Hanawa Camp history
by James T. Murphy (Page 4 of 5 Pages)

Main Hanawa Page


Enduring and surviving the cold winter weather at Hanawa was our greatest challenge.

Winter came on early at Hanawa and from late October through March it was bitter cold. Snowfall was continuous with at least 20 feet falling during the winter. All 500 of us had come directly from the tropical climate of the Philippines. Many had never seen snow before. In P.I. we had little clothing and were content to wear "G" strings [fondoshi]. During our first days in Hanawa we were issued a two piece work suit made out of burlap-type material, a cap, pair of short legged pants, a cotton shirt, a small towel, two "G" strings, pair of white cotton gloves, two pairs of long, thin tube socks and a pair of canvas tennis shoes having a separated big toe compartment. We were then given a British long wool overcoat with instructions to wear it only back and forth to the mine—never to work in it! Later on we were given grass shoe covers to help traverse the deep snow banks we encountered walking from camp to the mine and back.

The barracks were constructed of thin boards and during the winter, snow would drift into our living area. There was no insulation on the walls and ceilings. We slept in double deck bays. The bays were covered with a woven straw matting. Over the matting we had a cloth mattress stuffed with straw. For covering, we had three light blankets. We had already been given a blanket as we left the Philippines. Our pillow was a block of wood 4"x 4"x 8".

Our living area had only one tiny pot-bellied type stove and in the coldest part of winter we could sometimes be furnished enough fuel for one hour of heat in the morning and one hour at night. The fuel supply was supplemented by stealing small pieces of wood or coal from the mine. That violated the rules, but we hid the contraband in our pockets and suffered beatings if it was found by our guards.

At one time an enterprising POW brought in a piece of dynamite prima cord to speed up starting the stove fire. The acrid smell, when lighted, brought out the screaming, excited guards who thought we were going to blow up the camp! We had a full camp search and after a long delay we were able to continue activities.

Everywhere we went within camp or at the mine, we had to trudge through deep snow and ice. There was even snow build up on the top board of the 12 ft. fence. It would stack up to about 18" high then topple over. The clothing was inadequate, the bedding was inadequate, and the barracks heating was practically non-existent! I never got warm—not even in the bathhouse, the entire time I was at Hanawa.

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