Daily Archives: 18 June 2008

Chinese Prisoners in Nagasaki, September 1945

From First into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War, by George Weller (1907-2002), ed. by Anthony Weller (Three Rivers, 2006), pp. 56-57 (reviewed at length in Japan Focus and more briefly at HNN):

Omuta, Japan—Wednesday, September 12, 1945, 0100 hours
Allied Prison Camp #17, Omuta, Kyushu

American and Chinese prisoner coal miners emerging from underground darkness in central Kyushu are discovering for the first time that their prison camps are adjacent.

For nearly one month since the surrender the Chinese have been going foodless because their Japanese guards have departed from the camp. Their serious medical condition was discovered today by two parties headed by American doctor Captain Thomas Hewlett, of New Albany, Indiana, and Crystal River, Florida, who was captured on Corregidor, and Australian Captain Ian Duncan, of Sydney, captured in Singapore.

B-29s today dropped the Chinese their first food supplies since the surrender.

Hewlett reported that the nearest Chinese camp commander is a remnant of a party under American-trained Airman Lieutenant Colonel Chiu, which left North China two years ago, then numbering 1,236. Three hundred men died on reaching Japan. The Japanese never provided a camp physician and the Chinese have none. Thus in the Chinese camp every man regardless of condition has been considered by the Japanese fit for underground work. Fifty are seriously ill, about half of these with deficiency disease.

This Chinese camp counted 70 men killed by Japanese guards in two years, plus 120 dead of disease, with 546 still living.

The other coal miners’ camp of Chinese consists of what remains of 1,365 who left China eighteen months ago; 54 have been executed or otherwise beaten to death by the Japanese, and 60 died of mining injuries.

Many of the surviving Chinese are ”as thin as skeletons,” with bandages made of rags or newspapers. The camp has one Chinese doctor who possesses neither a scalpel, forceps, thermometer nor stethoscope.

Both those Mitsui mines worked by Americans and those worked by Chinese are defective, “stripped” mines, dangerous to operate because their tunnels’ underpinnings have been removed to obtain the last vestiges of coal.

Another Chinese camp is known to exist somewhere in Kyushu and is being sought by a party headed by Medical Warrant Officer Houston Sanders, of Hartwell, Georgia.

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Filed under China, Japan, U.S., war