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WWII Internees Urged to Seek U.S. Help

February 16, 1986|RAY PEREZ | Times Staff Writer

A U.S. Department of Labor official in Fullerton praised almost 300 former civilian prisoners of World War II Saturday for finally organizing to deal with lingering traumas and urged them to seek benefits the U.S. government may owe them.

G. B. Prince Jr., deputy assistant secretary of labor for veterans' employment and training, said the former civilian POWs have neglected their rights and benefits for too long.

"I think that their coming together finally after more than 40 years is very encouraging. I hope that they will continue to meet and to organize for their benefit," Prince said at the First National Former Civilian Internee Conference at the Holiday Inn.

Most of those at the conference were American civilians held in prison camps after the Japanese took the Philippines early in the war. Prince said many of them failed to take advantage of benefits and medical care for which they are eligible under the War Claims Act of 1948. Prince said Congress may need to look at the act again for possible revisions.

"I think the public does not realize what these people have gone through," he said. "They have problems that need to be made public, so they may get the necessary help."

The former internees also heard from doctors and psychologists about lingering effects from the years of imprisonment. Dr. Clarence Carnahan of the Veterans Administration said many have difficulty shaking the trauma.

"They have residual effects from their experience," Carnahan said. "At times, they are still acting or feeling as if they were present in the prison camp."

A show of hands revealed that many of the former internees have those feelings but have not sought treatment.

The three-day conference also offered a chance for reunions. People who had not seen each other for 40 years embraced and told about their lives since the war.

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