanchez, a former POW, is among seven invited by a Japanese government friendship program that has brought five groups of World War II prisoner of war survivors, almost all of them in their 90s, to visit the camps where they were held during the war and speak about their experiences. Sanchez helped build the island of reclaimed land along Tokyo Bay, and watched B-29 bombers as they incinerated Tokyo in the closing days of the war. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

    U.S. veteran William Sanchez, 96, of Monterey Park, CA., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Sanchez, a former POW, is among seven invited by a Japanese government friendship program that has brought five groups of World War II prisoner of war survivors, almost all of them in their 90s, to visit the camps where they were held during the war and speak about their experiences. Sanchez helped build the island of reclaimed land along Tokyo Bay, and watched B-29 bombers as they incinerated Tokyo in the closing days of the war. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)  (The Associated Press)

Former American prisoners of war held in Japan during World War II are touring places they were held nearly 70 years ago, and recounting their memories.

Three of the men, all in their 90s, visited the Heiwajima Kannon, a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, on Thursday at the site of the Omori prison camp.

The 96-year-old Bill Sanchez, of Monterey Park, California, helped build the island of reclaimed land along Tokyo Bay, and watched B-29 bombers as they incinerated Tokyo in the closing days of the war.

Sanchez also worked at nearby docks, one of the better jobs for POWs because it was possible to pinch food.

He and the others said they were lucky to have survived the camps and the "hell ships" that carried them to Japan.