Gibbs reports were prepared post-war based upon assorted prisoner
affidavits and, apparently, on the reports of the International
Red Cross representatives in Japan who were notorious for their
bias in favor of the Japanese. In this report, we have
added annotations from a POW, Sgt. Terence
S. Kirk, USMC, who kept a diary and pictures within the camp.
Based upon other affidavits at NARA, Kirk's [in
red] observations are extremely
PRISONER OF WAR CAMPS IN JAPAN AND JAPANESE CONTROLLED
AREAS AS TAKEN FROM REPORTS OF INTERNED AMERICAN PRISONERS LIAISON
& RESEARCH BRANCH AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR INFORMATION BUREAU
By John M. Gibbs, 31 July 1946
FUKUOKA CAMP #3 ON THE ISLAND OF KYUSHU, JAPAN
Fukuoka Camp #3 was first located in a suburban section of the
city YAWATA, known as Yauhea, on the Island of Kyushu. Yawata
was one of Japan's major steel producing areas, and the camp
there was first occupied by American civilians in September,
1942 [23 Sep 1942], who were captured
by the Japanese on Wake Island. [and
North China Marines] Later in that year the American personnel
at this camp was supplemented by prisoners of other nationalities,
mainly British and Australian captured at Singapore.
[Kirk: Fukuoka #3 was in the
city of Yawata. It was a huge concrete building about 5 stories
and set into the side of a mountain. There is a drawing in my
book The Secret Camera of the building, I call it the citadel.
To go to work in the factory below us we had to walk down a steep
hill through the city and climb back up every day, no trucks.
In November 1942, 36 Marines were sent there from Woosung.
We were were fed pretty good at first, about 750 calories. [Note: 3500 calories per day is necessary to
retain weight when doing manual labor] Then
we were stupid enough to let the Japs talk us into a foot race.
We beat the hell out of them and as a result they reduced our
rations to 500 calories]
A large steam electric plant was located within 500 yards
of the camp installation, and surrounding it were steel mills
and steel rolling mills, all producing Japanese war essentials,
and relying, substantially, on prisoner labor to operate them.
[Kirk: There were no steel mills
or rolling mills near that power plant , they were a half hour
ride away, by train to Yawata, that is where we worked.]
To protect the prisoner personnel, as far as possible, from
anticipated bombing raids, a new camp was erected in a suburb
of Tobata about 300 yards from the bay, just west of the city.
Tobata is located at the north central tip of the island about
6 miles from Yawata in a northeasterly direction, and its coordinates
are 33º56'N. 130º49'E. The terrain at Tobata was flat.
The tallest mountain in that area bounded the camp area on the
north. Travel time from camp to the Yawata plants was about 30
minutes. The prisoners of war continued to work in the Yawata
plants throughout the war and were transported [to and from]
the new camp in open flat cars even during the bitterly cold
winter weather. As a result of the exposure many of the prisoners
contracted pneumonia and more than a few deaths among them resulted.
[Kirk: Those were not flat cars,
they were (open) gondola cars]
About 500 yards from the new camp at Tobata was an enormous
power plant standing at an elevation of 300 feet. The furnaces
were equipped with 6 smokestacks about 100 feet high from base.
Steam turbines furnished power to the most of the plant. It evidently
served as a landmark for American bombers because it was not
bombed and remained undamaged to the war's end.
There was no distinguishing mark to denote that the new installation
was a prisoner of war camp. In order to identify it as housing
prisoners of war, the senior American officer requested the Japanese
camp commandant to, at least, label the hospital with a red cross
which request was curtly denied.
2. PRISONER PERSONNEL:
The total prisoner personnel was approximately 1,200 of
which 500 were Americans. This figure included 75 civilians taken
on Wake Island and 45 Marine and 30 Navy personnel. The remaining
American personnel belonged to the Army. Prisoners of nationalities
other than American were, English 130; Australians 3; Indians
150; Javanese & Dutch 325 and 20 Chinese. The remaining 72
were Arabian, Malayan and Portuguese.
Col. Ovid W. Wilson, was the Senior American Officer. Lt. Col.
Paul D. Philipps, the Adjutant for the American officer group,
and Lt. Col. William Dorris, the permanent camp commander of
the enlisted men.
3. GUARD PERSONNEL:
The Japanese camp officials
Maj. Yaichi Rikitake, Commander, crafty and cruel.
Lt. Hata, camp doctor, non-cooperative, cruel.
Lt. Ogomi, camp doctor.
Cadet officer, Murada, camp doctor.
Sgt. Major, Kita.
Sgt. Kawasaki, pay roll and commissary.
Cpl. Nagakura, stores and clothing.
Private Fukuda, medical orderly, inconsiderate, cruel.
Mr. Manins, civilian guard, cruel.
Mr. Osano, civilian interpreter, non-cooperative, indifferent.
4. GENERAL CONDITIONS:
(a) Housing Facilities: Inasmuch as the camp remained
at Yawata for a relatively short period, a description of the
housing facilities is omitted. Therefore the following is a description
of the camp buildings at Tobata: Ten barracks of very light frame
construction, capacity 150 men each, surrounded by a wood fence,
comprised the housing facilities. Each building had 2 decks running
the length of both sides, making a row of upper and lower bays
to a side, the lower tier about 6[inches] off the floor, top
tier about 6 [feet] off the floor reached by ladders, into which
were fitted typical Japanese mats for sleeping. There was a shelf
located at the head of each bay where the prisoners could place
their accessories. The floors were of concrete, the roof of a
Japanese type of tile. There was no artificial heat except that
generated by small round stoves standing on legs about 3-1/2
feet high, over-all, charcoal burner type. Coal furnished for
fuel was of inferior quality and was inadequate in quantity.
[Kirk: Mr.Gibbs was never in
that prison camp because we never had a round stove to keep warm
or any stoves of any kind. That was all. Through out the war,
we didn't thaw out until we got back to civilization.
The only fire we had in those barracks was one Christmas day.
The Jap colonel pulled a prank on us he knew exactly what he
was doing. He passed out enough kindling to fill the three charcoal
pits in each of the barracks and had a Jap soldier go around
to each barracks and light the kindling. It didn't take more
than a few minutes and everyone was outside gasping for air.
The worse part of the joke on us we had to open all the windows
to clear out the smoke along with it went the body heat. After
that it took hours to replace the body heat which kept the inside
temperature about fifteen to twenty degrees higher than the outside.]
Fires were not maintained during the night. Even with fire
in the stove during the day from 5:00 to 8:00 P.M., the barracks
were continually cold. All buildings were electrically lighted,
in addition there were special blackout lights, as well as blackout
curtains for air raids. Windows (2 per bay both upper and lower)
were of multi-glass sliding type.
The hospital, classed as a good building for this type of camp,
had steam pipes installed, but heat was turned on only part of
the night during the winter. This building was continually overcrowded
and undermanned. A second hospital had been erected, however,
the use of the facility was denied the prisoners, and it remained
unoccupied until Oct. 1944. The patients were bedded in bunks
equipped with straw mats. The original hospital, according to
American standards, would normally have accommodated from 50
to 60 patients as against 120 patients of occupancy. Ambulatory
patients were compelled to wear heavy overcoats during the day
to keep reasonably warm. The rear of each barracks contained
a wash room equipped with concrete sinks and contaminated running
cold water. The men were warned against drinking this water.
[Kirk: Steam heat in the hospital?
This is news to me. The Japs told us one day, when a man by the
name of Conrad was found dead in his bed that, "nobody dies
in the barracks, you must go to the hospital to die." Steam
heat is the last thing to have in the hospital is they wanted
us to go there to die. Only sick patients were allowed to lay
down on their bed and cover themselves with a blanket with a
(b) Latrines: In each of the barracks, and to the rear
in a separate room, were located a cement urinal and 4 sinks
with cold running water. Soap was always inadequate. The latrines,
merely 6 wood stalls which afforded semi privacy, were in a separate
room and were of usual oriental squatting type. The large tank
underneath, which often ran over, was neglected although supposed
to be emptied periodically by Japanese laborers.
[Kirk: Dipping the honey out
of the outhouses was reserved strictly for the officers to take
care of the flowers.]
During the spring and summer seasons the sick prisoners were
compelled to dip out these tanks and pour the contents on the
camp gardens between the barracks. A foul odor always permeated
(c) Bathing: There was a separate building for hot water
bathing. It was equipped with two large cement tanks approximately
10 feet square and 3 feet deep. Before getting into the tanks
the prisoners were required to dip enough water out of the tanks
to take a cleansing preliminary bath before soaking out in the
[Kirk: Nobody did anything to
rinse themselves off before getting into the tubs but hang up
their towels and get right in the water that must have been 211
degrees and the water smelled and looked like ten thousand people
had bathed in it. It was almost like gravy and smelled like sulphur.
As I remember, the bath was available all year around.]
During the winter months the prisoners were allowed to use
the hot water baths daily. After bathing they immediately went
to bed under their blankets in an effort to store up heat against
several hours ahead in a cold building. During the summer months
they were allowed to bathe every second day.
(d) Mess Hall: This was a large building of wood construction.
containing ample rice pots, also tanks for making tea, all steam
operated. The floor of the mess hall was of concrete. Each barracks
appointed representatives to draw food from the kitchen and take
it to the barracks in buckets to be served. The American prisoners
did the cooking under the supervision of Japanese mess sergeants.
[Kirk: We never had a mess hall.
That was a galley where the millet and daikon (a Jap radish)
soup was prepared. Mr. Gibbs said the food was good, I believe
he was talking about some other camp. From 1943 to the end of
the war we were fed nothing but millet and white radish soup.
There two memorable exceptions: first, the Jap galley sergeant
found a barrel of rotten whale meat on the dock in Moji that
stunk up the camp but it was meat so we held our noses and ate
it. The second was fish. They cooked it early in the morning
and let it set in the sun all day. When we got back to camp the
fish were all crawling with maggots. Some of the men ate maggots
and all. I couldn't bring myself to do that, I scraped off the
Our food consisted of a small bowl of millet and a bowl of dikon
soup for breakfast and supper. Our noon meal was a small bento
box with millet. Once in a great while we would find some small
pieces of bean cake floating around in our soup. Near the end
of the war our noon meal changed to a small hamburger bun. That
was it. There were no Red Cross packages or Red Cross food at
any time in Fukuoka #3, There was no flour, milk or sugar. There
was no Red Cross meat. If there were, the Japs ate it and that
goes for the rest of the food if there ever was any.]
(e) Food: The daily ration consisted of about 550 grams
of mixed and steamed grain such as rice, barley, maize and red
beans, and soup. The soup usually was fairly good. It contained
vegetable tops, and frequently carrots, dried fish, bean curd,
flour and a type of Japanese radish. In general the food was
good except very short in protein and fats. The quantity was
insufficient, consequently the men were hungry all the time and
gradually became more and more gaunt. They were driven by hunger
to stealing and eating anything that ever had any relation to
food, such as garbage and other refuse. Because of insufficient
food, the majority of the hospital patients were suffering from
beriberi, amoebic dysentery and tuberculosis, as the result of
malnutrition. Flour was given to the prisoners from time to time
with which they baked bread and noodles. Sugar issue was fair.
During Feb. 1945 all milk furnished by the Red Cross was given
to the hospital patients. There was general complaint concerning
the lack of salt. Whenever Red Cross canned meat was issued it
was mixed and served with rice. Small amounts of Red Cross food
was issued occasionally totaling about 1 '/z boxes per man during
a 3-months period. The Japanese retained for themselves the rest
of the Red Cross supplies.
(f) Medical Facilities: The Japanese medical officer was
Lt. Hata who was later replaced by Lt. Ogomi who in turn was
replaced by Cadet Officer Murada. Capt.. Vetales V. Anderson,
M.C. & Capt. William A. Blueher, M.C. aided by other doctors
brought from the Philippines, administered treatment to the sick
prisoners as fully as equipment and medical supplies permitted.
The Japanese furnished some adulterated medicines, about 5 types,
none of which were vital drugs, except Glucose and sulfa drugs.
It was common knowledge to the prisoners that the Japanese had
Red Cross medical supplies, both medicines and surgical instruments,
in the camp at all times which they refused to allow to be used
until after the surrender.
There were a number of deaths from pneumonia because of withheld
medicines and oxygen. Although repeatedly requested by the prisoner
doctors, the Japanese maintained that oxygen could not be obtained,
yet as soon as the war ended, oxygen was made available. One
example is given as follows: After a bombing raid in Aug. 1945,
two American doctors performed an arm amputation with a hack
saw, two old scalpels and few hemostats, although there was a
complete chest of Red Cross surgical equipment unopened in the
camp. The Japanese themselves made free use of Red Cross food,
clothing and medicine. Dr. Hata was outstanding in this abuse.
He was personally responsible because of these actions for the
death of quite a few prisoners. Some of the doctors brought surgical
instruments with them from the Philippines. Other instruments
were made by the medical force in camp.
can erase this entire description as we had none of that stuff.
If there was any medical equipment in that camp at all, the Japs
stole it all when the war ended. We didn't have anything to help
the sick and dying until the food drops from the B29s. Mr Gibbs'
rendition of Fukuoka makes the Japs appear to be decent people.
That camp sounds like a country club with the passing out of
all that Red Cross food. He was talking about some other camp.
The Japs were their true selves in our camp. No good bastards.]
- (1) Red Cross. YMCA. other Relief; As stated in the preceding
paragraph it was known that Red Cross supplies, such as food,
clothing, medicines and surgical instruments were in the camp
and that the Japanese would not release them. On Christmas day,
1944 the prisoners were issued a full meal of Red Cross food
and a good portion of regular Japanese rations, and thereafter
for a few weeks, small daily portions of Red Cross food. After
1 May 1945 no shipments of Red Cross supplies were received.
Three shipments of books by the YMCA were received after 1 May
- (2) Japanese issue: Overcoats were issued to the prisoners.
Few men had a change of clothing. They were shod in worn out
foot apparel or canvas sneakers. Most of the men had no underwear.
Each prisoner was issued six wool blankets. Cigarettes were issued
weekly through the commissary, 10 to officers and 30 to enlisted
men. Later the Japanese issued to the prisoners, 1 pair of shoes,
1 very light weight Japanese uniform and 1 suit of underwear.
The prisoners were able to buy oranges, tangerines and cigarettes
at the commissary.
- (1) Incoming: None was received by those that arrived in
the Jan. 1945 detail of 97 officers and 3 Navy enlisted men.
Several hundred letters (dated a year or more previously) were
distributed to the permanent personnel. Some news of the war's
progress trickled in through underground channels.
(2) Outgoing: The officers in Jan. 1945 were allowed personally
to send 1 radiogram. All prisoners also were allowed to send
one 40-word radiogram for each 30 men. A card or letter of no
more than 50 words could be sent once every several months.
(i) Work: The Japanese medical
authorities determined which patients were able to work and their
only acceptance of illness was fever. Any patient was required
to work who registered fever under 102 so long as his debility
was not too severe to permit him to move around. Officers were
not compelled to perform manual labor, however, doctors and interpreters
were compelled to practice their respective professions. The
directing camp officials employed a coercive measure to induce
the able bodied officers to volunteer to work - namely - refusal
meant a decrease in the already inadequate ration, and when they
did work and draw full Japanese rations, many who were then too
weak to work continued to suffer a cut in their basic ration.
The working day was 9 to 10 hours, and types of work were: stevedores,
mechanics and machinists. Considering the physical condition
of the men, and their ration, they endured cruel hardships. The
working prisoners were classified as "outside (factory)
workers," "inside workers (those working in the camp",
"sick in quarters," and "hospital". Outside
workers received a substantially larger ration than the others.
Some of the prisoners were kept busy many months building air
raid shelters, however, when raids came over, very few prisoners
were allowed in them. The mental strain on the prisoners knowing
that the raids were coming, and having no adequate shelter, cannot
Upon the slightest provocation both the officers and the enlisted
prisoners were beaten by the guards with clubs and fists. The
prisoners were further tormented by lice, fleas and bedbugs.
Clothing was filled with lice which could not be eradicated except
by boiling the garments. This privilege was denied. The treatment
was consistently inhuman.
- (1) Officers were paid 50 yen per month and were permitted
to spend about 10 yen of it in commissary purchases.
(2) Enlisted men were paid when they worked. Generally they were
given from 10 to 50 sen a day.
(I) Recreation: Those physically able to work were
not particularly concerned about recreation because there was
little time left after working hours. Also they were completely
exhausted after each days work. However the prisoners usually
were given 2 or 3 holidays per month. A small library was installed
with books donated by the YMCA. These were printed in English
principally, but a few of them were in Dutch and other languages.
There were no movies or athletic facilities and very few vegetable
gardens. Smoking was permitted at certain hours when a courier
from headquarters would carry the "official light"
from building to building. Matches and other fire making articles
were strictly forbidden. An orchestra of 5 pieces played occasionally
in the evening during warm months.
(m) Religious Activities: The prisoners were not allowed to
have orthodox religious services except upon the occasion of
a burial, when the chaplain prisoners were allowed to perform
(n) Morale: Fair
(o) Movements: 97 officers and 3 Navy medical corpsmen
were on the Japanese ship ORYOKA MARU which was bombarded while
in Subic Bay, the Philippines. They were rescued and taken to
Takao, Formosa on a leg of their journey to Fukuoka Camp #3,
leaving this camp in April 1945 for Hoten Camp #1 in Manchuria.
Of the 103 officers and corpsmen, 24 of the officers died
in Camp #3, mainly from dysentery, beriberi and pneumonia
superinduced and aggravated by malnutrition and gross neglect
suffered while aboard ship from Takao to Moji. Of this group
of prisoners only 71 officers including the 3 corpsmen were able
to move on to Manchuria. Five of this officer group were too
weak to be moved. This detail joined another detail of approximately
500 American prisoners from other camps in the Fukuoka area [on]
24 April 1945. When the prisoners reached Korea the group was
divided, 264 of them remained in Korea, 236 moved to the Hoten
#1, Mukden, from which place they and other prisoners were liberated
on 16 Oct. 1945. Fukuoka Camp #3 was liberated on 13 Sept. 1945.
All of the buildings in this camp were adequate. The facilities,
if allowed to be used, also would have contributed greatly to
the comfort and health of the men, referring particularly to
heating equipment. The food from the standpoint of quality, would
have been acceptable. Tubs for bathing and hot water were plentiful
and were made use of daily during the winter months.
The perverse Japanese officers however, would not keep steam
heat on the hospital long enough each day to do much good. Fires
in the barracks stoves were only allowed from 5:00 to 8:00 P.M.
These deprivations plus such brutalities as:
(a) Withholding medicines and surgical instruments.
(b) Severe beatings with fists and clubs.
(c) Compelling men to work who were too weak to stand any physical
(d) Scarcity of food causing slow starvation.
(e) Disallowing distribution of Red Cross food and other supplies
but pilfering them for their own use, leaves only the conclusion
that the camp could not be rated otherwise than VERY POOR.