Posts Tagged ‘World War Two’

The Japs claimed to have caught one prisoner stealing. He was beaten severely, and then taken outside, stripped of his clothes, and the guards poured water on him. This was in the dead of winter; the man caught pneumonia and died in two days.


My buddy, Charlie Sweatman and I became well known in camp for being the spice traders. There was one Japanese civilian in the shipyard who befriended us “stuck his neck out” for us. We would find out what he wouldlike [sic] to have, and then we would have to do a lot of “tall trading” sometimes to get what he wanted. We got a fair exchange for whatever we traded. Thinking back on our trading days, we made one trade that paid us well. Another Jap civilian asked the Jap that we did our trading with if he could get some flints for his cigarette lighter. Sweatman and I went to work hunting some flints, and after two days in camp found a Dutchman who had two flints. By doing dome [sic] hard bargaining, we traded eight cigarettes for the two flints. We took them back to the shipyard and traded them for ten cans of pepper and ten cans of Curry Powder. Our big problem now was to get this “loot”back [sic] into camp. Never before had we had this many cans of spices to take back to camp, so we had to figure a way to conceal them inour [sic] clothes. No sooner had we arrived in camp than the guard in charge ordered us to open ranks; this meant we would have inspection. We always marched to and from work in columns of five. When we were trying to smuggle anything into camp, Sweatman and I would always take the inside rank and march side by side. He had seven cans of spices, and I had the other thirteen. Three cans of spices I hid in my swill or garbage bag and the remaining ten cans were secured on my body. I had found two old sleeve holders in the shipyard, and those I fitted above my ankles and below my knees, so I carried five cans on each leg. When the Japs searched us, they did a thorough job of searching the body, but they never felt between the ankle and then knee, so this is where I carried most of the loot into camp. Also, if I was in the first row to be inspected, I would pass back to Sweatman, and he would pass to me if he was searched first. Through this procedure we managed to smugglelots [sic] of things into camp, but we lost lots of stuff also and suffered punishment for it.

Then there was the Saturday night bath. Our bath house was on the east end of the mess hall or kitchen. The room was about twenty by twenty feet square, and in the middle of it was the bath tub. The bath tub was twelve feet long, four and one-half feet wide by four feet deep. The water was heated by a steam pipe that was put over on the inside of the tub. The tub was filled only once every Saturday night and every man had to bathe in the same water. The squadrons took turns being first to bathe; so every twelve weeks each squad had a chance of using the water first, or taking a clean bath, as we called it. After every man had bathed, then we washed our dirty clothes in the water that was left. It was pretty rough, but especially so in the winter months, as after taking a bath we had to go back into the building where we lived and it was not heated. The only fire that was ever in that building all the time we were in this camp, was the fire on the end of a cigarette.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The island of Formosa is a beautiful island with high rugged mountains that broke the sky line in the distance. Each morning we went to work, we traveled through a beautiful banana grove, and within thirty yards of the trees loaded with ripe bananas, but we were not allowed to get one piece of fruit. We all thought that we would be getting plenty of bananas in camp, but this was not so, as they issued us bananas only twice during the six weeks’ period we were in this camp. We were so hungry when we were given bananas that we ate peel and all. The food in this camp was less even than in our previous camps, and after five months on a meager ration of soup and rice, all the men in camp were beginning to show the loss of weight as we strived to stay alive. By using the banana peels that the Japs had thrown away, we made a type of tea. They were dried from the sun, but by putting them in hot water, we made a flavored drink that we called banana tea or coffee.

The work went on each day; it was hard work and the hours were long, and it was becoming harder each day to get out the working party. Sickness, and weakness from too little food and too much hard work began to take its toll. The water we were drinking was coming out of irrigation ditches. It was supposed to have been boiled twenty minutes before we got it, but many times it was heated to the simmering point and then given to us to drink.

It was here that I got amebic dysentery, and the mosquitoes were so bad that I contacted [sic] malaria. All the medicine that I had once had was gone, and the Japs did not have any medicine for us. This was also the camp where I ate my first slugs or snails, the big dry land type. I don’t recommend them as food for anyone, as they tasted like mud.

I did not like the camp commandants and did not take the trouble to learn their names, but in this camp we really had a sadist in command. Out of the three hundred men that left the Philippines, two hundred ninety-seven came to this camp. We were all enlisted men and the top rank were gunnery sergeants and Navy Chiefs. I do not know where the generals and colonels went, as I did not see them after they went aboard the Jap ship Lima Maru.

We were housed fifty men to a barracks and were assigned a living space of two and one-half feet by six feet. We each were given three bowls- one for rice, one for soup, and one for hot water. Each bowl had a star on the inside of it, about half an inch below the rim. Later in prison life, these stars became a device for more precise measurements for both the soup and rice.

This camp was our induction for later prison life. It was here that we were instructed to report each squad in the Jap language. It was not a question as to whether you wanted to learn the language or not; it was how fast you learned it, and the faster you learned, the fewer beatings you got.

Our barrack’s leader was a Navy Chief, J. Orr, who was in our group. We had reveille at 5:45 each morning, ate breakfast, cleaned up the dishes, and policed the grounds before we “fell out” for the working party. Our work was to build a dike along side a river that flowed about one mile from our camp. Each man was given an A Ho pole with two baskets that fit, one on either side of the pole, and these were loaded with rock which we carried and dumped wherever the Japs had us to unload them.