Hard Way Back
In the space set aside as a jail, lodged a POW who was involved in stealing Red Cross cigarettes. Although the enemy stole Red Cross supplies regularly, they got away with it until some fool POW was caught at it and right away, the enemy found someone to blame for anything that was stolen. This POW was caught and as his camp had no place to use as a detention room, he was brought to our camp by a Japanese guard. He was allowed only half rations and allowed to go to the W.C. three times a day. He was supposed to do 60 days but one day he managed to get out of his cell and stole some cigarettes so another 60 days were added to his sentence. All this time the POW did not have a hair cut nor a bath and he left the camp in a sorry state.
Two American POW's, Bradshaw, a soldier and Reemer, a Navy man, had been turned in to the Camp Leader by one of the known Prisoner of War degenerates for stealing Red Cross parcels. These men had taken quite a few parcels and were taking it easy while staying in the camp. The Camp Leader, who was a prisoner too, called a session of Kangaroo Court to try these men. The men were held guilty and sentenced to one month standing night fire watches, lost three months library privileges, lost one meal a day for two days, and worked in the camp every Sunday. They also carried heavy buckets of rice and soup every day to various rooms in camp.
Bradshaw and Reemer did not like ths verdict and decided to turn themselves into the enemy, thinking they would get a light punishment. But they failed to reckon with the cruel minds of the Japanese Army. They were placed in solitary confinement to await trail and were tortured, slapped and subjected to various forms of humiliations. They were forced to sit down on a bench and their feet and hands tired to a stake driven in the ground. After two weeks a court martial was ordered and they were taken away to a dreaded Military Prison. They were never seen again, though there were rumors that these two men were beaten and tortured every few hours by Kempeitai police.
Then after three months we were told Bradshaw and Reemer had been executed, but this later proved false.
A Japanese soldier, who the prisoners called the Boy Corporal due to his young looks, had a unique way of amusing himself and other Japanese. One of the laws in our camp was that all prisoners had to salute all Japanese soldiers they met or saw, including the lowest private. Even American officers had to salute all Japanese soldiers. The Boy Corporal was a bad egg and really caused the prisoners a lot of trouble. Whenever a prisoner failed to salute him he would immediately take the man to the guard-room and have the man stand at attention while he put a bandage over his eyes. Then he would haul off and knock the prisoner over his eyes.
After many weeks of this, he would decide this was too tame so he figured another method of torture. He obtained a piece of bamboo about four feet long and one-half inch in circumference and split the bamboo into six sections, binding the two ends together with a stout cord. Then he would go out after his victims. It wouldn't take long before some poor prisoner, thinking of his home and loved ones, would forget to salute, and quick as a flash, the Boy Corporal would lead his victim into the guard-room for punishment.
He would tell his victim to drop his pants down to his knees and turn facing the wall. The Boy Corporal would then start to swing the bamboo over his head and strike the prisoner on his bare buttocks, a slow but stinging blow. After many of these blows with the bamboo slits opening and closing with every contact the flesh would open and blood would appear. But the Boy Corporal wanted more than that. When the flesh turned black and blue he would stop, satisfied, and send the luckless prisoner away amid laughter and shouts. Such was the way Japanese soldiers amused themselves.
The average Japanese soldier is a degenerate in some form, and whenever Japanese soldiers and prisoners of war happened to bathe together comments were made by the enemy on how the Americans were so big in body features and how little the Japanese were. Men and women bathe together and use the same toilets with not concern as to sex in Japan.
Another form of amusement to the guards was to bring in a prisoner who had broken some rule and place him in the center of a room slugging and kicking him until he was knocked out. All this took place while he was blindfolded.
Another punishment was to have prisoners stand at attention for long periods of time until their legs would give out and then beat the prisoners for not standing at attention. One night a surgeon, Dr. Jackson, from H.M.R.N., and two of his assistants had a stand up all night for trying to help sick prisoners to get Red Cross parcels.
The enemy would hurt, punish and humiliate the Americans in every way they could. The Japanese Headquarters' Commander who was a Colonel, told the prisoners in a speech through an interpreter, that all prisoners of war would receive treatment borderline between human and inhuman. As it turned out, it was mostly inhuman.
All prisoners were frequently slapped and kicked for no reason at all except to amuse the enemy. The real reason, no doubt, was due to the inferiority complex of the Japanese.
The English fared a little better than the Americans, as Americans were the ones who were bombing Japanese cities and killed many people. No English planes ever bombed Japan although they were in the war against Japan too and had a much larger stake to lose in the war in the Far East than we did.
Whenever there were air raids, the sirens atop the five-story Sumitomo building would be sounded off and lights would immediately be put out with the word passed for complete silence. If anybody attempted to escape, they would be shot. In pitch-black darkness we would sweat out the B29 raids. Over our camp they seemed to fly at a very high altitude with a terrible noise like an express train. Down would come the bombs -- the whole sky would be lighted up and amid anti-aircraft and machine gun fire we seemed to die a thousand deaths waiting for a bomb to strike the camp, which was very close to the waterfront. One night while undergoing a B29 raid, I fell fifteen feet from my bunk space and hit the corner of a mess table, which broke my fall. This all happened in pitch darkness.
Everybody was frightened and thought a bomb had hit the camp. Next day I was examined by one of our camp doctors, Lieutenant Hoffman, U.S. Army, but there were not bones broken -- just shock and bruises. This fall saved me from being transferred to a very bad camp that some of our fellow prisoners were being taken to.
The camp was located near Kyota, the old capitol of Japan. Here, prisoners would carry heavy loads on their backs, fill swamps and drainage amid semi-starvation and ill treatment. Prisoners who were there three months lost from ten to fifty pounds.
Every morning at 5:00 a.m. all prisoners would get up. By 5:25 they had to be washed, dressed and ready for tenko (muster), in which the Japanese duty officer came around for roll call. All prisoners had to sit cross-legged and count off by numbers in Japanese. Anybody who made a mistake would cause the whole group to count over again until all men counted correctly. Frequently, the man who made the mistake was slapped or taken to the guard-room for punishment. After tenko, morning rice (asa messi) would be served by American mess-cooks.
Breakfast consisted of 350 grams of steamed rice and approximately 200 grams of vegetable tops soup flavored with a little oil and salt and sometimes soya paste which was salty and bad tasting. At 6:40 our camp leader would shout in a loud voice, "All hands" ---or--- "Fall out the working parties". We were supposed to run out to the gate on the double and salute the guards on the way out. Frequently the Japanese camp commander was present and he really expected a good salute. Anybody caught failing to salute then would be the luckless victim for that day.
After leaving the gate all the prisoners would fall in the center of the street immediately in front of the camp in groups. The Japanese honcho leaders would then inform the Japanese duty officer that they had their working party full or would need more men. Most of the Japanese working as company bosses were illiterate and mean. They were constantly given orders by the camp commandant to work the prisoners as hard as possible and to turn in names of any prisoners violating any order. All commands were given in Japanese and the interpreter would tell the camp leader to order the men to march off to their various working places.
Most of the working places were not too far from the camp, but for others it would take thirty to forty minutes to walk and two or three others required street car rides. All Japanese concerns were obligated to work prisoners under Japanese Army orders. Many did not like these orders as they had no work for prisoners but had to find something for them to do.
Some of the jobs consisted of carrying ashes, coal, sand and bricks by the use of the Yo ho pole, a long pole which was slung over two men's shoulders and baskets suspended in the center. These baskets would hold about 70 kilos, or 154 pounds. Most of the Japanese coolies would carry two baskets by themselves, but the prisoners would squawk to high heaven saying two men would have to carry the baskets. In this way they protected some of the weaker men who would never be able to carry over 70 pounds in weight.
Osaka-Ko was a company which handled mostly heavy materials like bauxite, crushed gravel, iron ore, logs, rails, etc. Chuba Goon was a huge lumber yard located about ten miles from camp and Japanese Army trucks were used to transport the men. The Japanese truck driver from Chuba Goon would drive like a maniac, probably hoping some luckless prisoner would fall off. One of the home guards would always accompany the men to the lumber yard. Once on the return trip from the lumber yard to our barracks, the Japanese truck driver swerved and sung into a street car. One of the prisoners had his leg hanging over the side and consequently, his leg was broken. It was many hours before the man received any treatment.
Most of the prisoners agreed that Chuba Goon was the worst place to work, as the Japanese soldiers there were very cruel. The sergeant of the guard, who was also work boss, would do a lot of strafing and beat all prisoners. Very heavy loads had to be carried by prisoners who were very weak from the lack of proper food and from illness. Most of the lumber was wet and green and loads of 50 to 200 pounds would be carried by all men.
One hour was allowed for lunch, which consisted of whatever the men brought. Normally, a small rice ball and three tiny buns were carried by the prisoners for lunch.
One day a friend of mine by the name of John Fraft, United States Army, who is now a sergeant, decided we should try and catch some of the little garden frogs around a small canal that was at the end of the lumber yard. Also we might be able to kill some small snakes. Our catch, which we would cook in a metal one gallon can, was two small snakes and ten tiny frogs. This would make good seasoning, along with egg plants appropriated from Japanese gardens. We gave the soup ingredients to our leader, who would cook it for us, and at noon, the soup with our rice ball would be a good lunch.
The one thing we needed in our bodies was oil, and snakes and frogs had quite a bit of oil. If we could not find any frogs or snakes, a plant called "sour duck", would be boiled and eaten, but too much of this plant would cause diarrhea. The Japanese workmen would buy curry powder, white pepper and various small items and trade with the prisoners for swap or money.
The enemy also liked clothes, as they were in desperate need of them.
One day about twenty-five prisoners went to work for a company called Sen Pa Ku, which was a stevedoring firm. In one corner of the room were ten Japanese stevedores, gambling with dice. Their game was to throw six dice on the table and three pairs or six of one kind won, etc. After a while the game broke up with two of the Japanese getting into a violent argument. Suddenly, one of the enemy brought out a huge knife and lunged at the other man, but the Japanese was prepared for this and he caught his arm and threw him ju-jitsu style over his shoulders and his knife flew on the deck.
Then the two started swinging fists, without damage. After five minutes the fight was broken up by the other stevedores. The prisoners were afraid they might be involved, as there were several soldier guards below on the first deck and if they came up and found any fighting going on, they would blame the prisoners for it. We would then not get any lunch as the soldiers would take us back to the barracks. It was a custom for Sen Pa Ku, an Osaka stevedoring firm to issue what the Japanese called "bentos", large palm leaves filled with about half a pound of cooked rice and a few vegetables.
All workers were fed, regardless of whether they worked or not and that firm was the only one in Osaka doing such a thing. The Japanese Army did not like this method at all as they figured all prisoners should work at all times. When a ship was available the work was extremely hard, except when a ship would have less than 100 tons to unload and for fifteen or twenty men, this would be a cinch. The enemy figured prisoners who had worked for San Pa Ku stevedoring company could unload or load 20 tons a man per day if they worked hard and steady.
Thirty-two ingots would make a ton of pig-iron, with usually three or four men to one cargo net. The ingots were thrown into the wire nets by hand. Sometimes prisoners would overload the nets, causing them to break the chains or even break the hoisting booms. Most of the ship's booms were built to carry five tons, but with many years service, two tons were considered safe.
One small diesel freighter of 1,000 tons had a cargo of pig-iron and the prisoners over-loaded the cargo nets with ingots. When the net was hoisted about fifteen or twenty feet off the deck, the book collapsed, partly fell into the hold and burned the diesel engine. Many ways were devised to halt production in the course of the day. When the prisoners first went to work unloading ships, hardly any production was obtained.
This went on for about six months until the enemy got a little tough, and more work had to be done. A certain figure was expected each day in unloading ships, and many times canned food could be obtained in the ships. Frequently some of the men smuggled these canned goods into camp to trade or sell. One item that made a good trade was soap.
The enemy on the various ships in Osaka harbor would always ask the American prisoners if they had soap and if they wanted to trade. The article which really commanded a high price in camp was cigarettes. Anything could be had for them. It just seemed like prisoners could put up with any discomforts, but the lack of sufficient cigarettes would really lower morale and spirits. Most of the prisoners would trade cigarettes with men who did not smoke. Also a few packs of cigarettes could be bought at the little canteen operated in the camps or from merchant ships.
The one place where no cigarettes were issued to sick men was a place called Ichi Oki (meaning big one, or stadium), where the enemy formerly had track meets, baseball games, etc. Bleachers ran all around the stadium and underneath these bleachers were concrete spaces divided into bunk spaces for sick prisoners. Raised partitions made of rood were built up from the deck about two feet, and coarse straw was scattered around to sleep on. About 125 patients were kept here suffering from various diseases.
The routine of the day was that all prisoners who were not bed patients had to keep out of their bunks. There was no recreation whatsoever and all Japanese had to be saluted at all times. The messing situation was half-rations to all men. The rations consisted of breakfast, one small bowl of cooked barley and water. For lunch, three tiny buns, about 150 grams in weight, and weak Japanese tea without milk or sugar. Supper consisted of cooked rice and vegetable soup, about half a pint being made with diakons (radishes) or some sort of greens.
This diet was slowly killing the sick patients off day by day. Some of the things prisoners would do to lessen the pangs of hunger were to save all tea leaves and put them into their watery soup and eat them. One American prisoner had some dry fish powder sent to the stadium by a friend and would take his three buns and shred them up, then mix in a little fish powder and roll them into little pellets. After finishing this task he would slowly eat the pellets taking several hours or more.
Conversation centered on food and recipes all day and no doubt the thoughts and dreams all prisoners had were pictures of food they would someday have when the war ended.
The sick prisoners underwent tragic and inhuman conditions. The Japanese motto for a sick man was "He who does not work need not have as much food as they who work all day". Then, also the enemy figured the more prisoners who died, the less they would have to feed. They knew one of the men's thoughts was to try and keep alive for the day when they would be freed and could return to their loved ones. If the enemy could prevent this they would feel good considering the sorrow caused to the prisoners relatives when they found their loved one was dead.
My opinion of the enemy is that they do not have a shred of decency or feeling for any human being. In short, the average Japanese has an inferiority complex, cruel nature, short temper and ignorance of human rights. The solution to these traits would be education in humanity.
The occupation of Japan should last at least ten years. The reason for this figure is the education of the small children who went to school during the war and whose minds were poisoned by the militarists who were forever on the job spreading their vicious propaganda. Also the Japanese language should be scrapped, as over half the people cannot read or understand the many thousands of characters and symbols.
Copyright © 1999-2014 Pamela Walton All Rights Reserved