Taikoku Maru carried 308 Men for 17 days, no deaths recorded en route
Lt Col A.G. Christensen affidavit
Source: Affidavit of Lt COL (Inf) Arthur
G. Christensen, II Corps, G2; RG 389, Box 2123
Transporatation of detail enroute from Cabanatuan, P.I., to Japan
a. Cabanatuan to Manila, P.I.
Movement 6 March 1944 from the camp near Cabanatuan to the railroad at the town of Cabanatuan was made by truck, a distance of about eight miles.
Movement from Cabanatuan to Manila, 6 March 1944, was made in box cars. These cars were extremely crowded and carried a load of logs in addition to the men of our detail. The stopover in Manila, 6 March to 24 March, was made at Bilibid Prison.
b. Movement from Manila to Hitachi, Japan
This trip was made on a small Japanese freighter of estimated 5,000 to 6,000 tons. [Actual 3000 tons] The only passengers carried on the ship were the prisoners and guards, and about half a dozen Japanese Navy personnel. Prisoners were housed in the upper part of number two hold, which had been left vacant for the POWs. The remainder of the ship was loaded at the time that we left the Philippines with some sort of ore, probably chromite (sic), to which was added a load of camphor logs at Formosa. The ship was armed with two guns, probably about three inch, mounted fore and aft. Extreme crowding existed. At the time we sailed it was just possible for all, by crowding, to lie down at the same time. However, after being at sea two or three days, it became stormy and rainy and water leaked through the cover of the hatch, under which were quartered about one quarter of the men. It was necessary for these men to move into the surrounding area and during the remainder of the trip it was not possible for all to lie down at once, necessitating sleeping in a sitting position, or in shifts. A few days out of the Philippines it became very cold. This coupled with the wetness of the hold, and the lack of adequate amounts of warm clothing and blankets, resulted in practically all members of the detail having colds, many having flu, and one case of pneumonia. Latrine facilities existed on the deck, consisting of a small shed built out over the side of the ship. Prisoners were allowed use of the latrines practically without restriction both day and night. Washing facilities were practically non-existent due to the shortage of water on the ship. Sufficient water was furnished, though, for the washing of mess equipment.
Food was comparatively good. Cooking was done on the after well deck by prisoner cooks under the supervision of a prisoner mess officer and without too great interference by the Japanese. Cooking facilities consisted of expedient stoves made by cutting 55 gallon drums in half transversely and using them as fire boxes. Upon these were placed large cauldrons in which the cooking was done. These proved adequate as long as the sea was calm and the weather good, but when bad weather was encountered, it was next to impossible to cook on them. Wood was used for fuel.
Guards, commanded by Warrant Officer Sakashita, with Sergeant (Gunso) Ooga as second in command and interpreter, treated the prisoners well.
We sailed from Manila 24 March 1944, arrived in Takao, Formosa, 27 March, remained on the ship in the harbor until 3 April, and arrived in Osaka 9 April. We debarked at Osaka 10 April and boarded the train from Hitachi, arriving there 11 April 1944, after a trip of about eighteen hours. Rail travel was in coaches which were crowded. Food en route during the train trip was good and furnished in individual "bento boxes.
/S/ Arthur G. Christensen, O-20871
Lieut. Colonel, Infantry
1354 12 St. N.
Fargo, N. Dak
(*) Taikoku Maru was sunk, 17 May 1944 by US Submarine Sand Lance, SS381 at 14'58"N-144'49"E.