. . . . . Naoetsu 4-B
Some records say the camp was opened in November 1942 with 300 Australian POWs arriving in December. The winter of 43-44 about 60 Australian POWs died. In 1944 conditions in the camp were improved. In June 1945 about 400 US, British, and Dutch POWs arrived. The debriefs below give arrival dates of early February 45, 2 March 45, 15 May 45, and 18 June 45.
. The senior officer of the American POWs at Naoetsu, John A. Fitzgerald, USN, commander of the submarine USS Grenadier, lists 698 POWs on VJ Day. That included 348 Americans, 231 Australians, 83 British, 187 civilians (US), 38 Dutch, and 1 from New Zealand. Other POW debriefs offer similar numbers. These numbers come from debriefing forms in NARA files.
Those debriefs offer the following information about conditions at Naoetsu:
Japanese Camp officials: 1st Lt Ishigawa camp commander, Sgt Watanabe (the Bird) senior NCO, Sgt Aoki, Sgt Kobiaslu (sp?), interpreter Pvt Kono, Homma civilian mess supervisor. The interpreter was called very cruel and brutal. Watanabe, Aoki, and Kono called "plain, downright inhuman fiends. The worst specimens of mad-men I have ever seen in my life." by the senior American NCO William B Ganci, CPO USN from Canaan, Connecticut. Major David M. Kirk said this, "Sgt Watanabe was the evil genius of this camp...He would have spells when the slightest infraction, imaginary and real, would draw drastic punishment." The interpreter Kono would use "clubs, shovels and the like rather than his fists."..."All this with the smiling consent of Lt. Ishikawa." Watanabe had been at Omori and came to Naoetsu in March 1945 with the POWs transferred there. One of Watanabe's rules was that any POW with dirty shoes had to lick them clean.
Location: On the west coast of the main island of Honshu, northwest of Tokyo, due north of Nagano, about 75 miles south of Niigata. The camp was located on the mouth of a river on the SE shore of the bay.
Medical care: Japanese sergeant Aoki was in charge of medical care. POW comments about medical care: "(1)Aoki knew nothing about medicine. Nicknamed Gila Monster. (2)Arrogant and very free with blows and punishment. A man had to be almost dead to be excused from work. (3)No medical attention unless you couldn't walk. Our doctors asked for medicine, they would get beaten. Also men with beri beri and other diseases that could hardly walk were beaten (by Sgt Aoki) for asking for a rest pass.(4)The POW population included an American and Australian doctor, American dentist, and about four corpsmen. They were allowed to do almost nothing."
Food: prepared in a galley by POWs under Japanese supervision, carried to barracks in buckets and served there in the individual sections, no tables. POW comments about food: "(1) about 600 grams per day of barley and beans (sometimes). Quantity and quality inadequate. (2)Varied from 500 to 700 grams dry rice daily. A little less than a pint of watery stew with each meal, sometimes dry fish or seaweed substitute. The rice was a mixture of barley and kori usually. Stew could be anything from a few greens to a fair portion of dog or beans or bean curd. (3) One loaf of barley flour bread, no yeast, about 8 oz boiled barley and millet, no seasoning, about two ordinary size soup bowls per day. Boiled kelp and soybean soup. Boiled without seasoning. Lousy, rotten, and tasteless as far as the bread and barley go, but the soup was like sucking your own nose. (4) 300 grams rice, millet, barley mixed/man/day. Small amts. meat (dog, horse, etc) occasionally. Some vegetables mostly daigon or large woody radishes. Bread one meal but flour and water only. Generally all things boiled of necessity but occasionally (1 or 2 a month) fried. Quality was usually poor. Wormy and rotten much of the time." (5) "...we were served an awful red grain-Korean millet, I think-along with dried ferns and seaweed...The seaweed was pulled straight from the ocean and boiled, turning the water into a goop the consistency of snot."
Barracks: One two story wooden building (apparently more barracks were being built at the end of the war) about 40 feet high with apex roof. Approximately 120 feet long by 60 feet wide. Few windows, windows heavily barred. Roof tin or tile, sides covered in tin. POW comments about the barracks: " (1) Just like Granddad's barn. Heavily timbered. (2) concrete 1st floor, tin sides and roof, wooden 2nd floor, few windows and small, beam supports. No double walls, board partitions, each section aisle in middle and double-decked on sides. (3) rough hewn boards for partitions. (4) stalls with small platforms for sleeping. (5) 2 stories of cubicles on each side of aisles upper and lower platforms." Apparently each of the two stories had upper and lower platforms for sleeping.
Latrines: best description from Charles P. Samson, Major USA, from Corvallis, Oregon. (rank may be rank after the war). "Latrines adjacent living quarters, concrete pits at back of barracks. Concrete floor, urinal trough one side, concrete pits other side wooden covered" (typical Japanese straddle type). "Emptied by syphon to river and solid matter hauled out in carts." Heavy rains caused the pits to overflow onto the latrine floor.
Size of compound: about 2-300 feet by 3-400 feet, also described as about 3 acres. Surrounded by wooden fence about 10 feet high topped by barbed wire.
Bathing: was in the river or at the factories where the POWs worked. In the camp there were only spigots to draw water into buckets for bathing. Most bathing was done at the factories in cement tubs. At the steel mill these tubs were 12 ft long by 4 ft wide. Those POWs who worked in the camp and not at the factories were allowed to bathe at the factories every 10 days.
Work: officers did administrative work, worked in gardens, odd jobs, on occasion unloaded coal from ship as punishment. Enlisted worked in factories in Naoetsu - steel mill, carbide factory, unloaded ships, barges, trains (usually coal being shipped to factories) POW comments about work: " (1) the worst imaginable conditions, much beating-exceptionally harsh treatment-very hard strenuous work-day and night shifts. (2) conditions were very poor, hard work in rain or snow. Two 12 hour shifts night and day. Very old equipment. (3) dangerous and difficult. Heavy and hot work when undernourished and sick." Some describe 9-10 hour work shift, some 12 hours. POWs worked 7 days a week. Every 5th day they had to change shifts, so one shift worked through two shifts to make that change occur. There was one mention of 2 days off work each month. POWs worked for the Shinetsu Chemical Plant, Nisso Steel Industry, Joetsu Transport Company, and the Naoetsu Bay Transport Company. A POW described unloading coal from ships..."The job was not only dirty but dangerous...when swells came in, the ships rose and fell on the break. We'd approach on heavy barges and have to jump onto rope netting to climb aboard the ship." Next the coal was carried on their backs in wicker baskets up a hill to waiting train cars. The baskets would weigh as much as 100 pounds and they would have to walk on a short wooden plank. People would fall and the drop was about five feet.
Mail: POW comments: "(1) a few, by lot, allowed to write about once a month, mail received once or twice per month. (2) No mail was sent but could be received if the interpreter felt like distributing it. (3) Usually none sent. Small amounts of mail came in but much was not distributed to the men. Some few cards and radiograms sent. (4) I didn't receive any mail while there. I was allowed to write 1 postal card. (5) Very capricious. I sent one, maybe two messages from Naoetsu. One was broadcast and delivered via a recording from a monitor station in USA. Sgt. Watanabe distributed incoming mail to individuals according to his whim. Balance delivered after VJ day. (6) Varied. Later stages could write letter a month. However, it was a farce, since little of it actually was sent."
Treatment: POW comments: "(1) Sadistic, varying with prisoners and guard. (2) We were all beaten on slightest provocation, got little food. (3) Beatings occured every day of individuals and groups. (4) Underfed, continually hazed, physically beaten, occasionally fair but very seldom. (5) Very bad, even worse than in Osaka, which was bad enough. (6) Deplorable, beatings frequent and in general maltreatment. (7) Treated very brutally. Were beat and humiliated on inspection night and morning by Japs. (8) The worst of any camp I had been in. (8) Of all the camps I was in, this was the worst in every respect. Bilibid, Pasay School, Clark Field, and Omori.
Clothing: the senior American officer offered this comment - "scanty and seldom, on VJ day much clothing received but too late." Another officer stated "No regular issue. Driblets came in but less than 10% of men had sufficient."
Religious Facilities: None
These are the known names of Americans at Naoetsu. With just over 50 names this roster is far from complete.
North China Marines: William Brigham, Kenneth R Clark, William J Dees, Bernard J Fitzgerald, Joseph J Frehr, Jack C Hornsby, Robert A Lareau, Ernest T Larson, Emit F Logan, Miguel Serra, Eric Stromstad, John W Whipple, John C Wrathall
Wake Marines: S L Baker, James Bastien, Fred Beese, Joseph Bentley, Edward Bogdonovich, Joseph Borne, William Buckie, John Dale, James S Kroptavich, Ken Marvin, Fenton Quinn, Leroy Schneider, Robert Shores, Jack Skaggs, Jack R Williamson, Robert Winslow
US Navy or Army: John A Fitzgerald, commander of USS Grenadier, senior American POW, William B Ganci CPO USN senior American NCO, J R George doctor USN, Hawkins USA, Clifford E Hotchkiss USA, David M Kirk USA, S A Nyarady USN (spelling?), J D Robinson USN, Charles P Samson USA, Frank A Tinker USA, A J Toulon USN from USS Segundo, Louis Zamperini Capt USA
Civilian (probably from Wake) or military status unknown: George Acorda, E J Bone, Carlos J Castiglione, Robert Crawford, L High, Frank Hole, Frank H Lamkin, Ralph Patton, Forrest Reed, Norman J Swanson, James J Sweiberg, J O Young
Ken Clark recalls leaving Kiangwan in August of 1943. He was sent to the Osaka area camp Tsumori 13. In late spring of 1945 Osaka was bombed out and he was moved to Naoetsu to work in a carbide mill. They worked 12 hour shifts. Periodically they would be changed from the day shift to the night shift. To accomplish this they would simply have to work straight through for 24 hours before being sent back to the barracks. Then they were on the other shift schedule. He remembers mostly US POWs with maybe a few English, about 250 men total. His memory of the food drops after the war ended was drums of peas breaking and covering everything in green. Messages had been heard over the radio for POWs to wait at their camps until US forces got to them. Ken says this lasted a while but then the US ranking officer, apparently the captain of the submarine Grenadier, said let's go. The men walked out of the camp to the train station and found a train which was going to Tokyo. The Navy captain said to throw everybody off the train except the driver and the guy at the back. The driver was told he would be shot if he stopped before he got to Tokyo.On arrival in Tokyo they found a Red Cross area. The first white woman Ken had seen in almost 4 years asked him if he would like a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Of course he said yes. Then she said, "That will be one dollar."When first captured Ken weighed 223 pounds. In September of 1945 he weighed 97 pounds. From Tokyo he was sent by ship to Wake, then Honolulu. From there he was flown to San Francisco. Bernard Fitzgerald remembers a train ride to Yokohama (Tokyo? they are really the same area). From there by ship to Guam. A distinct memory is coming in to San Francisco. They had thought they would never see the states again so were looking forward to sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge. The captain announced they might have to lay to, there was too much fog. A few minutes later they broke in to bright sunlight-just ahead was the Golden Gate Bridge.
At Naoetsu Emit Logan worked in a carbide factory. He described an example of the Japanese using group punishment on the POWs. A guard by the name of Watanabe, called "the Bird" by the POWs, ordered a section of the POWs to memorize the 40 or so words of Japanese necessary to report to the guards. The next morning only a few could do this so Watanabe struck each man five or six times on the side of the head with his empty sword scabbard.
Wake civilian John O. Young says he was sent to Naoetsu on 15 May from Osaka, traveling by train. There they found English and Australian POWs living in several two story barracks. On 25 August Navy planes buzzed the camp, droppping sea bags filled with food, cigarettes, and magazines. On 28 August B-29s dropped food, causing several injuries in the process. The first group of POWs were sent out on 5 Sep 45, the rest on 6 September, moving by train to Yokohoma.
The sketch above comes from A Bridge Across the Pacific Ocean (written in Japanese). The sketch was done from memory at the end of the war. The bridge is the Kojo Bridge, crossing over the Hokura River. The bridge labelled Kojo Bridge should say Furushiro Bridge. The large building at the right forefront was the POW barracks. The two one story long buildings at the left just before the river are new POW barracks under construction. The wider, shorter building to the immediate right of the two new barracks is the newly built infirmary. The taller building just behind the large barracks is the kitchen and warehouse. Admin buildings are in the left front. The POWs are drawn where they held morning formation. The guard station is the small building at front center, just to the left of the gate. The dates at the top say the camp was established 7 Dec 1942 and closed 2 Sep 1945, other material within the book says 338 Americans left on 5 Sep 45. The same chart says there were 698 POWs; US, British, Australian, and Dutch.The POWs worked making military weapons. Japanese companies mentioned are Shinetsu Chemical Plant, Nisso Steel Industry, Joetsu Transport Company, and the Naoetsu Bay Transport Company. Interpretation was done for me by Kazuko ____. Kazuko lives about 15 miles from us here in Wisconsin. One of her first memories is running to the bomb shelters in the same city in which my wife's father was working in factories those bombs were falling on. It is a small world.
Above is from NARA files. After war debrief of Charles P. Samson, an American officer held at Naoetsu
Go to the link below to read narratives done as part of a project in the state of Washington to record the experiences of POWs. Ken Marvin, a Wake Island Marine, gives a very descriptive and educational account of his time at Wake, Woosung, and Naoetsu. It is long but worth every minute of your time. I had a great talk with Ken on the telephone on 4 Jan 03 and then with LeRoy Schneider and his wife Cece on 5 Jan 03. Ken and LeRoy helped put together the list of names above.
Copy and paste the following:
.Then click on POW category, then scroll down to Marvin, Kenny and Sanders, Jacob.
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