Archive for November, 2012

On the second day in this camp we were given the following issue of clothes that lasted us the three years that we were in Japan and working: one great coat, two Jap uniforms consisting of jacket and trousers; two shirts; a gee string; two pairs of under pants; a blue work suit; a cap, and a pair of Jap shoes. One size of clothing was issued every person, so many of the items didn’t fit. We were also issued three bowls like the ones mentioned when we were in Formosa.

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Twice on this trip we were fed, and as I think back upon it, we didn’t get much food. The Japs gave each of us a box lunch consisting of two small rice balls, one slice of a pickled vegetable, dycon, (cross between a turnip and a radish), and a small piece of fish with a little sprig of seaweed.

We had been on this train about thirty-three hours when we arrived in Yokohama, Japan, on the afternoon of November 28, 1942. We were then marched from the railroad station to Prison Camp D 1.

We marched about one mile when we turned off the street and down a dirt road. Then we crossed over the railroad track and marched into our new prison camp. It was bleak and void of anything that looked like living quarters. The compound was inside a high board fence with three strands of barbed wire on top of the fence. The bbuilding [sic] that was to be our home was a huge warehouse or a “go-down” as they called it. It was about two hundred feet long and just as wide. There was not a window in the place, but there were four doors, one on each side of the building which were so immense that when one was opened, it was like letting in the whole outdoors.

Very soon we met our new Commandant, Lieutenant Masao Nichisawa, whom we nicknamed Banjo Eyes. Claude was the nickname we gave our camp interpreter, Pvt. First Class Hiroshi Kawamura. There were four more Japanese civilians working with the Japanese Army who gave us orders. They were Hatsuaki Hambe, better known as One Eye; Shonosuke Shishido, better known as Bull Dog; Sgt. Yoshitami Yama, known as the Pig; and last, but not least, Sukenobu Ikeda, known as Blacksleeves. We were informed by the Camp Commandant that we were prisoners of His Majesty, The Emperor, and that we were not to forget it.

This is the picture as the Commandant spoke to us. We were fresh from the tropics, and many of the men did not have any clothes except what they had on their backs. Those consisted mostly of khaki pants and trousers, and some of them had their pant legs cut off above the knees. Here we stood in frustration, shaking from the cold, as the temperature there in Yokohama was about the same as it is here in Kansas in December.

Next we were counted off in groups of fifty men and then marched to the Go-Down and shown where and how we were going to live. The building was divided into sections with aisles between each squad of men. The men on the ground floor had five feet of space between their heads and the area occupied by the squad that was stacked on top of them. I was on a top bunk so had plenty of head space as the ceiling in the building must have been twenty feet high. Our living space consisted of a straw mat that was laid down on the boards, and one shelf that was eight inches wide. It ran the full length of the squad area. We had five cotton blankets, a canvas bag, and a pillow, five inches by twelve inches, that was filled with rice husks. The mat measured five and one-half feet by two feet. Our squad area measured fifty feet by twenty feet with a five foot aisle taken out, so you see that wasn’t much space for fifty men to have to live in.

This camp D-1, formerly called Tokyo No.3, had seventy-six officers, consisting of British, Australian, and Dutch. There were 286 of us Americans, and the remaining 179 were English, Dutch, Australians and Javanese, making the total strength 541 men.

We were assigned numbers starting with 578 and continuing through 1040. Until we were given a number, they considered us mere captives without any identification, rather than prisoners. After we were assigned numbers, we listed our name, rank, serial number, and branch of service. There were twelve squads, and I was in squad number eleven. My number was 984.

The twelfth squad was short of men when we first started, but later it was filled with other P.O.W.s that were captured on Wake Island and Guam. Most of these people were civilians. One could truthfully say that this was an international camp. The names that appear at the end of the story are onew who were in this camp in April 1945. There is no way for me to know how many men died in Camp D-1.

The officers were in a separate part of the building, but a British Major C. Teasdel was made our representative, and did he ever have a job!

We arrived in Moji on November 26, 1942 with 286 of us prisoners, as we lost two more on this thirteen day voyage.

No sooner had we docked until we were put ashore, and after tinko (roll call) we were marched several blocks to a ferry which we boarded to cross to the main land of Japan. Upon arrival we were again marched to a railroad station, but this time we were put aboard a passenger train. We still didn’t know where we were going, and the Japs didn’t want us to see, as all of the windows of the train were covered with heavy shades. It was on this train ride, however, that I got my first look at Fujiyama, as there was a small crack in the window shade where I was sitting. I kept looking also, trying to see the name of the town or city that we passed through.

On the sixth or seventh day aboard this ship, the Jap who had given me the job and I were in the cold storage room taking out fish to be prepared and served to the Jap troops that were aboard. As we were pulling the fish out, a large piece of meat which at first looked like a dressed turkey fell out. It turned out to be a leg of lamb. The Jap said, “You like leg of lamb?” “I sure do,” I answered. He replied, “We cook” and so we did.

It was while we were cleaning the fish for cooking that the ship’s crew really came alive. An alarm sounded and all the Jap soldiers went to their battle stations. There was a lot of commotion, but I could not see any thing. Finally, a Jap who was up in the crow’s nest yelled something, and the ship made a hard right rudder, and then another hard left rudder. By this time, I was over to the side of the ship trying to see what we were dodging. On the second turn, I saw a torpedo coming straight for the ship, and it looked as if it were going to hit us mid ship. By seeing it in time, the ship moved out of the path of the torpedo, and it just missed the ship’s tail by about ten yards. The torpedo went on for about fifty yards, and then it went down. It must have been fired at maximum distance, or also there was a malfunction of the torpedo. It was not long after this that three Jap destroyers came up and rode flank on us until we docked in Moji, Japan.

I don’t know why or how I was picked out of the rest of the prisoners, but I got a “break” while I was aboard this ship. The second day out to sea, the Japs let a few of us at a time come up on deck and get some fresh air. It was a real treat to get to breathe fresh air and to feel the breeze blow in your face. We were then told to go back below, and just as I started to climb down into the hole, a Jap came to me and motioned for me to come with him. It was the first time that I had had a Jap even think a good thing, let alone have one do something nice for me. I went with him to the galley of the ship, and he offered me a large cup of coffee. I was rather dubious of it and first refused to drink with him. He seemed to sense that I thought he might be trying to poison me, so he took the cup from my hand and poured about half of it in his cup. Then he drank and offered me again to drink with him. This time I did not refuse. The coffee was so sweet that it tasted like coffee syrup. My system was so run down from the lack of sugar and salt that it tasted like honey. By the time I had drunk two cups of this, I was really thirsty for some water, so he went into the galley and brought me a cup of ice water. This all happened within a period of about thirty minutes, and then using the best English that he could speak, he asked me if I would like to work in the galley. I did not hesitate to answer in the affirmative, as I had rather do most anything than go back into the hole of the ship.

The nice thing about this new job I had fallen into was that I could sleep part of the time on the deck of the ship. By working in the galley, after the second day aboard this ship, I can truthfully say I got more food to eat. Also, I enjoyed being on the deck of the ship so I could see what was going on.

On the morning of November 13, 1942, we were moved from this camp. Of the original 300 men that left the Philippines, 288 marched back to Tichue [sic]. Three men died on the ship coming over; three died in this camp, and we left six men behind who were too sick to be moved including my good friend Joe Gear. It was heart breaking to leave these men who were so sick they could hardly hold their heads up and were so thin that one could count just about every bone in their bodies. I was certain that I would never see Joe again, but God surely took care of his [sic], as nearly two years later he turned up in Shinagow. How happy I was to see him!

Our train ride back to Ticow was like the one that we had coming to this camp; we were all crowded again into the real small train cars. Upon our arrival this time, there was an exception to the former treatment, as the Japs did not parade us up and down the streets.

It took us only ten to fifteen minutes to go from the train to the dock where we boarded a troop ship, the Dinitchie Maru. It must have had at least two thousand troops on it, but here again we were sent back into the hole of the ship to make our ride again to an unknown destination. We were aboard this hell ship for thirteen days with living conditions like they were on the ship that brought us to Formosa.

Three men died in this camp, and when we left, six men were too sick to move, so we had to leave them behind. One of these men was Joe Gear, whom I have previously mentioned. Joe weighed about eighty-five pounds and was so weak he could scarcely help himself.

The Japanese rule was that each sick person would be fed on one-third ration, even when a full ration was not sufficient. Our barracks leader tried to enforce this rule, but the men in our barracks voted to share our food with the sick, so we gave one spoonful of our ration to each sick man, which allowed him a portion equivalent to what the rest of us had.

We got some amusement from watching the young Jap soldiers as they passed by some ducks that were on the Jap’s side of the compound. Many times a day they would yell, “Eyes right, or eyes left” whichever the case might ge [sic], as they marched past in a goose step, saluting the ducks.

It was here that we learned to Kay Ray and Saka Kara, each was a form of a bow the Japs required us to do. The Kay Ray was a bow of fifteen degrees from the waist line, with your hands held rigidly at your sides while bowing. This was the bow that the enlisted men required of us, and if they passed once or a hundred times a day, this bow had to be made or we got a butt of a rifle or a fist or back-hand in our face. The Saka Kara was something for the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese officers. This bow consisted of a forty-five degree bend, starting and stopping at the waist line, and we had to hold it until we were told to come to rest. I do believe that more men got beatings over this than any other single thing while I was in prison camp.