Over 1,300 Americans were to disembark at Fushin, Korea, for work in Mukden, Manchuria. After the men landed and were mustered, they were issued coats with fur on the bottom as it was November and bitter cold in Mukden.
The remaining Americans would travel on to various port and cities in Japan. While we were in Fushin, Korea, hundreds of smoke stacks could be seen and the Americans thought them to be steel smelters. Also there were large shipways with a dozen or more ships being constructed. Most of the ships appeared to be cargo and a few were tankers. Here, all the Americans agreed, would be a fine target for heavy bombers some day. The landscape was odd. All the hills in sight were terraced for growing rice.
Korea has many orchards but the apples are very poor.
It wasn't long before we were underway again. This time for the port of Mojie. As we passed through Mojie, no Americans were allowed above decks. Only a few men were allowed to go to the latrines and through cracks in the wooden structures we could make out many old temples and fishing boats, but that was all.
After leaving Mojie, we were headed for the Inland Sea. We thought we would dock at Yokahama, but we merely passed by without stopping.
On November 11, 1942 at 10:00 a.m., we arrived at the end of our voyage. We had been aboard ship thirty-five days and the final score was sixteen dead and many men very ill who would leave ship ahead of us and go to one of the Japanese ill-equiped hospitals.
A sergeant of the U.S. Army, whose name was Coleman, had beri-beri so bad that he was swollen up like a balloon. He was able to walk though and was very cheerful, but nearly everyone agreed he was in a very bad condition.
The 11th of November was very chilly in Osaka Harbor and all the Americans were dressed in Filipino summer clothes. Most of the men were suffering from pellegra, malaria, cold, etc. Before noon the word was passed for all the Americans on the list for Tokyo to fall in. Trucks were waiting to take the men to the railroad station.
The other men listed for transfer to Osaka were mustered and marched off the ship to wait for Japanese Home Guards, who kept squawking, "Four's, --- Four's --- fall in to the columns of four's." We had a big surprise when our names were read off, from a typed master list, in nearly perfect English by a light skinned well-built Japanese, who, we later found out, had spent a good number of his school years in America.
He told us he was the interpreter for the Osaka No. 1 prisoner of war camp and that we had to march about two miles. There, food would be waiting for us. The interpreter's name was Fujimoto, who we were later to call "The Thug".
In forty-five minutes, we arrived at what was to be our home for a long time. The interpreter got down to business right away and told us to unpack our belongings and lay out all knives, razor blades. scissors, etc. for inspection. This happened in the street in front of the prison camp and one of the Japanese guards had a large wooden box where he put all these scissors, knives and razor-blades in. The interpreter told us they were to be returned to us later, and they were.
After being inspected, the interpreter gave orders that we were to march over to the camp staff recreation grounds. In a few minutes we were there and the Japanese guards shouted, "Kyoski", which means "Attention!" Out of one of the wooden barracks came an old man dressed in a Japanese colonel's uniform. We did not know what was going to happen, but suddenly the colonel started shooting off his mouth with a lot of "Nippon Wa". "Nippon Wa" means the country of Japan. The gist of his conversation was, "You are now in Japan --- here you will stay until the war is over. Papers have been prepared for you to sign and they must be signed or you will be shot by our guards."
The papers read, "I will not attempt to escape. If I do, I shall be severely punished". We had to line up, running as fast as we could with all our belongings banging and rattling by the Japanese colonel and give him a snappy salute in proper Japanese fashion. If it was not snappy enough, he would have the men salute over and over again. This Japanese colonel was a fanatic when it came to saluting. We were to find this out as the days went by. As soon as everybody saluted enough to satisfy him, we signed the papers and marched to our new home.
There were about 200 Americans from Wake and Guam in the camp. The total number of prisoners was 632. There were Chinese, Norwegians, Italians, Spaniards, Englishmen, Scots, Welsh, Australians and one Franco refugee.
We were served steamed rice and onion soup which was hot and tasted very good to us. Some of the Americans were so sick that they gave most of their food away and many of the other men ate so much that they had what we call "bloated guts", a tight feeling around the stomach.
Our rations were 700 grams of rice, 250 to 450 grams of vegetables, 5 grams of sugar per month, and 10 packs of cigarettes to offices and 7 packs to other enlisted men, which was gradually reduced to 11 cigarettes and half a pack of hair tobacco every fifteen days.
We were assigned to a room thirty-three feet long, approximately twenty-seven feet in height and twenty-seven feet wide. The bunk spaces consisted of three floors about six feet, six inches apart. Each man had a new mat woven from straw and the thickness of a piece of linoleum, five gray blankets that were woven out of similar materials, two bowls and one fork and spoon.
All the rooms had a man detailed as room-leader and he was supposed to act as a go-between for the enemy and the men he was in charge of.
At 8:00 o'clock every night we were to be counted, called "tenko", by the enemy. All men were to sit up in their bunk spaces with their legs crossed under them and hands placed on their knees with head held erect and eyes looking straight ahead. Then the first man on the bottom shelf would start counting off. Many times when all of the prisoners would count off some of the men would get mixed up, as all numbers were spoken in Japanese. Consequently, the Japanese duty officer would strike the man with the handle of his sword. The officer would then order the man down and command him to count in Japanese up to 100 for several hours while standing at attention. If a man was not present for roll call, regardless of his reason, he would be subjected to severe punishment, like standing on his knees or being slapped around by the guards.
Sometimes the guards would slap the prisoners just for their own amusement. The Japanese military men humiliated the prisoners at every chance they got. To them, prisoners were the lowest persons in the world and should be subjected to all kinds of indignations.
About two days after we had been in camp at Osaka, Japan, our interpreter, Fujimoto, came into our room and asked who would like to volunteer for work. Of course, only a few men expressed their willingness to do so. At this recourse, the interpreter said nothing, but added that American Red Cross parcels would be issued in the near future. Also, we were to receive a small white face towel, tooth powder, tooth brush, etc. We were to learn later what the near future meant. In Japan, this saying could be a day, days, months, even years, but nothing definite.
Quite a few of the Americans were suffering from beri-beri, pellegra, ulcerated sores, eye diseases, etc. and the enemy was quick to notify all room-leaders that all sick men would receive only half rations while workers received full rations.
November 14, showed a little better than half of the newly arrived prisoners working which was not too their liking. The work consisted of carrying heavy weights, some by a stout pole, called yo-ho pole, which is about five feet in length and two and a half inches wide in the center, tapering down to one inch at the ends. Of course, some of the weights had to be carried on men's backs.
After working hard all morning we had three tiny buns, (about 150 grams), for lunch. We also received a small rice ball which came out of rations of rice allowed by the enemy. This small amount of food left most of the men hungry. Consequently, all afternoon while working, the men would eat dried field corn, dry rice and anything else that could be found.
After laboring from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the men would return to their wooden plaster homes and have their evening meal which consisted of steamed rice and vegetable soup. The entire day's ration could be enumerated at 700 grams of rice and vegetables, which was about one and a half pounds of substance per day.
Several of the companies would issue to the men who worked what the enemy called a "bento". They issued them steamed rice, some pieces of dried pickled radishes, and little pieces of kelp, which we call see-weed.
Our commander, the Japanese colonel, found out about this and cautioned the companies not to give any more food to the prisoners as they received sufficient food furnished by the Japanese Army. Whenever any prisoners went to work for different concerns, they brought up the food question to the management. How were we to work hard all day and not get enough food to keep our strength?
In the late afternoon of November 17, 1942, after coming into camp from our day's labor, we received one International Red Cross parcel, No. 8, containing ten or eleven articles. We were very grateful to the Red Cross for these parcels as this was our first American food in about seven months. It sure was wonderful!
Some of the plants where the prisoners worked had a few small furnace files, and with the Red Cross food and buns, furnished by the enemy, a lot of the men made various concoctions, like puddings, sweet rice and shadow soup, containing meager amounts of vegetables. The Japanese laborers were a little peeved that we had something extra and their own government had nothing to give them. We would always tell them that it was tough. Though once in a while somebody would give a Japanese an American cigarette, making him pleased as punch. They would sometimes give a whole pack of their own brand of cigarettes, for they understood that American tobacco was superior to theirs.
When the men going to work in the morning complained of colds and freezing, the room-leaders thought something should be done about it before all the men caught pneumonia. So right before the Japanese duty officer had a chance to leave the room after roll call, the room-leaders called the enemy's attention to the type of clothing worn by our men in freezing weather.
Most of the men were wearing Filipino prison-made overalls and jackets which were made for the Philippine's warm climate, and not winter. After much conversing, gestures and feeling of the material, the Japanese duty officer promised to see the right party for heavier clothing issue in the future. By this time everybody had learned to take this saying with a grain of salt.
It wasn't until January, 1943, before heavier clothing, which was all used Japanese soldiers' uniforms and over-coats, were issued to us. Although they were ill-fitting and uncomfortable for cold weather, they served the purpose and kept us warm.
Another of our problems was the fact that we had only cold water to bathe and wash in. About half the camp was not keeping themselves clean because of this, and as the Japanese soldiers already had body lice, it didn't take long before nearly all the men were infected with them. Those who washed, had a little better chance to keep the lice away, but the other men were infected and would always be scratching and squeezing lice. To be infected with body lice was bad enough but all the wooden structures which conprised our bunks, were infected with millions of bed bugs and rat-fleas. Continuous scratching soon brought on small sores which quickly grew larger and larger. Trying to sleep after a hard day's labor and being tormented all night by insects was tortuous.
Among issues of toilet paper and tooth powder was a small container of bed-bug powder but this only seemed to make the bed-bugs fat and the only way to be rid of the bugs was to burn the place down. The enemy would not hear of this, so we squashed them. Nearly all the poorer classed people and houses in Japan have bed bugs, body lice and rat fleas. This probably explains why all the enemy love bathing in very hot water --- in order to relieve the itching of the pests.
One of the prisoners was assigned to a tiny boiler in the camp, which was fired by wood and a little coal, which was strictly rationed. From this boiler, over six hundred men would draw a small amount of hot water for tea. Japanese scientists had published in a leading Japanese newspaper in the latter part of 1942, that tea contained vitamin C, which was true, for nearly every man in Osaka drank tea every day, and not one man suffered from Pellagra.
Fruit was seldom issued but when it was, one apple was divided among five men or one orange divided among two or three men. Occasionally, each man would receive an apple or orange to himself or some of the room receiving fruit would give it to sections not receiving any. Sugar was issued every twenty or more days and five grams, equal to one teaspoon, was the exact amount received. The Englishmen fared very well in sugar as many of them worked for the rich Sumitomo Co., who handled sugar in all forms. Sometimes, these English prisoners would conceal various amounts of sugar on their person and smuggle it into camp. Frequently, an extra good search was made by the enemy at the camp entrance and some men would be caught and punished by being slapped, kicked and forced to stand at attention for a great length of time.
The English, who were always referred to as "limeys" by all prisoners, would barter one can of sugar for seven or eight packages of Japanese cigarettes, called "Kinchees", which had ten cigarettes to a package. At first, large amounts of sugar, rice, cooking oils, eggs, soap, tobacco and clothing could easily be brought into camp and all barracks had a small iron brazier for cooking food and heating.
The Japanese guards were very lenient the first part of 1942, but Japanese staffs changed frequently and a few Japanese racial-haters and cruel fanatics would come on duty. They had duty every fourth or fifth night and as they were instructed to search us thoroughly, much contraband was found. When the headquarters' commander was notified of this, he was very angry and a mass meeting was called in the compound. The Japanese colonel read a speech about Nippon Wa and something that sounded like "sausages and mash" and a lot of other baloney.
The translation of the speech was provided by a Japanese interpreter, who told us that all men must not steal or conceal anything on their person while at work and not try to bring anything into camp. All prisoners were to remember they had surrendered unconditionally and, therefore, must obey all rules. This speech and similar others would be told to all the prisoners many times again.
Copyright © 1999-2012 Pamela Walton All Rights Reserved