AMERICAN POWs MOVE
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