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

Main Hanawa Page


The Japanese government policy was to not allow the escape of a single POW and to eliminate them without a lingering trace.

At Hanawa, the final disposition of the POWs was clear. The Japanese, second-in-command, Sergeant Hoichi Takahashi who worked directly under the Japanese camp commander, Toshinori Asaka, was mean and cruel and often times dealt brutal treatment to the POWs. At other times, he attempted to be somewhat friendly. During several of his friendly moments he told me and many others that official Japanese Army orders directed that all POWs be summarily massacred at the moment that Allied Forces landed on the Japanese homeland. He said that all Japanese men, women, and children were armed and ready to defend and die for their homeland. He told us that they would be through with the POWs at that time and that we would just be in their way. He did not tell us the means in which they would massacre us but it was our belief that we would all be forced into the deepest lateral of the copper mine, the entrance sealed and that we would be buried alive there with no trace left for eternity. Sgt. Takahachi showed us, at one time, copies of the Japanese orders (in Japanese of course) that ordered our death when the Americans invade the homeland.


When the war ended, the Allied Air Forces located our camp and dropped tons of food, clothing, and medicine. Attached to this narrative is a copy of the list of items dropped.
My abbreviated diary entries explain some of the activities in our camp at Hanawa from the period of August 1945 to September 17, 1945.

August 14, 1945
Suddenly with very little warning, dramatic happiness occurred at Hanawa. We were told that we would not go to the mine to work today! August 16 & 17 were Japanese holidays, but we had never celebrated these days before. Then the Japanese issued the Red Cross food parcels which consisted of two small boxes for five men. Glad to get this food because the rations had become very skimpy.

August 17, 1945
All POWs up early as usual. Ready to go to work. Orders come—no work today! Our celebration caused the Guards to come into buildings, point guns at POWs, and threaten to shoot if we did not quiet down. Rumors all day the end of War. Attitude of Guards completely changed. Cause no trouble and even try to be friendly. Something big has happened. Japanese civilian in our camp breaks down crying and tells us that the American fleet is in Yokohama Bay.

August 18, 1945
Camp Commander goes to POW headquarters at Sendai. No work; food increase; good treatment. Boy, something is up!

August 19, 1945
Commander returns from Sendai. Visits our camp. Japanese tells us Armistice has been reached and we will be notified tomorrow.

August 20, 1945
9:15 a.m. Standing in formation, the Japanese Commander delivered speech informing us that peace has come and he placed us under our own American officers. After speech was read twice, by the interpretor, a grand ovation of applause and cheers rang out and many broke down and cried. Freedom at last! It was hard for me to believe. Was this just another good dream? The supply room was opened to us. Chow plentiful (such as it is). Found much winter Red Cross clothing and shoes in the supply room. This clothing, if issued earlier would have saved much misery as many of us worked practically barefooted and in threadbare clothing last winter.

August 24, 1945
Japanese carpenters place large signs on roof of our buildings with PW written in red paint. We are told that American planes will fly over and drop supplies.

August 25, 1945
American Navy planes flew over camp and spotted us.

August 26, 1945
Planes identified as Grummans flew low over camp.

August 27, 1945
F4U Navy fighters dropped message telling us to clear area for dropping of oparcels. Flight of 5 F4U's 5 Grumman fighters and 5 Torpedo planes dropped food, medicine, clothing and magazines by parachute. News sheets also dropped. Further instructions for us to signal planes of our needs also included.

August 28, 1945
Have panels up notifying planes that we need food and medicine. Also have white-washed letters on rooftop words—sulfadine-carozone. Cmdr Harding tossed out message saying "OK on drugs and food. If we can't help you, B-29's will soon. 1:30 p.m. B-29's appeared over camp. Dropped leaflets saying Japan has surrendered and that they would drop us supplies. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. B-29's parachuted supplies to us. Food, clothing and medicine dropped all over the countryside. NIP civilians seem highly excited and amazed. Much food smashed very badly when parcels broke away from chutes. (The containers were two 50 gallon steel drums welded together and stuffed with food. Other camps notified us that personnel had been killed by falling parcels. That morning our senior officer left with Taka Hashi Gunso for conference with neutral Red Cross representatives at Sendai.

August 29, 1945
Talked with some Japanese soldiers telling them of the atrocities suffered as POWs under the Japanese. They seem very afraid and assure us that they never harmed a POW.

August 30, 1945
Senior American Officer back saying we should stay put for now but would probably get instructions to leave within a week or so. Will be going to a northern port and then back by Manila, P.I. before going home.

August 31, 1945
B-29's dropped more food at our camp and at a nearby camp. Cannot comprehend the advance in aircraft and other weapons of war. Reading magazines and talking about modern advancements.

September 1, 1945
More food drops. Notice to move out on six hour notice.

September 2, 1945
Officers given party by local Japanese and told that the people of Hanawa want to give us a good impression of them to take back to States. Officers told them our opinions had been formed already—several months ago.

September 3, 1945
Butchered pig and steer. Good eating. 6:30 a.m. Japanese guards left so guard house is empty. Our officers formed an M.P. company to protect compound. Japanese kids throw garlic bulbs over fence to us and we throw gum and candy back to them. Japanese civilians carry on life as usual. No planes today but potatoes, onions and tomatoes brought in daily from local producers.

September 4, 1945
Our guard company issued 6 Japanese rifles and 200 rounds of ammo. B-29's made two drops about 2 p.m. Most parcels broke away from chutes and food lost or broken. Radio set brought into camp so getting news from San Francisco.

September 5, -6, 1945
No food drops. Food running short. Do we go back to eating rice? Started taking hikes around this area and swimming in stream. All men are getting restless and anxious to leave.

We on request from a Chinese Lt. In a nearby slave labor work battalion, investigate and find the camp suffering from malnutrition and other serious diseases. Collected all our old clothing, equipment and extra supplies and took loads up to the Chinese. We were greeted with bows and tears; with kisses on hands indicating great appreciation of the gifts of these bare necessities which they had done without since being conscripted in China for slave labor in Japan. When confronted the mine officials denied knowing about their condition but did promise us that they would discontinue working them, would feed them and give them medical attention.

September 7, 1945
Our Commander attempts to keep camp intact and prevent men from leaving. He insists that we must wait for orders. Mine officials issue wine and saki and some extra to drink and it looks like pay day nights in the barracks. Japanese non-coms want to be friendly. These same guys had produced a copy of an Imperial Japanese Army document to us a few months before. They explained that these were official orders from headquarters to massacre all POWs the moment that American forces landed on homeland Japanese soil! Now smething big had happened that would change the situation. Now we would survive!

September 8, 1945
Commanders afraid men will leve on their own before receiving orders. Men are counted and then recounted.

September 9, 1945
Commander lifts restrictions and allows men in 10-man groups to visit area. Made another trip to the mine and reviewed the mining operation. Treated royally by mine official and served tea. We gave some of them cigarettes, matches, gum and soap. These items were scarce to them. Again visit the Chinese camp and game them more gifts. Visit town looking for the ones who had mistreated us. Filed charges against some and they will be apprehended.

September 10, 1945
Started second year in Japan. Sorry I can't stay longer! International Red Cross message indicates we will leave within 48 hours.

September 11, 1945
Pass into Hanawa. Had picture made with 3 friends. Mine officials visit us in p.m.

September 12, 1945
Picked up pictures in Hanawa. Visited friend and prepared to depart Hanawa.

September 13, 1945
The Big Day! Will complete packing. Won't take long! Be ready to leave tonight. 9:30 a.m. Five American soldiers arrived in a Jeep to inspect our camp and to report on our work conditions. They took lots of pictures and lots of movies. These are the first free Yanks that we have seen in 3 years. Four are Air Force and we spent all morning asing questions. We left Hanawa for an overnight ride to the Port of Shiogama near Sendai. We were processed aboard the hospital ship Relief. Then we were placed on a Navy Auxiliary ship Garardo for the trip to Yokohama Harbor.

September 17, 1945
We boarded Navy LSV Monitor for trip to Manila, P.I. When we finished processing in Manila, we sailed to Seattle, WA. on the Cliff Fontaine and then HOME!!

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