Hard Way Back
By the year 1944, the Japanese militarists were working day and night to exhort the people into a greater war effort and rations were being continually cut. American submarines were constantly cutting shipments into Japan.
With the fall of the Philippines, the order was given to all Japanese people that they must produce and work harder than ever before. The Americans must be stopped at all costs! There were no air-raid shelters provided for the sick prisoners lodged in Ichi Oki (stadium) and, consequently, the men were exposed to B-29 raids continually.
On March 13, 1945, the Japanese suffered the largest air raid ever. The raid struck Osaka, continued for twenty-seven hours and one-third of the city was afire. The Japanese put up a fighter defense but these planes could not reach the altitude of the B-29's and few, if any, B-29's were shot down. The water system suffered heavy damage, as did the power system. From our barrack's windows we were able to see the mighty armada in its magnificent display of strength and force. The enemy was well-impressed.
We stayed in camp three days during which we could not see the damage done and also we could avoid any attacks by the Japanese civilians. As soon as we all went back to work we quickly surveyed the damage done and all the prisoners were well impressed and amazed. Our morale was steadily going up while the average Japanese's morale was fast going down.
Devastating raids were carried out by the B-29's and B-25's from March 1944 to June 1, 1945. The raid of June 1, 1945, put the clincher on Osaka, as 60% of Osaka was leveled and burned by the huge force of American planes estimated by the prisoners to be from 740 to 2,000 planes.
The Japanese people were in a frenzy trying to curb the fires, looting and suffered loss of transportation facilities. Osaka Camp No. I was struck by many American bombs, particularly fire bombs and although one hundred men were in camp, only a few were injured and none killed. The camp quickly caught fire despite the efforts of all the prisoners and Japanese, the camp burnt to the ground in about thirty minutes.
Before the air-raid, nearly all the prisoners were sent out to the various companies, which undoubtedly saved many lives. A considerable amount of food-stuffs were saved, particularly by the gallant camp galley staff who worked in the big brick warehouse across from the camp stowing bags of rice.
All during the fire and bombings, these men, both American and English led by Dix, (Quartermaster sergeant, H.R.A.), worked to save these food stuffs. As soon as the bombing was over, the galley staff managed to have a truck brought up to the warehouse doors and many hundreds of bags of rice, beans, sugar and other foods were saved. The Japanese colonel sent word that unless all rice and foods were saved all prisoners would probably be without food, as nearly all of the Japanese government warehouses were bombed out.
All camp staff men and some men who had various illnesses were put to work salvaging everything they could, including medical and clothing supplies. About 60% of the entire camp supplies were saved. Hardly any personal clothing or valuables belonging to prisoners who were out at work were saved. This constituted a great loss as many men were wearing wooden clogs to work and leaving their shoes in camp. The enemy would not issue any clothing and their main reason was lack of transportation to areas not bombed out. Also with the loss of the camp, the American and British prisoners might be transferred to some other area and the Osaka Military would not be liable for any further keeping of clothing.
Rumors were that all prisoners would be transferred to some small island near Mojie or Tokyo. However, on June 2, 1945, all prisoners, amounting to 500 or more, were moved into a filthy ex-Chinese coolie barracks that also had formerly been a British prisoners' camp. Here, 500 men would be crowded into a two-story building which could only accommodate 150, or less. Bed bugs, lice and filth was prevalent all over. All water and food was strictly rationed. Directly across from the old building was the huge Sumitomo warehouse. Four stories of reinforced concrete.
Outside in their yard space were stacks of tin bars, copper and tungstite metals. During the night, these bars glowed due to the heat produced by the fires started by the B-29's. The bombing of Sumitomo warehouses were very disastrous and many tons of sugar and rice were lost. The warehouses were made of brick with wooden roofs and these roofs quickly burned down. The steel in the buildings got so hot that there was just a mass of buckled girders.
After the bombing, any person could see for at least two miles or more the vast burned spaces. The Osaka street car barns had been hit and they were just charred and twisted wrecks.
All during the time we were inside the old building, the cook staff, headed by quartermaster sergeant Dix, Wells, a first class baker, and Egan, Ship's cook, did a wonderful job getting food prepared for the hungry men.
A funny thing happened during the raid. A pig, some rabbits and chickens that belonged to the Japanese staff soldiers were roasted by the burning of the camp. Had they been saved, no doubt the enemy would have eaten them, but as they did burn, their carcasses were given to the Americans and we had the benefit of burnt meat soup. It was about twelve hours after the bombing of Osaka before any prisoner received any food due to the lack to facilities to cook food. Most of the cooking gear was burned and warped.
The Japanese people were very jittery and fully expected the B-29 raids to continue for many days. Our camp interpreter, who went by the name of Hiashi and could speak English very well, got very tough after the bombing and slapped a few men around and issued very stern and forceful orders. Although Mr. Hiashi, the interpreter, did a lot of good for all prisoners he was under constant pressure and surveillance by the Japanese Army Camp Staff.
Any Japanese who could speak English was always under suspicion that he might show too friendly an attitude to the prisoners. Our camp interpreter had been General Motors representative in Hawaii for ten years and fully understood American feelings and rights. On the whole, relations between the interpreter and the prisoners progressed very well.
Our prison camp commander, Saunders, CBM, U.S. Navy, who was captured at Guam, also did an excellent job conducting the affairs and relations between the Japanese and the prisoners. Another man who really was a tremendous help in working conditions, clothing for prisoners, was Maloof, BM, 1st class, U.S. Navy. He was never afraid of the enemy and was well respected and liked by all prisoners and Japanese alike. On the whole, the Osaka prisoners Camp No. 1 had a very good camp staff and galley staff, whose members were, Egan, Seaman 1st class, U.S. Navy, and Wells, Bkr. 1st class, U.S. Navy, who worked constantly to improve and get the best food obtainable for prisoners.
The Japanese camp commander, (Colonel Murata), was continually demanding more work from all the prisoners under threats of food cuts. His stooge, sub-lieutenant Mostsumuri, used many ideas, of his own, probably without the camp commander's knowledge, and struck or kicked any prisoners who would disobey orders or cause any trouble. His features resembled those of the small tree-monkey.
Sometimes Japan was called the land of monkeys by Germans. The Germans had no love for them. The only reason for being allies during the war was probably the idea they had for the enemy to attack Russia from their islands. Had Russia not defeated the Germans in time, the Germans would have eventually pulverized the enemy and become the sole European large power. The United States would have had to stay neutral or go to war against Germany as they did.
The raid of June 1, 1945, destroyed many warehouses of a trading company, called Kurahasi, containing bran, rice, sugar, metals, sweet potatoes, etc. One of their large waterfront warehouses contained 25,000 cases of canned tangerines, which were held for emergency rations. Sumitomo, exporters of Osaka, Japan, lost 50,000 bags (weighing 100 kilos) of sugar, ear-marked to be made into alcohol for fuel. They also lost expensive machinery, electrical motors, and mechanical equipment but their large four story building suffered only minor damage.
The Japanese civilians were looting any food or valuables they could and the Kempeitai had their hands full trying to cope with the civilians. The Osaka street railway system was nearly wiped out and only a few street-cars escaped damage. This bombing of the railway system was a serious blow to the enemy as thousands of people used the railway system as their sole means of getting to and from work. Some of the cars, ten to fifteen blocks from the car barns, were observed to be a mess of twisted metal, as if the falling incendiary bombs had hit them by chance. The city of Osaka was fast to take on the picture of desolation and ruin.
Japanese civilians' and soldiers' moral was going down quickly. Food was becoming very scarce. The black market was operating and shoes were selling for 500 yen, bicycles for 1,000 yen, and sugar for 70 yen per pound. The pre-war value of yen was 3.35 to every U.S. dollar. Salt was becoming more scarce every day. Bandages and medicines were unobtainable.
All Japanese expected invasion in September or October, 1945. Japanese soldiers were working day and night loading troop transports for voyage to Kuyshu as there were many rumors to the effect that landings would be made in southern Japan. Rations of tobacco and fuel and foods lowered every day. Six cigarettes per day were allowed to all soldiers, and civilians were allowed three cigarettes per day. Wages were high but the yen had a low purchase value. Widespread gambling was not in evidence and Kempeitai police staged many raids on games.
On June 5, 1945, American prisoners were transferred by barges to another camp, called Omori, surrounded by dock installations and heavy industry with no air-raid shelters provided. The enemy acted as helpless as a sheep, for they were completely unprepared for air-raids.
On June 29, 1945, American prisoners were transferred by train to a new camp, called Nagoya No. 10. This camp was converted from coal storage bins into makeshift barracks and the small gauge coal car tracks were removed from the ground and covered over with dirt. The camp commandant was very strict and severe.
Civilian company, Marutsu Trading Company, was in charge of the food situation, which was very bad. Only 200 grams of rice and a small tea bowl of thin vegetable soup was permitted per day. There was no work for ten days and prisoners were on half rations, which resulted in the prisoners losing an average of ten pounds or more.
Continued complaints by camp leaders, Saunders and Maloof, led to small increases in rations as most men were getting very weak. We first worked for Marutsu Company unloading railroad cars of soya beans, of which the average weight was 100 kilos. The rations of food were not enough and work was too hard. Japanese interpreters laughed when complaints were made.
Our camp was located at a railway stop called Nomatchi, Japan. The nearest town is called Kusiki and the nearest large city was Toyoyama. Here, we were amidst the large rice areas. We were suffering from mosquito bites, lack of shoes and clothing. Sometimes all the Americans and some other nationalities would have to walk over three miles to work and when they arrived at their destination, a rest of only a few minutes was allowed. The Japanese soldiers who accompanied the work parties were very mean and bossy.
Often we would ride coal cars or box cars to work and after arriving at the station (Kusiki), we would walk to the street in front of the railway station where the Japanese public would show their contempt and ill-feeling towards the prisoners.
Many Chinese and Koreans were working on the railroad loading or unloading soya beans, rice, etc. At noon the Chinese would receive bread, which was of a very poor quality and they were always generous and would give some part of their bread issue to American prisoners. Japanese military prisoners were observed working on the docks unloading barges of bran, beans, and rice and they represented a pitiful sight. They were small built and just about all dead from lack of sufficient food. The Japanese Army is very hard on prisoners and most of them died before being released.
Japan is really a land of slaves, administered by the rich families who dominate all businesses. The poor people are held down to make them illiterate and weak. All Japanese military officers should be forced to attend classes to educate them, and their diseased minds. There is no height of requirement for Japanese officers.
In our camp there was a lieutenant, four feet, eight inches, who had a sword nearly as large as himself. One probable qualification for all officers is that they be partly insane, as most of the officers observed by American prisoners seemed to be. Our camp commandant was salute-dizzy, as he used to spent every Sunday making prisoners salute in snappy Japanese style, and he returned all salutes.
Conditions were going from bad to worse in our new camp. For 120 men, who were too old or weak, the Japanese officials had ordered half rations. Twenty or thirty days on this diet would result in death. All the working prisoners who got full rations, which was about 450 grams of rice, would allot part of their food to the sick men.
A considerable number of Dutch prisoners were in Nahoya Camp No. 10 and all, except ten or twelve were not able to work, either because of old age, sickness or because they did not want to work. The so called interpreter of our camp looked like a mental case on the loose. He certainly was a poor specimen of a man. All he did when any complaints were made about food was to laugh and say all prisoners were no good.
After a month at Nagoya Camp No 10, we found there was little news of any kind to be had. The enemy up in this part of the country would not put news out. Once in awhile somebody would find an old Japanese paper and some of the Chinese in the camp would cipher out some information and we would pass the dope around. There was a prisoner camp about two miles from ours and from them we would pick up some interesting rumors.
Japanese cabinet shakeups were in force for the month of July. The present Premier was named Kioso, whose age was 72. Rumors were that he was a war monger and did not want the war to end between America and Japan by the surrender of the Japanese for that reason. Every day the Japanese officials (Marutsu Co.), were making prisoners work harder and longer. On one occasion, fifteen men were told they had 75 tons of salt to carry on their backs into railway cars. A few days later, 85 tons were to be loaded onto cars, with no increase in rations. Undoubtedly, it was hoped that now that the end of the war was approaching, most prisoners would die off, much to the satisfaction of the enemy.
Medical attention in Nagoya was practically nil. An Englishman who was slowly dying of dysentery, wasted away to about 89 pounds and the enemy carried an appearance of no concern as to his condition. This man finally passed away after months of misery and suffering.
It was always said by prisoners that once a man gets sick and lays down, his chances of surviving were slim. The enemy would get very angry when a certain number of prisoners were on the sick list. Over 126 prisoners were reported sick in one day and all these men received only half rations, which was about 200 grams of rice and 200 grams of vegetable soup.
Approximately ten miles from Nagoya camp on the night of August 1, 1945, an armada of about 300 or 400 B-29's, B-25's and dive bombers successfully bombed out Japanese and Koreans in their barracks during a surprise raid. About 7,000 men were killed and burned to death. For about ten hours bombs rained down upon the barracks of the enemy and Koreans who were like children, with no defense and frightened to death. The next day when the prisoners went to work unloading a salt-ship, our owlish-eyed interpreter told us about the raid, where it had happened, and also said that our fliers (American, Army and Navy), had killed hundreds of women and children which, we knew, was the usual Japanese excuse for every raid carried on in Japan or her possessions. But when the Japanese bombed and killed women and children, that was all right. They were doing it for the Emperor. It was regrettable that no more than two atom bombs were dropped on Japan.
An accident happened July 2, 1945, to Willie Cronin, Chief Torpedo-man, U.S.N.R. He was stooping down picking up red beans which were mixed up in a cargo of soya beans. In the course of this operation, he would climb up a pile of soya beans to unhook the slings which held six or eight bags of beans. The cargo boom swung out and two bags of beans, weighing 104 kilos each, came down on Willie Cronin, breaking both of his ankles, his back, his nose and paralyzing him. He was still conscious when brought back to the camp. That evening and night, this Navy man never knew how badly off he was. He said to our Pharmacist mate and others, "Well doc, --- guess I'll keep the fellows up tonight, although I feel o.k. --- Funny thing, I can't seem to move a muscle in my body." This prisoner was a Navy pensioner who had been called back to duty after hostilities had broken out. He was married and had four children.
Meanwhile, unloading of Japanese ships went on with the greatest speed possible. All prisoners, Koreans and Chinese (forced labor), were compelled to work at top speed. To get more work, the Japanese militarist threatened with withdrawals unless a certain amount of work was produced every day. The Japanese were desperately trying to keep supplies moving in and out of ports.
The harbor and strums of Kusiki were continually being mined by B-29's. Many ships were going down in full sight of land.
Japanese mine sweepers were working day and night trying to clear the harbor entrance. About 09:00 a.m. July 20, 1945, some American mines being towed in by Japanese mine sweepers broke loose and drifted into a 10,000 ton freighter, unloading soya beans, rice, etc., and exploded killing 23 Japanese and injuring 30. A large husker barge also exploded. The barge was loaded with 200 tons of cargo, mostly grain, called, by some people, kaffer corn. It grows on a stalk like field corn and reaches a height of six feet or more. Millions of tons are grown in Korea and Japan every year.
Most of the poor people of Japan and Korea make this their daily food. The 200 ton barge was blown up by one of the loose mines and promptly sunk. This spectacle was of interest to all prisoners working on a ship directly astern of the one damaged. As the mines exploded, hundreds of fish were blown up in the water and many Japanese dived into the water to retrieve as many as possible.
The last two weeks of July were spent by most of the Nagoya camp prisoners unloading coal, which was heavy work. The coal was carried in straw bags and two men were required to lift the filled bag onto a prisoners shoulders. The weight was approximately 80 to 90 kilos, sometimes going as high as 100 kilos if the coal was wet. The enemy grudgingly let the prisoners cook soya beans appropriated from cargoes previously unloaded.
The work days during the month of August was started by loading or unloading rock salt. Work was carried on, rain or shine. We were issued straw rain-coats and sandals, which were commonly worn by the lowest coolies in China and Japan. The enemy had figured that the worse the prisoners were treated, the lower their morale would be and easier to handle at working. But this did not work, as morale was always up 100% for all American prisoners. The enemy was on the downgrade and nothing could stop them.
Many rumors were going around that Russia might go to war against Japan, but most of the prisoners figured the enemy and the Russians were scarred of each other, or that Russia wanted to wait until Japan was nearly finished by the Americans.
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