Dr. Van Peenan Affidavit extracts
RG 389 Box 2130 (War Crime Trials)
NARA RG 389 Box 2130
[2800+ words; reading time approximately 7 minutes]
Copies in both Zentsuji and Roku Roshi folders
Extracts from letter of H.J. Van Peenan, Lt. Cmdr, (MC) USN [Hubertus John Van Peenan]
(Casa Latino-Americana, Depto 401, Paseo de la Reforma, 77, Mexico D.F.)
To: Capt. H.L. Pence, USN (Ret'd), American Red Cross, Washington DC, in regard to experiences in ZENTSUJI POW Camp and ROKU ROSHI Camp.
(Date of letter is 16 December 1945)
I am glad to submit what information I can remember for your reference. In the beginning I must state that all data is drawn from memory, which, of course, I realize may be somewhat unreliable. For some time I attempted to keep partial records, but lack of paper and storage facilities made even this a rather poor job. And during preparations for leaving Zentsuji in June of this year, I lost even what memoranda I had. Therefore if information does not agree in all respects with that of Captain Keene or other sources it is probably due to my faulty memory.
Historically my period as a prisoner of war was divided into three phases. Phase one was short- one month. This was the time spent in Guam until the transfer to Japan.
Phase two extended three and one-half years,, and commenced upon arrival in Nippon on 15 January 1942 and terminated 23 June 1945, when I was transferred to ROKU ROSHI in FUKUI province, Japan.
The third phase was at the latter camp, and extended until liberation on September 10, 1945. During phase one (Guam) no Red Cross supplies were received, of course, and during phase three only two chests of medical supplies were received. Hence the data submitted is essentially that for the 3-1/2 years at ZENTSUJI, Shikoku, Japan.
ZENTSUJI Shikoku, Japan
Zentsuji in 1943 became headquarters camp [Hiroshima POW Command] for a series of work camps, the exact number of which I do not know but I believe were two or three at first and by 1945 increased to about twelve. Apparently all of the Red Cross supplies for our district were sent first to our headquarters camps (sic), and further allocations and distribution to it and to the sub-camps were made from there. That these allocations were not made on a pro rata basis, and were rather erratic and unpredictable, you may have already heard from other sources.
Shipments were received at headquarters in November 1942, November 1943 and November 1944. In the case of the first shipment, the prisoners, had practically no voice in the distribution; in the case of the second shipment, a little voice; and in the case of the third shipment, the senior officers of the various nationalities were consulted in the distribution of food stuffs and clothing. Red Cross medical stores throughout were considered in a different category than relief supplies by the Japanese.
As intimated above, the distribution throughout to prisoners was handled by the Japanese prison officials. Requests by the prisoner officers that all Red Cross supplies be turned over to the prisoners for individual distribution were consistently refused, one explanation offered being that the Japanese undertook transportation of the supplies, therefore must distribute them. Also it did not appear to me that distribution to all camps in the district was equal, but in our camp at Zentsuji equal distribution was made of all foodstuffs. Clothing and comfort items were distributed to those needing those items the most, and, where there was sufficient, to a 1 [each] equally. The Japanese explained during the 1944-1945 season that our camp, Zentsuji, being composed largely of officers, was given a larger share of foodstuffs, because the physical condition of officer prisoners was poorer than that of men in the work camps, due to a smaller food ration to officer prisoners.
In November 1942 we received our first food packages. They were distributed, according to my memory, as follows:
1. About Thanksgiving; 2. Christmas; 3. February 1943; 4. April 1944; 5. June 1944. These were issued one box per man, with the meat, fish and raisins removed. These latter items were later cooked with the Japanese issued food and were served during the next few months. 6. In August 1943, there was a partial issue, due to insufficiency of boxes.
The second shipment arrived in November 1943, and my memory is rather vague here, but I feel we received approximately five boxes per man, scattered throughout the year.
The third, and life saving shipment, was received in November 1944, and we received one box in November, three in December, 2 in January 1945, two in February 1945, 2 in March, one in April and one in June. During the last two years, the boxes were distributed intact.
In 1942 we received a small shipment of sugar, flour and dehydrated potatoes which were cooked with soup and served with meals during about a five month period. In 1943 more of the same was received, also a limited amount of corned beef and cocoa. This was handled in the same way. No bulk food was received in 1944.
Shoes were received each year. Issue was made from time to time so that each prisoner had one pair of serviceable shoes at all times. There was but little discomfort in this situation although one might have to wear worn-out shoes for a few weeks while waiting for a new issue. Shoe repair equipment was issued to the prisoner cobbler, and half-soles and heels were available in limited amounts throughout. Coupled with what scrap leather the Japs furnished, reasonably adequate shoe repair was maintained.
Captain Keene's information is probably better here than mine. Each year clothing was received. After consulting with the senior prisoner officers, the Japanese issued this clothing to the prisoners in the order of their needs. While there was never sufficient to go around, all prisoners either received Japanese issue or Red Cross clothing to the extent, in our camp, that during the winter season all prisoners had at least an overcoat, a suit of woolen clothing, and either winter underwear or pajamas (no one had more than one suit of each of these Red Cross supply, but did have an issued suit of Japanese underwear as an alternate when the former was dirty).
Eventually, nearly all the prisoners had a Red Cross sweater (these were rare the first two years), at least two pairs of socks, gloves were available for about one-third of the personnel, caps were given to about half, the other having some sort of headgear. O.D. woolen shirts were given to about one-half, the Japanese issuing shirts to the remainder. Blankets were given to about one-half of the prisoners. The Japanese furnished five thin blankets to each prisoner during the first three years and four during the last year. There were no Red Cross sheets or pillow cases.
Summer Red Cross clothing was very scarce, with not more than a fifth of the prisoners receiving same. The winters, of course, were cold and, after the first year, no artificial heat was furnished. The Red Cross clothing supplemented that brought by the prisoners and that issued by the Japanese so that each prisoner had a reasonably adequate supply of clothing during this period. Shortages of socks and gloves were probably the most acute items. Although we were comfortable we must conclude, since our death rate was low, that we had adequate clothing.
SPECTACLES AND TRUSSES
These items were never received from the Red Cross.
Books were received from the Red Cross and the International YMCA. These were reasonably (and) promptly censored and issued to the prisoner librarians. They constituted one of the finest and most satisfactory items received. Playing cards, chess and checker sets were likewise expeditiously distributed and they contributed to our comfort. Athletic gear such as volley balls, baseball equipment, etc., were received in the camp, but were not satisfactorily handled. For a long time the Japanese did not issue these items; they greatly restricted their use as to hours and space available.
In as much as these items were also used by the Japanese during the most desirable times of the day there was considerable dissatisfaction in this regard. Musical instrumentals also contributed a point of dissatisfaction for the same reason. Phonographs, records, banjos, mandolins, violins and mouth organs [harmonicas] were received, but their use was so greatly restricted during the first two years that the amount of pleasure and relaxation obtained was minimal at first. Latterly the use of these instruments was greatly liberalized, and much good came from them during our last year at Zentsuji.
Theatrical equipment was received in the camp, but was never released until the end of the Zentsuji camp in June 1945, and no benefit whatsoever was derived therefrom.
CCC (sic) comfort kits were issued to each prisoner in December 1942. From time to time there was a bulk issue of tobacco, cigarettes, tooth brushes, tooth paste, shoe laces, shoe polishes and a sewing kit. Razor blades were issued one each month.
The above information has probably been given by Captain Keene, and this merely substantiates same. The Japanese considered medical stores and vitamins in a separate category. The several items listed above were under the control of Lt. Nakajima of the Japanese Army, and while he occasioned long delays in distribution sometimes, the supplies were eventually distributed as above. An instant of great dissatisfaction among the prisoners was the delay of issue of winter clothing in 1943, which was held until the winter was nearly over before issue. Irritating delays were the greatest criticisms offered in the handling of these supplies.
MEDICAL STORES AND VITAMINS
[These] were distributed under the direction of Lt. SAITO, Japanese Army doctor. Capt. W.T. Lineberry (MC) USN was the senior prisoner medical officer present, and he signed for the receiving in the camp throughout the 3-1/2 years under the supervision and restrictions of the Japanese medical officer. The Red Cross supplies were largely expended by me as allowed by Dr. Saito. He explained that according to Japanese Army regulations he could not turn these medical supplies over to me to use as I saw fit in accordance with my requests to him; but that I should be allowed to use them under his supervision. In other words, each dose of the medicine required his approval before issue. You can readily understand the awkwardness of the situation. However in practice it worked out fairly well. Also because of the uncertainty of any future supplies, we as well as he realized that we must be economical in the use of the medical supplies, and we practiced great economy throughout
Because if the widespread avitaminosis I repeatedly requested that vitamins be turned over for distribution to each prisoner regardless of the presence or absence of clinical syndromes, in order to treat and/or prevent vitamin deficiencies. This was consistently refused, largely because if the uncertainty of future supplies. However I was given rather large free use of the vitamins for the treatment of prisoners having manifestations of avitaminosis and we dispensed a large amount of the preparations each year, with good results.
We had one severe diabetic in the camp. Dr. Saito agreed to call in all of the insulin from the boxes sent to the sub-camps for this patient, and he was as adequately treated as circumstances permitted from 1943 onwards when this insulin became available. I consider that his life was saved by this Red Cross item.
MAGNESIUM SULPHATE AND CASTOR OIL
These items were not obtainable from the Japanese on the local market, and because of the prevalence of gastrointestinal diseases that amounts in the Red Cross medical supply chest were not adequate, but the available supply contributed largely to the health of the camp. We could have used several times the amount available.
The other drugs sent were adequate for our needs, and, except for difficulties in issue by the Japanese, were very satisfactory indeed.
We retained the small kit of surgical instruments sent to our district and did urgent surgery in the camp. There were 20 to 25 major surgical operations, largely appendectomies and hernia repairs, with the reduction of a volvulus in this series. The instruments provided, plus a few I had carried in my pocket, were used for this life saving surgery.
Spinal novocaine was used for surgery throughout and was issued to us when surgical emergencies were present. The Japanese doctor, however, repeatedly refused to issue novocaine for many dental operations or for minor surgery. His excuse was that the Japanese didn't have this available. The Red Cross sent enough novocaine for these purposes and the refusal to issue it caused considerable discomfort and dissatisfaction.
No material for filling was received from the Red Cross. Its need was great.
As far as I can be sure, due to piecemeal issue of each item, I believe that we used in this camp as follows:
3 cases of general medicines, 3 or 4 cases of vitamins, 1 case of plasma and intravenous solutions and one case of surgical dressings during our 3-1/2 years' stay at Zentsuji. We could have used more than twice this amount if we could have anticipated a continuing supply. When the camp was disbanded in June 1945 and headquarters were transferred to Hiroshima, there were over 20 unopened cases of medical supplies sent to that place. Our own transfer was to another camp (Roko Roshi), in another district, and when we requested some stores to take with us, I was told that the supplies were for the Hiroshima district only and that we would be furnished new supplies from the Osaka district.
Actually, at ROKU ROSHI, during the first six weeks of our stay there, there were available only a few Red Cross items. [These were] obviously obtained by removing from stores from each of the Red Cross chests, and we were extremely short of all medical supplies. In July however, we received one of each of the two standard medical chests (not the surgical dressing chest) and after a short time these medicines were completely turned over to us. From that time on we had sufficient medical stores until the end of the war.
The health of the Zentsuji camp was remarkably good. During our 3-1/2 year stay there our complement averaged about 500. During the last 15 months or so we had 760 present, of whom 640 were officers of various nationalities and services. We received prisoners from various parts of the Asiatic theater, including 150 US Army officer from the Philippines in January 1943. These were in very poor physical condition indeed.
Our total dead from 15 January 1942 until liberation on 10 September 1945 (this includes both ZENTSUJI and ROKU ROSHI) was ten, therefore indicating a low death rate. Morbidity was quite high: diarrhea, dysentery, common colds, malnutrition, frost bite, multiple avitaminosis and protein deficiencies predominating. I feel that the Red Cross medical supplies, food, and clothing received is remarkable for saving the lives of at least 25% of our personnel.
As to the diversion of the Red Cross medical supplies which were allocated to us [and] away from the prisoners, I must state that while I knew this to occur, I estimate that such diversion was very small and insignificant, not aggregating more than ten (10%) or at most fifteen (15%) percent of all supplies. I know, for instance, that some vitamins were taken by various Japanese officers and men. Also that such items as aspirin, surgical dressings and sulfa drugs were used by them, but I believe the total small in comparison with that used by us. Similarly, food packages were occasionally purloined, but here again I would think the amount reasonably small. In general I feel that in our camp we were most fortunate in receiving a generous share of Red Cross supplies sent to our district, that where possible, the senior officers among the prisoners saw to as equitable a distribution as possible. And that while the use of the Red Cross medical stores was not ideal, yet the most good was secured from the available stores as was practicable in the circumstances.