November - December 1942

 We departed Formosa about November 19th, 1942. We were loaded on a Maru and arrived in Simonsinko in southern Japan. We took a ferry ride to Moji, which is the southern tip of Honshu Island. We were surprised at the good treatment. Japanese women fed us at train stops, mostly rice balls and dried fish. My spirits picked up.

    Yokohama, Japan, November 28th, 1942. Pop and I arrived at the prison camp and we were put in a warehouse on the waterfront close to the fish piers. This was to prove to be our home for more than 2 ½ years. Pop weighed 106 pounds and I was 115 pounds. We were allotted our 1/8th of an inch of bed space, but that didn’t matter because we slept next to each other for warmth. The building is an old warehouse fitted with double bunks, Jap-fashion. Over 500 men crawled into a space that we wouldn’t put 500 pigs in. There was no heating system, holes in the walls, blown-out windows, stinking toilets. Everybody is in a weakened condition with dysentery, malaria, and God knows what. I make it about twenty five times a day myself and Pop is much worse off. This is the lowest my spirits have been and I don’t expect to ever leave here alive.

     No sooner had we settled in, when a series of five explosions shook us up. It seems there were five French ships being blown up by their crew, as they were free French, not Vichy. At that time, there were no sub attacks or air attacks yet.

    Our first day was rest and organization day. We were told that we would be working in a shipyard owned by Mitsubishi. At this time, Mitsubishi was Japan. They pretty much controlled what happened-at least, where I was at. Mitsubishi owned extensive mines, aircraft factories, tank factories, and all kinds of heavy industry. They built all the Japanese Zero fighter crafts and twin-engine bombers. The military complex in Japan, like in this country, controlled the country. They told the politicians what to do and got all the money they want.

    You can see the same thing happening everyday in this country. President Bush gets up on the podium and rants and raves about the need for more money to go to war. And he gets it. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about most of the time. To be frank, I believe the man is an idiot. I’m amazed that he got re-elected. The story about Bush shirking his National Guard duties is true. Cheney is even worse. Cheney got five deferments from military service. To explain these cowardly actions, he said, “I had other priorities.”

    I believe the only way to counteract the corrupt political/military alliance in this country is to reinstate the draft. We should not have an all-volunteer army. That way everyone has to serve-including the children of the politicians and military industrialists.

They would all have kids who were in the service, so they might think twice about sending them to war. An all-volunteer army is not right for the country because the only people who are going to serve are the poor people. This is the way it has always happened throughout history. One of the reasons I went into the service was because there was no work around.

    Our guards were Jap army and Mitsubishi half-and-half workers assigned as guards. Where the hell could we escape to? White men in Japan would stick out like sore thumbs. Plans were made to capture a fishing boat and sail away, but it never amounted to much. Over time, our guards became civilian workers, except for a Jap commander and a Jap army sergeant.

    Yokohama 2nd day. We were issued work clothes and brought to the shipyard. The yard was about three miles from our quarters. I told them I was a plumber, so I was assigned to the pipe shop. This was where they bend pipe for new ships under construction. I knew that Japan could never win with their ancient methods of construction, and we POW’s did nothing to help. I think we held them back. We did as little as possible.

    The electric welder {Japanese} in the pipe shop was a pretty decent sort. He gave me rest periods and cigarettes. He asked the regular run-of-the-mill questions and treated me like a worker instead of a prisoner.

    I worked for two days and then had to stay in sick. What exactly was wrong I don’t know, but I figured if I wanted to live, I have to snap out of it and get back to work.

    My next job was located just outside the main shop where the flanges were cut out and straightened for fitting to the ends of pipe. My job was to chip and stack these flanges. They were red-hot. The furnaces were fed by coke and I had to keep them supplied.

    This gave me the opportunity to leave the area and go to a pier where the coke was stored. I used to push a cart that carried about ten bushels of coke. This routine went on and on, day after day. My strength returned somewhat, but the main cry is food. We never get enough to eat. Next to the shop is a Jap Navy galley. Every meal they throw away is better food than we get at camp. Some of the boys are going into these boxes and getting meat, fish, and rice. They say it’s okay, but my pride holds me back, as my belly says go ahead. If I want to live, I will probably have to do the same.

    December 4th, 1942. Today, one of my buddies brought me a mess kit of hot rice, which I ate. He later told me it came out of the swill box at the galley. That converted me. I threw pride to the four winds. If we were caught by the foo {guard}, we would sometimes get punched and slapped. But, this never stopped us from going after the extra food. Sometimes, a Japanese sailor would give us food right out of the galley. We carried sampan bags {garbage bags} with us as the opportunity arose.

    My shop was eventually moved to a building located 18 feet away from the Jap Navy galley. I thought I was in heaven. Day after day the cooks would come over to my fire to get warm and naturally would converse with me, some in English and some in Japanese- a few key words I knew. They were all right, in that they gave me food where and when I requested it. Gradually, I got back in shape, and the winter months gradually wore off.


American POW - Earl Anderson's Story