Gibbs Report
Also called Matsushima Tok-02D

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By John M. Gibbs, 31 July 1946


Matsushima Prisoner of War Camp was located in Central Island and was situated on the eastern banks of the TENRYU river in latitude 35.55.99 North and longitude 137.39.00 East.
On 12 August 1944, the following prisoners were confined in this camp: 93 Americans, captured in the Philippines, 116 British, captured in Singapore & Java. The senior American officer was Boatswain Ernest W. Downey, US Navy. The senior British officer was Lt. Rhys of the Royal Air Force (RAF).
On 15 Oct 1944, Captain Weinstein of the US Army Medical Corps arrived in the camp. He became the senior American officer, making a total of 94 Americans confined.
On 2 March 1945, Lt. George Estabrook Brown, US Navy & Lt. Van Wormer, USAAF arrived in camp along with one British officer making a total in the camp of 96 Americans and 117 British.
On 27 June 1945, a group of 100 British officers arrived in camp. Captain Gordon, Royal Navy & former captain of the HMS Exeter (sunk by the Japanese) was the senior British officer of this detail.
Five deaths occurred during internment which are listed elsewhere in this report.

The camp was commanded by a Japanese Army Lt. [Kubo- replaced Capt. Sukeo Nakajima (hanged)] Whose name is not known. He was assisted by 8 to 12 guards and among them were the following:
[Sadaharu Hiramatsu]
Big Glass Eye
[Tatsuo Tsuchiya]
Little Glass Eye KENMORE or KENMUTA
[Tamotsu Kimura]
The Punk
NISHINO One Arm MATSUZAKI (hanged) Scar Face -beat a POW to death
ORI or AURI Sergeant WATANABE Sergeant or Big Bird (Escaped- never captured)

These nicknames were given the guards by the prisoners for reasons of identification. The Japanese camp commandant was seldom in the camp, therefore, the sergeant had charge of the prisoners most of the time.
Among the guard staff were 3 Japanese civilians who were interested in the procurement of food for the camp, supposedly they were hired by the Construction Co. For that purpose.
The prisoners were sent out to work on details for the Japanese civilian contractors and among these individuals were the following: KAMIJO, IGARASHI, TAKSHIMA, OIWA, IWATIA & NIPOTS.


(a) HOUSING FACILITIES: This camp, first opened in Nov 1942, was occupied by Americans from the Philippines, Eurasians from Singapore & British Army personnel from Singapore & Java. It consisted of 13 structures and was surrounded by a 10 foot wooden fence with nails protruding from the top boards. There were three (3) gates to this compound but only two were used from 12 Aug 1944 until 4 Spt 1945. The main gate was on the southern part of the compound and was guarded at all times by 2 or 3 guards.
The living barracks were approximately 18' x 75' and housed 120 prisoners. These barracks were built of 1/4 inch wood and covered with shingles or tree bark. The interior was divided into 3 sections with an upper & lower tier for sleeping purposes. Each individual was allowed and area of 30 x 73 inches for his living quarters and stowage of clothing.
The floor was dirt & sand. During the rains it would be flooded and as no proper drainage was provided, water, in depth from 2 to 3 inches stood on the floor during the rainy seasons.
During the winter, ice would form under the mats in the sleeping area. The prisoners would wash this area down on their day off & rid the quarters of the fleas & ice would form before it could be properly dried. This condition existed throughout the winter of 1944.
For heating these barracks, a 3' x 3' fire pit was placed in the center of each section and a very small amount of wood was allowed between the hours of 1700 (5:00 P.M.) And 2000 (8:00 P.M.). The wood supplied on an average day was 10 sticks about 4 inches in diameter and 2 feet long.
There were no flues to carry the smoke away from the fire pits and as the barracks were inadequately ventilated the smoke would become so dense that the eyelids of the prisoners would swell to such an extant that vision would be cut off.. Many days the wood was not furnished when the thermometer registered as low as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The guards would attempt to justify this action upon the claim that rules had been broken by some individual.
A small amount of disinfectant was allowed but not in sufficient quantities to rid the camp of the flies, fleas & bugs. The prisoners would have "fly campaigns" in which they would spend their rest hours killing flies and vermin to ease the terrible condition. Fleas were uncontrollable & rats were a continuous source of worry.
A small washstand was erected in the center of the camp which had 12 spigots. This stand was for washing clothes & dishes. No hot water was supplied for this purpose.
Weater was pumped into camp from a well along the edge of the TENRYU river. This water wasnot fir for human consumption unless bailed and there was a small boiler provided which held about 15 gallons. All the drainage from the town of Matsushima entered the river just a few feet from the well. This well was approximately 30' deep. Water was not at all times available and had to be carried by buckets from the river in sever cold weather when the lines and pump would freeze up.
(b) LATRINES: There were 2 latrines in a separate wooden building large enough to accommodate 30 me at a time. They were of the same variety used throughout Japan, "straddle trench".
There were no drainage facilities, consequently they had to be hand dipped out and the accumulation was distributed to the camp garden and the country side for fertilizer. The latrine openings were not covered consequently flies abounded and maggots crawled around the building and into the living quarters.
(C) BATHING: On bath tub was provided. It was a box affair about 6 x 6 x 4 and was filled on the average of once each 10 days for the prisoners' bath. The water was heated by piping running along one end and fired by a small fire place. Cold showers could be had by those risking pneumonia due to their weakened condition.
(d) MESS HALL: There was no mess hall but each barracks was provided with 3 tables. To eat the food, the men either sat on their bunks or the dirt floor.
(e) FOOD: The general run of food was a mixture of barley & rice in a proportion of 8 to 2 respectively. The issue would seldom be other than grain but occasionally vegetables and beans were provided.
Meat and fish were seldom provided but the prisoners would occasionally get the stomach and bones of the cattle butchered in the area. The meat & fish would normally be (in American minds) unfit for consumption but it would be boiled sufficiently to make it palatable.
The food was issued each 3 days and was weighed and cooked by the American personnel. The average issue was from 400 to 500 grams per day per man.
(f) MEDICAL FACILITIES: There were no Japanese medical officers attached to the camp but a British doctor (Richard G.S. Whitfield, Royal Navy) attended the sick until 15 Oct 1944 when an American doctor (Captain Weinstein, Medical Corps, US Army - ex Shinagawa) arrived in the camp and assumed the medical officer duties. Two corpsman of the British army assisted the doctors. There was little medicine provided and the doctors gave the most severe cases special consideration using the scant supplies furnished. Surgical cases were taken to the company hospital. A Japanese doctor visited camp one time during 1945.
(1) Red Cross:
There was an ample supply of Red Cross clothing in this camp for everyone but it was never issued in quantity, consequently the men were compelled to work in straw shoes of go barefoot. The sick were employed in making of these straw shoes as well. A civilian was employed in instructing the prisoners in their manufacture, supervised by a military guard.
The Red Cross items were received by each individual between Aug 1944 and 4 Sep 1945.
Dates of issue: 25 Dec 1944; 15 Jan 45; 15 Feb 45; 15 Mar 45; 5 Apr 45; 19 Apr 45; 15 May 45; 14 Jun 45; 15 Jul 45.
Chart not added
(2) Japanese issue: There were no other supplies in the food line received but there were a few items of athletic gear supplied by the YMCA & also a few books from the same source.
The Japanese supplied scrap cloth for repairing clothing. In August work clothing consisted of 1 suit of work clothes and 1 pair of rubber soled shoes were issued to new arrivals. This clothing had previously been used by Chinese & Eurasian prisoners who had been transferred.
(h) MAIL:
(1) Incoming:
- was received sporadically, probably an average of once in 4 months.
(2) Outgoing: Communication cards were allowed to be written on: 5 Jan 1945, 5 Mar 1945, 5 Apr 1945, 5 May 1945, 15 Jun 1945 and 15 Jul 1945. The majority of these cards were received by the addressee after the surrender having been forwarded by the American occupation forces.
Mail would be received by the prisoners in camp & would be held by the interpreter, one Japanese names MACHETA. This individual would notify the prisoners that they had received mail, It was distributed at his discretion.
(i) WORK: Many men were required to work regardless of health as each contractor requested a number of men daily. If a man became too ill or weak to perform his work he was given the job of "tea boiler" and made tea on the job for the workers. The civilians, as a whole, were very considerate and at times let the men rest at the rick of their necks.
The military guards in this camp were very rough on the prisoners. They invariably made their own rules at every change of the guard & would go out and look for someone to beat for infractions of rules that never existed officially.
(j) TREATMENT: At this camp was rather severe. He continuous "heckling" by the guards caused unimaginable hardships on the prisoners. They would, for no reason known to the prisoner, call him out of the barrack and beat him severely for being uncovered while asleep or for smoking while not sitting near a tin can or some other excuse. Each change of the guard brought new rules & excuses to beat. Many times men were taken out of their barracks in the middle of a cold winter night & forced to stand at attention in front of the guards for no apparent reason than to amuse them. The general description of the treatment could be boiled down to 2words "very severe". Justice was a forgotten word at Matsushima.
(k) PAY: (1) Officers: Pay for officers was 50 yen per month. (2) Enlisted men: Pay for Non-Coms was 15 sen per day, for privates 10 sen per day & for warrant officers 25 sen.
(m) RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES: Church services were occasionally allowed by the Chaplains attached to the camp but no area was allotted for that purpose. A memorial service was held on 28 Nov 1944 in memory of the Americans who had died at this camp It was also a service for the opening of the camp. A Jap Christian Minister performed the ceremony and was followed by a British Medical Officer (Dr. Whitfield).
(n) MORALE: - was very high throughout the years 1944 & 1945. This can be attributed to the fact that the prisoners were able to steal & purchase newspapers & keep up on the advances of the American forces.

5. FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT: A hand drawn fire wagon was available and was kept in camp near the Japanese headquarters. A fire drill was allowed on the average of once every 2 months; Buckets & water boxes were provided.

6. AIR RAID SHELTERS: An air raid shelter was built in 1945 to accommodate about 200 men. The Japanese compelled the prisoners to build it near the Jap headquarters. Also there was a spud cellar for that purpose. They were flimsily constructed jobs with only a few branches of trees thrown over a 8' hole and dirt thrown on top of the branches. They would have been perfect graves in the event of a bombing near that area.

7. DEATHS: The following deaths occurred in 1944 and 1945: (Partial Only)

Date Name Rank Service
43.03.03 Teas, Robert Gordon PFC, USAAC, 19 BG (H) 93 BS, [beaten to death]
44.12.27 Wilson, Harold Pte Royal Army
44.12.27 Westwood, Bernard Pte Royal Army
45.3.17 Williams, Benjamin S. PFC USMC
45.3.22 Newstead, H. Pte Royal Army
45.4.12 Skubinna, Norman Johnny PFC US Army
45.7.19 Mitchell, A.E. Capt Royal Army
45.7.26 Atkins, Leslie M. Jr. Pvt USMC

8. MOVEMENTS: On 4 Sep 1945, after disarming the camp guards, the officers and men fell in and marched out of the camp along with the Japanese camp commander and proceeded to the railroad station, arriving there 1120 and the train departed 1204. They traveled through small villages while proceeding to the seacoast, arriving at TOYAHASHI at ARAIMACHI at 1630 (4:30 p.m.) and reported to the Americans there.
The Matsushima Prisoner of War camp was cleared of all Allied prisoners at exactly 1112 on 4 September 1945 and "taps" was blown by a bugler with a bugle that had been used by the United States troops in the Philippines.

This report was made by Lt. Downey, US Navy, in May 1946 while on detail from New Orleans to the American Prisoner of War Information Bureau. Lt. Downey was a prisoner in this camp.