Posts Tagged ‘Camp Commandant’

On July 10 I was working on the air raid tranch [sic] and on the water detail. I had a really close call just after we had taken our lunch break. I was inside the barracks resting a few minutes before we had to return to work. I was on the top tier in this barracks, also. The Camp Commandant came in, and someone hollered “Kecatskay,” which means come to attention. The Camp Commandant started going through the personal belongings of different ones in our squad. When he came to my bunk spot, he stopeed and picked up my box that I had my diary things in, and began going through it. It was a heavy cardboard box that I had put a false bottom in. [sic] and that is where I kept my records. On the top side of the box I had the diary they were having us keep, along with my toothbrush, razor and other personal items. The bottom of this was held in place with four small nails to keep it from falling out when it was picked up. It looked as if he were trying to figure out why the box was so heavy for no more things than were in the box. I stood there and sweated as he took each thing out, knowing that finally he would get to my notes that I had been keeping and that I would be punished really severely, as this was one thing they would not allow. Luck was with me, and here again God took care of me, for just at that moment the Air Raid alert sounded, and the Commandant dropped the box as if it was on fire and ready to explode in his hands. We cleared the barracks and went to the trench that we were digging for shelter. Here again we were lucky; the all-clear sounded about an hour later, and we did not see one plane.

Chapter 6

It was on August 2, 1943, that I was moved again. This time I went to Sinagow, an [three unreadable letters]lation [may say “isolation”] camp just outside of Tokyo. I was found to have amebic dysentery along with forty other Prisoners [sic] from my camp, and prisoners from other camps were brought there also, making a total number of at least 150. Miserable days lay ahead, as I stayed in this camp until Jan 12, 1944. The day that we went into this camp, we automatically went on one-third rations as this was the way the Japs treated sick men. In this camp I never had the chance to do any swapping, nor was I able to hit any garbage boxes for something extra to eat. I began to lose weight and was losing my strength real fast.

Time surely went by slowly for there was no work to do and there was nothing in this camp that one could read. The Camp Commandant was just like the one we had just left. He liked to slap us around, and his favorite punishment was to make us do heavy calisthenics. There was the whoo saw exercise [sic] that was quite strenuous, and it took our strength real fast. Then he would make us follow up with push-ups, and we would continue to do these until we were not able to do another one. As soon as we stopped, the guard came over and slapped us around. One time we were doing these push-ups, and I was completely exhausted- so much so, that I felt I could not do one more if my life depended on it. The Nip thought that I should more [sic] and hit me with a hay-maker right to the jaw, and then he came back with a back hand that caught me off balance. I fell into the Nip, and he said I struck him, so he took off his wooden thongs that he was wearing and he really worked me over. My face and eyes showed it for a week or ten days, and I still carry a scalp scar.

[Editor’s Note: From this point, the narrative includes few specific dates, and jumps around considerably until it reaches August, 1943. For the sake of this project, it has been broken down into dates based on contextual clues.]

Strange as it may seem, the best thing that happened in this prison was the time that we had smallpox in the camp. This happened in January 1943 and this outbreak gave us some time to get adjusted to this climate, etc. Here we were fresh from the tropics, and in the dead of winter we were slushing back and forth to the shipyard and coming into a cold building without enough clothes to keep one’s body warm, nor enough covers to keep warm after we went to bed. Many of us were sick, but there was a standing order that every person went to work unless his temperature was 102 degrees or higher. I went to work many days with a temperature of 101.7 degrees. Many men went to work sick and through exposure and fatigue got pneumonia and died in two or three days time. We had no medication for this, and I claim that the Camp Commandant murdered fifty men in this manner during the first six weeks that we were in this camp. Then God gave us smallpox. There were two cases of it in camp, and that was the first time that a doctor or nurse showed in this camp. I have never seen a people that were as scared of anything as the Japanese were of smallpox. We were all vaccinated, and then we were quarantined for two weeks, and the Japs did not bother us much during those two weeks. This period of time gave our bodies a chance to become more adjusted to the weather.

Of course, everything was not that smooth; each and every day that we went to work there were always some that were getting beat or punished for something. It was while we were in the camp compound that most of the beatings took place. Our Camp Commandant liked to how [sic] his authority best when he had his soldiers to back him up.

The Jap Army guard was changed every two weeks, and this was where old Banjo Eyes really strutted. We hated for two weeks to go by for no other reason than changing the guard. On the first Tinko after the guards were changed, they would take a whole squad of men outside and turn the guards loose on the prisoners with bamboo poles. They beat us men unmercifully, and some would be so badly injured that they could not go to work the next day.

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!

They left the men in this position the rest of this day and until they were taken out and shot the next day, not having had water or anything to eat.

The Japs did not want us to see the execution and made us all go back inside the barracks. The barrack that I was in was only about one hundred yards from the spot. They then lined the prisoners up in front of shallow graves, not over two feet deep, that had been dug to bury them in, and then gave the order to fire. After they had been shot by the firing squad, the Officer in charge went up and took his pistol and held the gun to their heads and shot them again. Later it was said that he did this out of the mercy for them. These men were buried near the place where they had buried the sergeant that had died upon our arrival in this Hell hole.

The order then came from the Camp Commandant that in the future, any man escaping or attempting to escape would be shot, and that the remainder of the prisoners would be lined up and numbered, and every tenth man would be shot. That stopped those of us who were planning to escape for the price was too high. Not that we were not willing to risk our own lives, but that meant that five hundred other men would die if our attempt failed.