mine was one of the oldest mines in all of Japan. It had been
in continuous operation for 1300 years. The mining methods had
remained unchanged for centuries. This mine required hard labor
to extract additional ore and previous owners had declared it
non-productive. But Mitsubishi was determined to continue
operation as long as there was breath remaining in the American
The mining equipment
was antiquated, worn out, always needing repair, and only could
be kept running by exhaustive human labor. The mine had no safety
personnel and posed a constant threat of mine explosions, mine
cave-ins, sudden flooding of work areas and other industrial
accidents. There was the ever present prospect of a major mine
The five hundred
American POWs (and later 50 British POWs) at Hanawa faced the
real possibility and the real fear of death each moment of every
day. The threat of death came from many sources.
intense repulsion and hatred felt for us by the Japanese Military
Commander, his NCOs and his armed guards; second, the
hatred from the Mitsubishi employees who directed our
slave labor and were hell bent to work us to death to accomplish
their goal of copper production; third, the daily dangers
of working under unsafe conditions with the real possibility
of industrial accidents; fourth, the daily threat of starvation,
life threatening disasters, total weakness and exhaustion, and
freezing to death from the cold, harsh weather; fifth,
the real threat from the local Japanese populous who demonstrated
open irate, hostile and inflamed feelings against Americans who
were killing civilians as they destroyed Japanese cities, and
who could explode in uncontrolled attacks against us at any moment;
and sixth, threats from our own officers and camp staff,
some of whom demonstrated that they would survive even if no
one else survived and that "it was every man for himself".
It is a wonder that
any POW survived a full year under these constant threats of
death. It is amazing that only eight POWs died. Their deaths
were attributed to mine cave-ins, malnutrition, and starvation,
respiratory diseases and tuberculosis. Many of us do not believe
that we could have survived another winter at Hanawa.
copper mine at Hanawa operated rather typically but we always
had the feeling that it was almost impossible to squeeze any
additional ore from this worn out relic.
From our camp located
at about 4,000 ft. elevation, we would climb about two miles
up to the mine. The main shaft entrance was high up in the mountain
and the processing equipment was housed near this entrance. We
would walk deep down into the many laterals, blast and dig out
the ore, hand load small cars with ore and push the cars on small
rails out of the mine and dump the ore into large holding bins
above the rock crushers. The crushed ore was mixed with water
to form a slurry and then pumped to another crusher to convert
it to smaller particles. The fine slurry was then passed through
separators and filters to extract the copper ore. Buckets of
copper ore then went to the smelter for melting into copper ingots.
The push carts, the rails, conveyer belts, the buckets, the crushers,
and the filters were always in a state of deterioration and disrepair.
The repair procedures required the shoveling and handling by
handa back breaking difficult job for the emaciated POWs.
This job was made worse by the severe cold and snow during the
winter months. Most work was done by hand and required heavy
Work at any job was
difficult. We would arise at 5 a.m., eat breakfast of a small
bowl of rice, barley or millet with a cup of watery soup. We
would then have roll call and leave for the mine about 5:30 a.m.
arriving ready to work at 7 a.m. We worked under Mitsubishi
supervision until 5 p.m. with a 30 minute lunch break. We returned
to camp, usually after dark, had supper, then to bed.
The miners had the
worst job. Their walk down into the deepest bowels of the earth
and their work down in the mine was dirty, dangerous and difficult.
Each was furnished a carbide headlamp as his only lighting. A
quota was set but the Japanese were always raising the quota.
The number of carloads and men were never enough and men were
brutalized for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many laterals
of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through.
Some laterals had standing water with threats of sudden flooding.
Lighting was poor and most areas were not even boarded up to
prevent cave-ins. The work was dangerous and many suffered from
accidents. Gas detecting equipment was non-existent so there
was an ever present danger of setting off an explosion from the
open burning carbide headlamps. Even in the cold winter months
when going into the mine would be warmer, the additional warmth
was no consolation for the rigors of the mine work.
The POWs assigned
work topside had more technical jobs such as electricians, machinists,
millwrights, mechanics and general laborers. These men were watched
closely by the civilian supervisors to prevent deliberate damage
inflicted on the very critical items of equipment. It seems that
some POWs were a bit careless and would cause electro-mechanical
failures with the disastrous results of shutting down mine operations.
Such "accidents" often resulted in severe punishments
but most POWs endured the consequences for the brief glory of
creating sabotage against the enemy. All this work was done by
hand with backbreaking lifting and moving of equipment.
The work contract
between the Japanese Imperial Army and the officials of Mitsubishi
called for the Army to deliver a given number of POWs to the
mine each day, six days per week. The POWs would then be
turned over to the mining company for the daily work activities.
The company had not counted on the sick and emaciated condition
of the POWs. They had been in bad health in P.I. and the Hell
ship experience had produced a group of individuals unable to
walk long distances or to work at strenuous tasks. In order to
fill the daily work quota, the healthy POWs were having to carry
the weak POWs up to the mine. Once at the mine, no amount of
coercion could force the emaciated sick POWs to perform any type
of work. The Japanese changed their arrangement to permit those
unable to climb the mountain to the mine and to bring jobs down
In the Japanese mind,
everyone worked. In fact, if you could not work, your food ration
was cut to one-half rations. Light duty work was set up within
the camp compound. This work consisted of blacksmith work, nail
making work, rope making work and other work contributing to
their war efforts. The American doctors in camp were able to
control work detail somewhat by putting sick POWs on light duty.
This helped keep sick POWs in camp and kept them from going to
Mining Company supported by the Japanese Imperial Army, capitalized
on the slave/forced labor of the American POWs at their copper
mine near Hanawa, Japan. Mitsubishi and the Japanese Army
victimized, enslaved, and subjected the 500 POWs to horrifying
physical and mental torture and abuse to aid this company's effort
to help the War. The Mitsubishi Company realized enormous
profits from these POW laborers while the Japanese nation's war
effort reaped unbelievable benefits to further the Japanese war
It was obvious to
the Japanese Army and to the Mitsubishi employees as we
arrived in Hanawa that we were in no condition to work.We had
been POWs for two and a half years and were starved, malnourished,
abused, and ill, but even so they ignored our health problems.
We were subjected to perilous working conditions and strenuous
physical labor beyond belief. The guards and officials were trained
to be barbarous and savage in their day-to-day exploitation and
control of us. The egregious act against us by the Japanese included
beatings with clubs, rifles, shovels, picks and other objects.
We were struck with fists and kicked with booted feet causing
gashes, contusions and ulcers.
Even though our conditions
of malnutrition, starvation, disease, and illnesses were plainly
evident, the Japanese did nothing to remedy these. We were not
fed; our illnesses and diseases were not treated; but they continued
to work us harder and harder to increase copper mine production.
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