Thursday, May 5, 2011

Prisoners of War (part three)

More of the POW story as told by Lt. Hugh Robert Mellon 

We arrived in Japan on a cold winter day and on arrival in port the heat in our hold was turned off. We waited in the hold all day without food and finally about 9 O'clock at night we were loaded in an open cow scow and taken ashore. The night was stormy and windy and there was snow on the ground. Most of us had summer clothing which was definitely inappropriate to say the least.

After landing at the town of Todatsu on the island of Shikoku, we were taken to the railway station where we were given bread and tea. We were then loaded into electric streetcars and taken about five miles to the camp which was to be our home for over three years.
The regular army barracks assigned to us were ample at first, but as more prisoners arrived the room got scarcer until our allotted individual sleeping spaces were only twenty-one inches wide. That meant that one couldn't turn over without poking someone else in the stomach or ribs. To start with we were all given straw mattresses and five blankets each, but later on only senior officers got mattresses. Senior officers were quartered two to a small room while junior officers were assigned thirty-two to a room.

The enlisted men and officers were separated. Regular Army heads (called "Benjo" by the Japs')were provided which resembled country privies without seats. We found that the half bucket of warm water allowed weekly during winter months was scarcely enough to make us appreciate fully the magnificence of the famous Jap bathing "ritual".In the summer showers were available, but on a restricted basis.
The daily routine went as follows. Reveille at sun-up, muster ten minutes later. This morning muster, which took about a half hour, was held outside-rain, shine, or snow, unless we could beg off, as we sometimes did. Counting off and reporting was in Japanese, and to a stern "Bango" we replied in quarterback fashion with a snappy Itchy! Ni! San! One day an English Major counted off wrong and the guard drew his sword.
The Major told him to put it down and and invited him to go outside for a "fair" fight. They went outside and the Major was promptly thrown into the brig. After muster came breakfast which usually consisted of a green soup and a cup of rice. At noon we had green soup and a cup of rice and at five in the afternoon we had our last meal of the day, green soup and a cup of rice. But we were optimistic-the Nips told us "Treasure Ships" from the South would be in "soon" with sugar and delicacies. We generally turned in after evening muster talked over the activities of the dam, and at nine dozed off to the bewildering notes of the Japs.' "taps".

The camp was our home for over three yeas, and, compared to others, we received fairly good treatment. With us were five American nurses, none of whom were molested. Although they conformed to the customs of the country such as walking five paces behind their male friends. We also had with us some of the prisoners taken on Wake and, later, some of the survivors of the Bataan "death march", and some English, Australian and Dutch Officers. Of course there were many inspections and much petty heckling, and slapping and kicking of male prisoners by the guards was common. This was protested to the Camp Commander, The Red Cross, and the Swiss Consul. The camp Commander always stated that such treatment was not in accordance with the policy of the camp but the slapping and kicking continues.

No work was required but "volunteer" working parties were organized to make gardens and plant vegetables. Some were grown and harvested and the Japs' rationed them out to the prisoners. Later the Japs' took over the garden plots because of "military necessity!.

I will end it here, but there is much more to the story.I appreciate the military even more after reading his story. Here are a few more photo's. 

It's OVER !!!

Margaret, Hugh and Baby Harry Mellon 1946

Margaret and Hugh Mellon