OFFICE OF THE SENIOR PRISONER OF WAR OFFICER
Number Four Branch Camp
August 25, 1945
SUBJECT: Report of conditions of food and tobacco in Japaneese P.O.W. camp No. 4-B.
TO: Japanese Camp Comander, Japenese P.O.W. Camp No. 4-B, Tokyo, Japan
1. Since the cessation of hostilities between Allied Powers and Japan on August 15th, numerous requests have been made by this headquaters to the Japanese Military Authorities for an improvement in the quantity of the rations issued to the Prisoners of War in this camp and numerous promisesfor the betterment of this condition have been made by the Japenese Military Authorities. Similar requests and promises have been made as regards tobacco.
2. It is Now August 25th, ten days since the cessation of hostilities. No change in the food or tobacco situation has been noticeable, except for the worse, and the men in the camp are growing restless and discontented, a state of affairs which is a source of potential serious trouble for the Japenese and prisoner authorities if it is not remedied immediately.
3. With the knowledge of the amount of grain on hand and the availability of vegetables and meat in this locality, it is believed that with the proper supervision on the part of the Japanese Military Authorities favorable concrete results can be obtained.
4. In view of the foregoing paragraphs this headquaters will find it necessary, unless there is a marked improvement in the food and tobacco situation not later than 5:00pm today, to make to the Allied Military Forces upon their arrival a formal report chargingthe Japanese Authorities of the camp with neglect of duty in the care of Prisoners of War.
LT. COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY
SENIOR P.O.W. OFFICER
My Dear Admiral,
Am sorry to delay so long in forwarding the notes I wrote, such as they are, while in Japan, but the typist I had engaged became ill and was unable to contact her until just the other day. In view of the shortage of Navy yeoman I did not wish to impose an additional work load there. The notes, as you will see, are somewhat strange in places but probably portray the mood at the time.
To go back, however, and pick up some of the missing parts concerning the Grenadier, the following is as how I remember it. Referring to my dispatch to ComSubsSowesPac of mid April 1943, reporting conditions within the area up to that time, I did not wish to broadcast through the British
Communications setup that about 2100 on April 6, 1943 a torpedo blew up after 51 seconds after it was fired, S.J. range to target 1605 yards, and that the second one went astray someplace, for the target setup was perfect as any minor change in data on the T.D.C. showed. The course was checked by lining up masts and speed checked by paralleling. The torpedoes were stern shots at almost zero gyro angle, eleven second intervals, and set to run about ten feet.
Before the column of water subsided, about one half the ship, a Jap of about 2000 tons, was obscured from sight by the column of water resulting from the torpedo’s explosion. The ship stopped, then proceeded in a very erratic manner. Gunfire was reported to resulting innumerable hits from a 20mm and at least two hits from a 3 inch near the water line. By this time the Japs fire was falling close aboard. the setup was such that I deemed it necessary to go around Pilgrim Island, but was unable to relocate the Jap. Subsequent Jab reports, three in number from different sources, claim that the ship sank. In Penang they raised a lot of trouble because of our firing on a crippled ship, be that as it may, I believe the ship went down.
The Grenadier then proceeded northward toward Rangoon covering the possible traffic lanes west of the peninsula, including those possible east of the islands close to the peninsula. I am enclosing a copy of the report submitted to Admiral Lockwood for the action of 21 April 1943.
The officers and the crew arrived in Penang about 0700 23 April 1943. Breakfast was promised to be served later when we arrived at the place of confinement. Everyone was of course, in need of food; hardly anyone had eaten since the morning of the 21st. Sandwiches had been put out on board the Grenadier, but because of the nervous tension and excitement hardly anyone had eaten. The 23rd wasn’t to bad as regards food, because of the nervous tension was still so prevalent that I didn’t feel the need too much, and am sure the other 75 felt much the same way. However, come dawn of the 24th that old gnawing pain in the midrift began to tell. It was maddening to go to that questioning room and see the Japs eating bananas and sandwiches in front of us; let alone their drinking cool lime ade and mild. No doubt it was one of their aims to get us to break down. The old American Spirit and manhood was made of sterner stuff. It hurt yes, but no one indicated it. Upon getting back to my room on the second floor I recall so vividly how I used to look out the window, day after day, and see those coconuts lying about on the ground. I would make gestures of all kinds to the guard regarding getting one of them. All I’d receive would be a shake of the head and a sadistic grin showing all his buck teeth.
One day I encountered a guard of my room who spoke Spanish. We became involved in Spanish. He had lived in Brazil a number of years, but returned to Japan just prior to the war in the Pacific. All I could get from him was one cigarette. As to the coconuts lying in the yard “No Peude Senior”.
The three pieces of chewing gum I happened to have in my pocket went along way to starve off the hunger which was becoming more acute day by day. It was getting to the point that on the second floor we would have to pull ourselves up the stairs by means of the railings on the steps. Anything in the way of food was not forthcoming and all of us were steadily growing weaker and weaker and still weaker. Still no food was forthcoming until the evening of the 27th. My previous efforts to obtain any were met with negative results until a Jap commander came to room that morning. He promised some food by 1300, it finally came at 1700, a small teacup of rice broth, and some weak tea, period. In the meantime the men were divided half and half between two school rooms on the ground floor, stone decks; the officers in single rooms on the second floor, wooden decks. the rough treatment started afternoon particularly with the men. They were forced to sit or stand in silence in an attention attitude. Any divergence resulted in a gun butt, kick, slug in the face or bayonet prick. In the questioning room persuasive measures such as clubs, about the size of indoor ball bats, pencils between the fingers, and pushing the blade of a pen knife under the fingernails trying to get us to talk. Considering all of this I think the men held up remarkably well. To the best of my knowledge Knutson, J.S. RM1c and I were the only ones to receive the water treatment, and I the only one who lost fingernails. Believe it or not, but the pain caused by the pencils between the fingers on the right hand was so great that I did not realize my left hand was being stabbed with a knife, only when I saw the blood rushing out did I realize what had happened. Of what did the water treatment consist of in this case? It probably needs a degree of explaining here. Usually was beaten severely by a club or two clubs as the mood struck the Japs. By this I mean visualizing the old circus tent stake driver pounding a peg into the ground. Simultaneously two Japs would arrange themselves on each side of the victim, taking turns to see who could drive the hardest. Usually one would be knocked down in short order, twenty or thirty blows doing the trick. I was then tied to a bench with my head hanging over the edge. The Japs would then elevate the bench to such an angle that my feet were on a plane of thirty degrees above my head. They would then start pouring tea kettle after tea kettle of water down my nose, holding a hand over my mouth in the meantime; every time I’d move my head to try for some air a heavy fist would bounce off my chin. Maybe I’d pass out Maybe not. Following this I would receive another club beating until I passed out. Upon coming to, they would try to get me to talk, if no go on that, more beatings- finally I would be carried to my room and dumped on the floor waiting awhile until they decided to try again. It got so that every time I’d hear that Jap Warrant Officer coming into the building I’d think it was for me again, or some poor other devil. We all had the same feeling for everyone received beating after beating. However the beatings, slugs, etc. were quite common for all hands. One became so sore and stiff it was almost impossible to move, let alone change position from standing to sitting or reclining even if able to get away with it.
Whiting, Harty, and I were given a bath and ordered to wash our clothes the evening of the 28th. Regret to state that because a paralyzed right arm, Whiting had to wash my clothes and assist me in my bath.
The three of us, blindfolded and handcuffed were flown to Tokyo 29 April to 1 May 1943. Stopping , I think, at Saigon, and either Shanghai or Formosa. We were not informed to as our location. In the plane, during the flight, the blindfold was removed, but being desperate characters the handcuffs were left on, except when caged up at night and well guarded. The first night we received some hard tack biscuits, one small can of condensed milk and some tea. The cock roaches were quite prevalent among the biscuits. The next night we received a small handful of rice and a few vegetable on a green leaf. Two meals in the plane were Jap commercial airline food and the other Jap field ration. Probably the best quality and quantity of food we had received until late August 1945.
Arrived in the Tokyo area the evening of 1 May 1943. After a cold ride of about an hour and a half in the back of a truck fitted with a tent covering, blindfolded and handcuffed we arrived at Ofuna. Reminded us of a Seascout camp in the hills with little monkeys running hither and yon. Individual rooms were provided, two and a half small steps wide and five similar steps deep, each fitted with two grass mats or “Tatamies” as the Japs call them. A cold meal of rice and soup was provided. We were given plenty of blankets, a G-string, some tooth powder, tooth brush, and a small hand towel made of raw silk. We were strictly supervised and not allowed conversation, a condition which had prevailed since the morning of the 22 April, and one that was to continue for many months.
We subsequently learned that during the afternoon of 1 May, all inmates except an Australian flying officer had been transferred to the other wing of the building, nineteen occupying about a dozen rooms, necessitating of course some doubling up in a rather cramped style.
Breakfast on May 2nd brought our first regular meal, soup and rice, which is the standard Nip procedure. About a teaspoonful of soybean paste- “miso”- and a small bowl of rice, constituted the size of it. Commander A.L. Maher ‘22 gunnery officer of the Houston, came rushing down the passage well ahead of the guard and said, Maher, gunnery officer of the Houston, would get data to you as soon as possible, and went about his business. He was acting as an interpreter in the camp, there being no Jap interpreter in Ofuna. The guard was right on his heels and in no time gave Maher a rather questioning look. It was reassuring for us to see another white man again, and to be braced with a bit of information. Later that day I saw Dave Hurt across the compound; of course communication of any kind was practically out of the question, being so closely watched. We were later able to get a little information back and forth by means of messages scribbled on scrap bits of paper left in the toilet( referred to as “banjo” by the Nips.) Hurt gave me a line on what he had been feeding the questioning officers, which we learned to call the QK’s, short for Quiz Kids.
Questioning Began May 3rd. On from where we operated, how we went to Australia, and a thousand and one other things. The grenadier was out of Sidney, so I told them and had arrived direct from Pearl traveling East of the Marshals, past the Fiji’s etc. The three of us would try getting data to each other, in one manner or another, so that our stories would not be conflicting. Our chief QK’s name was Sanamki, a commander from the Jap Naval Academy class of 1923. He was . prior to the war, in the Naval Attaché Office in Washington, and had been touring the U.S. obtaining all the information he could gain, even spent a year or so at Princeton. His English was fair. The interpreter that worked with him had been in the embassy at Washington, and had attended U.S.C. during his numerous years in the States. This man’s name was J. Sasaki, a Lt. Commander in the Naval Reserve. Both of these officers were exchanged in 1942. I have subsequently seen Sasaki picture among Jap Prisoner at Omori, which used to be the Jap headquarters camp for Allied POW’s of the Tokyo area. Questioning continued daily for quite some time, areas, numbers of boats operating and where, number of subs sunk or badly damaged. Finally I said that some fifty subs had failed to return and that some forty subs were seriously damaged. This statement was made in May or June of 1943, it seemed to satisfy them and they shut up on that score. You can well imagine the questions asked, but I don’t believe their methods and tactics were as effective as they believed them to be. We became terrific liars and usually got away with it. On matters of commercial design used on merchantmen or universally known and data which could be obtained from “Jane’s Fighting Ships” we told the truth, which I believed helped us when we were lying about matters which they had no business to know as far as we were concerned.
Knutson, RM1c arrived June 29, 1943. By the Grapevine I gave him all the data I could. He was taken from Penang about 3 may and flown to Surabaya via Singapore. His treatment at Singapore, while there for a couple of days, was fairly decent except that one time he used his hat for a toilet. In Surabaya, he was questioned by German and Jap radio and radar experts. When he wouldn’t “give” he was starved and hung by his thumbs for ten days. If I am not mistaken our intelligence intercepted some of the Jap reports emitting from Surabaya regarding the interview of Knutson. Some of the reports arriving at Ofuna about the time caused us a bad time but all in all we evaded and denied lots of it, or confirmed other data that didn’t amount to much. Mr. J. Burton’s broadcast from Australia regarding the base in Exmouth Gulf caused us a bad time. However, we swore up and down that we knew of no such base on west coast Australia. Then they started in on the Brisbane and Perth Bases saying that they had D.F.’d [deciphered] our coded dispatches from there. We were able to deny any knowledge of these bases for a long time, however, they never, to my knowledge, got the straight setup on either base. About fourteen “S” and 7-8 fleet boats operated from Sidney. Later they didn’t know whether a half dozen or two dozen boats operated from Fremantle. That question was bantered back and forth for some time, then was apparently dropped as a bad deal.
During the latter part August, 1st Lt. L. Zamparini and his pilot arrived in Ofuna. They had spent 47 days in a rubber life boat and some forty days in the Marshal Islands in a Nip Jail. A third member of there party died after thirty-three days in the boat. Engine troubled had caused their forced landing, a B-17 I believe, was the type of plane they were in.
About September 5th Lt. Condit, USNR, his radioman and engineers marshall arrived. What a sad sight they were. Their plane, a TBF, from Yorktown II was damaged by a Jap Air to Air fire during the Marcus Raid. Condit had a close call when a piece of shrapnel came from underneath passing between his legs, almost saving the Rabbi a job. They were forced to land I the water about 70 miles from Marcus. Condit said they had a terrific time getting their rubber boat out of the plane before it sank. Once in the boat they noticed a book floating about “I got my man”- but in this case it was the wrong man. The next day they received a preliminary strafing from a patrol boat before being picked up. On Marcus their preliminary questioning resulted in Condit losing a tooth, sound beatings, a knot on his head and a general working over, the other two were soundly beaten as well, black eyes, cuts, and bruises. NA, e, rats, and number seemed anything but what the Japs wanted. It was from people arriving periodically that we obtained our true information of what was going on outside. Every fragment and straw gleaned helped to keep our morale up and kept us posted on the progress of the Allies. This case is a typical of other arriving at Ofuna, but the main reason I mention it is that Lt. George R. Brown from the Sculpin later stated “we were supposed to pick you up of Marcus but couldn’t locate your boat, anyway mission accomplished, but a hell of a place to find you and not to be able to do anything about it.
About mid September we heard of the fall of Italy Around the 12th, Captain G. Prelli, the senior Italian Naval Officer in the far east arrived, handcuffed and bound with rope one end of which was serving as a leash. He had been badly beaten and his face was cut up. The next day seven of his staff arrived. About the 15th the crew of an Italian Merchantman arrived, one or two were Scandinavians. Maher was in on the interpretation angle again and slipped a “Nippon Times” written in English dated September 9th with big headlines “Italy Capitulates” or words to that effect. He said he could hardly stand up when he saw this. Under the pretense of giving out some of the Nips instructions he told Johnson to get that paper to him some way hold it, hide it, but get it to him- we received the paper.
While things were going fairly well for the Japs they used to give the older prisoners an occasional newspaper written in English, however, the last ones received were dated June 1943. This information was naturally colored in the favor of the Nips. These Merchantmen were Fansisti and none were later transferred to the Tokyo area. I subsequently learned that they were freed and that some boat back to Italy. The Naval Officers, however, were still in various camps until the end of the war. Saw Capt. Frelli in Shingawa, the hospital camp, one day during February 1945 while some of us were over there from Qnceri to dismantle a garage and take it to Omori to be erected there. This type of work came under “Gardening”.
To go back a little now a couple of details, back to May of 1943. When the three of us from the Grenadier arrived at Ofuna there were two wings to the barracks each of about fifteen rooms two or so for storage. In May construction of wooden frame structures, typical Japanese barns, was started increasing the total capacity to about ninety two rooms. A new quiz room was added, new bath constructed, new “goats” office and kitchen enlarged. The senior prison officials were known among us as goats. Imagine the rumors going through the camp when this construction began. Many of us thought that it would be turned into an official camp, something we all hoped for, or to get transferred to sooner or later; for from Ofuna there was no information in or out. Strictly silence, literally out of this world. However, Dave Hurt did receive seven letters from the States during September and October 1943. Must have been a mistake because he was the only one to receive any mail while in Ofuna.
On October 12th 1943 twenty four Grenadier men and Five officers arrived. Their story was one of much hardship, trials and tribulations. After Whiting, Harting, and I left Penang they were put on two very scant meals a day. Some of the canned food the men had in their pockets when we left the Grenadier was finally distributed to them. In such quantities that maybe there would be three or four beans per man, a can of sardines was divided among many men, etc. Naturally the maltreatment continued, our captors wouldn’t have belonged to the Axis powers if their conduct to POW’s had been respectable. Denque fever broke out, beri beri started in and questioning with persuasive measures as well as slow starvation continued. About August 8, 1943, seventy two of them were put aboard a small Jap ship and sent to Singapore. They arrived in Singapore without incident except for the fact that one night while enroute and locked below in a hole of the ship, some sort of an action took place , the guns fired and depth charges giving them a bad scare.
In Singapore the treatment was an improvement, guards were very scarce, but the lack of sufficient food was the main concern. The India troops in a compound adjacent were receiving more food than they could eat, throwing away the excess, but they couldn’t give it to our men, nor could our men salvage it anyway. After fifty one days in Singapore they were placed in a hole on board the Asama Maru, less one man, an electrician’s mate, L.L.Barker, who was left in Singapore hospital with an infected throat.
About two days before they arrived in Japan one of the Jap officers in the Asama Maru said “So you’re from the submarine that sank the ship off the Pilgrim Island last April.” From then on until the officers and men were disembarked in Japan they were each in turn repeatedly caused to stand in a bent -over position while some Nip standing at the edge of the held above them and would swing the handrail of a gangway against his backsides. The resulting force would practically drive them through the bulkhead.
The seventy one officers and men remained in a pretty good camp, considering the standards, for about two days when the five officers and twenty four of the sixty six men were sent to Ofuna, the remaining forty two men were sent to various camps in Japan.
Early in November two survivors of the S-44 arrived in Ofuna. The 44 had started a night attack on a ship which turned out to be a destroyer. I was told that an attempt was made to dive the submarine but it wouldn’t for some unknown reason, submerge mainly because of the high seas. Battle surface was ordered. The S-44 being hit several times started to flood, the C.O. ordered abandon ship. Several men were in the water but only two were picked up, DUVA @ CTM, and Whitmore a RM2c.
About 22 November 1943 morale was boosted quite a bit when the dope came out that there would be a transfer of prisoner out of Ofuna. Everyone of course wanted to get away from that place. We were not POW’s, but unarmed enemies, and not registered with the International Red Cross. Conversation was still banned, but we never the less took chances and did talk in whispers whenever we thought we could get away with it- one did not always come off so lucky on this score so consequently we received punishment in more ways than one whenever caught in the act, or even suspected of the same. Anyway the scuttlebutt was rampant as this was the first big transfer to take place since May when ten men were transferred. Finally on December 3, 1943 about thirty officers and men left. Commander Maher, Dave Hunt, V.C. Blain former CC USS Pope, and others who had been there for a long time, these three had been there for about nineteen months. One can well imagine how glad they were to leave for another camp. This left me Senior POW at Ofuna, many headaches as well as trying to fill the job of interpreter then became my lot.
On December 5, 1943 one officer and twenty men, survivors of the Sculpin arrived in camp. Barefooted, make shift clothing, mostly cast off Jap undress blues and in general a weary looking lot.
Having been sunk on November 19, 1943, off Truk as a result of depth charges and gun fire from a Jap DD.
Of these who were able to abandon ship prior to the Sculpin’s going down three officers and thirty-nine men were picked up and taken to Truk. They remained there about ten days when they were divided between two carriers for transportation to Japan. Lt. George E. Brown and nineteen men, one of them wounded, were placed on one carrier, two ensigns and twenty men were placed on another carrier, some of those in the latter carrier were wounded to various degrees.
On December 3, of Japan the carrier carrying the wounded was attacked by submarine and sunk. The prisoners being confined in a hold were helpless, however one man did get out and over the side, subsequently being picked up and placed on board the carrier carrying the other twenty Sculpin survivors.
It is believed the Sailfish sank the carrier, such are the fortunes of war.
Pertinent Information was given the Sculpin survivors as quickly as possible, this proved beneficial for all concerned and save embarrassing and conflicting statements to the QK’s later on. I learned from Lt. Brown that a list of fifty five Grenadier survivors was in Pearl Harbor. This was very encouraging for me, for at least anxiety at home for those men was somewhat lessened.
Permission was obtained to conduct a Christmas program. This included various scripture readings, appropriate songs and prayers. In the afternoon a track and field program was carried out. The QK’s in attendance. Prizes in the form of baked sweet potatoes, and cigarettes were given to the winning contestants. Not much for ordinary standards, but regardless of the fact that the quantity received was small it was much appreciated by all hands. Everyone received a few apples and tangerines that day, so all in all under the circumstances the day was spent as pleasantly as possible. Conversation among the older prisoners in Ofuna, to a limited degree, was permitted but for that day only. The lid was clamped down tightly again the next day.
New Year’s Eve created quite much excitement. Lt. Berty, about 1700 came rushing from the “ Benjo” whispering something about a truck load of boxes marked with a large red cross. Those of us about at the time told him that he must be crazy, or in need of glasses, as no such thing would ever be given any of us in Ofuna. However, out of curiosity a number of prisoners went to the Benjo for a look out through one of the numerous openings between the boards forming the siding of the building- these cracks were quite prevalent throughout the buildings, especially the older barracks. Fine for summer but miserable for winter weather. Within a couple of minutes the guard began calling for a ten head working party. In no time at all everyone who was able to do so was at the gate assisting in unloading the truck. Seventy two cases, each containing eight cartons of Canadian Red Cross food. Excitement ran wild, how much of it would we actually receive, how often we get a parcel, and how many such queries prevailed.
The few notes I took during 1944 follow. While bried in non incriminating language I will make bried explanatory notes where the situations would not be clear to anyone else. The book was taken from me at Omori and I did not get it back until my return to the U.S. However, the interpreter Pvt. Mono, somewhat pre-American, obtained it from the Nip files and gave it to Commander Hurt. After his transfer from Omori, imagine Commander L. Maher received same. Anyway it ended up in Admiral Halsey’s office. The underlining in red was either done at the headquarters camp in Omori or else by the Admiral’s staff, probably the former.