What, Where and When We Knew

About the Existence and
Location of POW Camps
Around Fukuoka, Japan

Main Index -- Fukuoka #1

PW sign in field adjacent to Fukuoka POW Camp #1... a mystery?

A number of Japanese news reporters have sent in inquiries over the years regarding the Fukuoka POW camp (final location in Hakozaki) and whether the US military was aware of its existence, especially prior to the incendiary bombing of Fukuoka on June 19, 1945.Their main questions were: Was the reason the east part of the city was spared destruction due to the fact that there was an Allied POW camp there? And that the presence of important officers in the camp deterred any attacks on that part of town?

To put the matter to rest, the short answer is no, I don't believe so.

This is mainly because the American military did not know the camp was there. Photographic reconnaissance was conducted over Fukuoka from early 1944, but subsequent evaluation of those images revealed no details regarding POW camps in the area. However, there is one notation of a camp in Fukuoka on a US intelligence map from June 1945 which shows a single dot for a POW camp there in the city, but due to the map scale size, it does not show its precise location. Furthermore, the US had no details as to who exactly was at the camps in Fukuoka, so the point regarding the presence of Allied officers there is moot.

One article in the Japanese news in 2019 brought out "evidence" that US Forces knew of the Hakozaki camp's existence as it was clearly marked in white characters as "PW" in a field next to the camp. What the article does not say is that these markings were placed AFTER the end of the war, with the purpose of alerting our relief supply planes to its location in order that supplies could be dropped via parachutes. Another article in 2020, again coinciding with the Fukuoka air raid memorial, referred to the whole issue as a mystery.
TNC NEWS: https://www.fnn.jp/articles/-/54082

Hopefully what I emailed to the news services will be considered and end the mystery.

The US military had many targets in Fukuoka, but only a few were attacked. The Najima Power Plant was one target and was attacked at least once that I know of, but nothing was damaged. Most of the damage during the big air raid in June 1945 was in the harbor area, the military HQ in Maizuru, some warehouses and other smaller industrial targets.

I haven't read anything about the US not targeting cities because of the presence of Allied POWs (perhaps only Hiroshima, but even still it was A-bombed). I do know that one task of "Operation Blacklist" (Aug. 1945) dealt with finding POW camps so that relief supplies could be dropped. We knew where some camps were, but many locations were unverified as well as unknown.

I do not think the US military knew exactly where POWs were kept in Fukuoka -- the Hakozaki camp was hidden underneath pine trees. The USSBS target info of June-July 1945 shows only the "Showa Iron Works" as Target #1872 in Kaizuka (shoreline). There is nothing I have found showing possible POW camp locations. Smaller aircraft did some damage at other times, though I would have to research that further. One plane dropped a skip-bomb on Tatara River in an attack on the Najima Power Plant but failed to hit it.

The main targets for the June 19, 1945, bombing were Hakata Harbor and Hakata Station. The major damage was to the harbor, military headquarters, warehouses, some ships, and other small industries. None of the airfields were attacked (Target #2510 was only known as "Itazuka[e] Airfield"). This PERHAPS may be due to Allied intelligence knowing that POWs were there, but by then the POWs had been moved to Hakozaki. You can see the transfer chronology on my website.

The "PW" marking at the Hakozaki POW Camp was placed there AFTER the end of the war in order to help B-29 pilots find the site so that relief supplies could be dropped. I do not believe the US military knew details regarding any of the POW camps in Fukuoka City, though the map of June 15, 1945, does show Fukuoka as a POW camp site. [See below "Known POW Camps" PDF, page 9.]

The earliest we knew about the existence of camps on Kyushu island was possibly in early 1944. See:
Japanese POWs re Allied POW camps - Interrogation Reports 11-a (22,23), USSBS
North Kyushu POW camps early discovery 1944

The following file is from the Blacklist Basic Outline Plan for Blacklist Operations to Occupy Japan Proper and Korea After Surrender which shows what we knew about the camps June through August 1945.
Known POW camps in Kyushu Japan 1945-06 to 1945-08-08

See also this compilation of early reconnaisance photography that was used for finding possible military targets on Kyushu. Note there is no mention of POW camps.
Kyushu photo reconnaisance from 3rd PRS Mission Reports 1945-7