Hanawa Camp history
by James T. Murphy (Page 1 of 5 Pages)

Main Hanawa Page


In the summer of 1944, as the Allied Forces approached the Philippines and as Japan suffered a severe labor shortage in their homeland, steps were taken to move Allied Prisoners of War to Japan. Newly declassified documents show that an agreement was reached between the Japanese Military forces and the industrial conglomerates of Japan where every able bodied POW would be moved to Japan and forced to work in the Japanese industrial complexes thus ameliorating the acute labor shortage. Historians note that the Japanese frenzied efforts to ship all the POWs to Japan for slave labor work culminated in one of the worst examples of man's cruelty to man ever experienced.

The Japanese transports, used to take the POWs from the southern areas to Japan, came to be known as Hell Ships. In August 1944 one- thousand and thirty-five of us were literally crammed into the forward hold of the Noto Maru as it sailed from Manila, P.I. There was not enough room to even stand up as we were stacked together. The tropical heat created a living hell and then the hatch covers were closed. The hold was airless and the heat unbearable. We were sick, starved, and suffocating. There were only buckets provided for bathroom facilities. We were given one cup of water and two small rice rations daily. As we got underway, the hatch covers were partially opened and this gave some air to the POWs lucky enough to be near the center of the hold. We were aboard the Noto Maru for twelve days.

The Japanese did not mark or identify the POW transports as required by International law. American submarines attacked the convoy in which the Noto Maru was a part and several ships were destroyed. The Noto Maru had at least two torpedoes fired at her but they were deep running and ran just beneath the ship. They did not explode, thus saving the lives of 1035 American POWs. Most of us would have welcomed a torpedo, as it would have put a quick end to our pain and suffering. After the war, we learned that many unmarked Japanese transports carrying POWs were sunk by Allied submarines and Allied airplanes with the loss of thousands of Prisoners of War.

We landed at Moji, Japan and went by railway cars northward. Several labor details were dropped off along the route. The remaining five hundred POWs stayed on the train until we were forty miles from the northern tip of Honshu.

Page 1- Americans move to Japan on the Noto Maru
Page 2 - Arrival at Hanawa
Page 3 - Slavery at the Mine
Page 4- Bitter winter of 1944-1945
Page 5 - War ends - Diary Notes