Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Dr. A.P. Curtin

Kawasaki Newsletter

Wellsburg, W. Va.        December 2000             Edward Jackfert, Editor

"Lest We Forget"

Dr. A.P. Curtin, Born April 20, 1914, Died November 7, 1993
Those of us who have survived and enjoyed life for many years after suffering starvation and mistreatment at the hands of the Japanese military need to remind ourselves of the compassion showed us by Dr. Curtin while we were prisoners of war. Although beaten many times by the Japanese authorities, he continually stood up to them for better treatment of us. The photo on the left depicts our quarters at Tokyo Area POW Camp #2 as most of us knew it while interned there. The photo on the right is the area where our building stood until July 25, 1945 when it was completely destroyed by B-29 bombers. Twenty two of our fellow prisoners of war were killed during that bombing raid. The photo of the area where our camp had been located was taken by the brother of William Thomas while on occupation duty in Japan soon after the termination of World War II. The photo was taken from the area between our camp quarters and the Mitsui office building looking toward the railroad behind our quarters and the Showa Denko chemical factory.

Excerpts of events at Tokyo Area POW Camp #2 from records maintained by Dr. Curtin from September 5, 1944 until August 29, 1945 (Courtesy Jack Schwartz, USN Ret.):

September 5, 1944--Watanabe now in charge of Med. Dept. Sgt Anasawa having left. Cpl P.B. Moore successfully recovered from pneumonia from which he nearly died. Inspection of camp supplies by a General Col. Sakabe and four other officers. New American Red X clothes were issued to inside labor--6/9/44 Shelton sick with severe blood poisoning-right hand--9/14/44 Manuel returned from hospital-leg now healed satisfactorily-PM a man dog rushed into camp--rabies? It was killed and skinned immediately--9/20/44 Saito left camp for good--10/25/44 Ramey returned from Shinagowa-amazing recovery, but main spinal nerve tracts still a bit wobbly--11/6/44 Air raid alarms and exercises on three successive days--11/1/44 Out on Mitsui field at volley ball-saw the first B29 come over about 1 pm--A bright silver speck in the sky-much commotion around--all working parties returned to camp--Must have been first Allied aircraft over Tokyo since 1942--AA fire did not touch it--it cruised around at will, then went away--1/25/44 Day air raids began now on regular routine round period noon--3pm--11/29/44 First night raid occurred 1 pm to 3 am Weather wet and cold--12/17/44 First Christian religious service in camp given by visiting Jap padre, formerly of N.Y. city sect "Church of Christ"--he worked at Showa Denko, name Rev. Ceiba--12/20/44 Red Cross boxes one per man arrive for Xmas. Barracks decorated for Christmas--12/25/44 Day off-I conducted an R.C. service-Sgt. Hough a Protestant one--1/1/45 Inspection and address by Lt. Washimi on Mitsui field to work hard in New Year--1/13/45 Operated on Ralph Houston for abscess of neck--managed to keep Nuzzo in while he was sick--1/27/45 Air raids resumed 10:30 PM- 12 midnight and 2: 30 am Bombing and gunfire heard in distance-managed to get 10 cans of milk and 10 cartons of Red Cross sugar from Kondo for sick men--DaCosta very ill with pneumonia, nearly died--1/29/45 Shiozowa left camp for good-a release-and sent to Nishin Flour Mill camp which opened about Dec. 15th-44 Of course he raised hell there-personnel were from Kawasaki camp and comprised ex Nankin Australian engineers and ex Guam machinist mates and Capt. Cant--many beatings there--2/2/45 Some more Red Cross packages issued-about 50 missing from original consignment from HQ to camp.--2/9/45 New work clothes given out for inspection. Raids quite frequent now over this island-some Red Cross overcoats issued--2/16/45 Continuous air raids all day, small planes, dive bombs, etc. AA fire, distant explosions. Weather still cold with bouts of snow--3/1/45 Dr. Kaufman arrives from HQ camp--3/3/45 Our Watanabe (Porky the Pig) left her for No. 2 Military hospital-replaced by a star soldier, Inamoto-very dumb--3/7/45 Visit of Red X rep Dr. Bilfinger. Lt. Carney pointed out the necessity of building air raid shelters for the men--3/9/45 Heavy air raid on Tokyo PM, a wonderful sight-thousands of incendiaries dropped--watched from windows. Big fire over entire city.--3/10/45 Operated on R. Houston for abscess of hand. New medical orderly Cpl Kato-the self blaster--3/4/45 Another raid on Tokyo from 1 to 4 am-big fires, windows of camp broken by AA guns concussion-ceiling plaster fell down.--4/6/45 Lt. Hayashi returned as camp commandant--4/13/45 Heavy night raid on Tokyo again-several hours--4/15/45 Heavy night raid-Kawasaki city completely burnt out--evacuated camp to dock area (first occasion of camp evacuation) B-29's came in low over the camp-8000 feet-fires close to our quarters--4/16/45 Whole of Kawasaki area like a graveyard-state of local emergency-no factories working--4/18/45 Much trouble over theft of rice from MBK by gardening details-strafing-men made to stand to attention from 12 noon until midnight-no food for three meals--4/19/45 100 men return to work at Denko and KYK--4/26/45 Another heavy raid on Tokyo--4/26/45 Concert and speech to men by Mr. Kondo who is leaving camp for civilian life--4/28/45 Introduction of new interpreter Yamasiki-not a trouble maker by i--5/23/45 Another heavy night raid in area 2-4am camp evacuated-many incendiaries dropped-many fell in camp-camp on fire but fires put out by fire parties under direction of Carney-Lt. Hayashi fortunately away that night-nearly every night he used to run home somewhere in Yokahoma for fear of the raids-this was a good thing for us--5/24/45 Day off for men to repair damage done to camp, areas at back of campand some wooden warehouses at Mitsui burnt out, power houses and Mitsubishi refinery not affected by incendiaries--5/25/45 Another heavy raid on Tokyo 12-2am-many fires seen and explosion--5/27/45 Heavy raid by carrier planes in daylight near here. We saw them whistling round chimney stacks at Kokan at high speed. Pm visit by Co Sakaba and Lt. Washimi to inspect damage and repair done to camp--Many men employed these days on garden cultivation on MBK waterfront over area where balloon encasement was situated--5/29/45 8:30 am Heavy raid on Yokahoma by about 450 B29s with 150 P51s passing directly over camp in waves after unloading-sky blackened with smoke-it turned day into night and lasted until 11:30 am--5/30/45 Reconnaisance B29s now patrol regularly every day about noon over this area and sometimes drop leaflets--6/1/45 Lt. Hayashi left camp obviously scared and got job as Commandant in northern area--Lt. Amor of Kawasaki camp now temporarily in charge-Mizuno finally gave permission to employ details to construct slit trenches covered over by earth on Mitsui waterfront and also outside back gate-newly constructed since fire of camp-Photo Joe surveyed our area almost daily-the men begin to look ill from anxiety and lack of sleep almost daily-rumored that Nippon Steel camp evacuated to northern area--6/6/45 MBK (Mitsui) was the main work detail at this time--6/10/45 Heavy morning raid on sector of Tokyo-camp evacuated 8-11am--7/2/45 61 Americans and 39 Dutch including Dr. Kaufman and Cpl Kato left camp for Nigata-PM arrival of 50 men, 45 Italians and 5 Norwegian Merchant marines from Shanghai internment camp. Sgt Mizuno left camp, worried by raids, and was replaced by Sgt. Sumi from Suzuki Food Factory-he was a bastard-beat men with a leather strap-big drive for men out for work--7/13/45 Big fire raid-Nisshin Flour Mill completely bombed out--7/25/45 Now follows the big tragedy which I fully expected and but for our evacuation to shelters from camp we would have all been killed. We had to fight for this freedom of action and it was largely due to Carney's efforts on this account that many of us are alive today. The peculiar thing is that the Japs knew, I am sure, quite often which areas were going to be attacked and so on. This night we moved out to shelters on the first siren-we usually had to wait for the second siren before moving out of camp before this on previous raids-The Japs were too stupid and too obstinate to apprecitae the danger. Sgt. Sumi and Commandant following the same idea as Hayashi insisting that 30 men remain in camp to fight fires and carry out rice etc. if necessary during the raids--Well the raid started around 10:45 PM with high explosives and incendiaries-cleared out the whole area-MBK warehouses, the two power houses, oil refinery, Denko, KYK, part of Nippon Steel, all dock cranes and barges were completely destroyed--benjo, cookhouse, our quarters, simply could not be found-this is no exaggeration. Bomb craters were only a few feet apart-I was in an earth shelter at the waterfront with Wysley and others, it partly caved in and water flowed in up to our waists-one heavy bomb exploded about 20 feet away--22 men killed--12 bodies were found--12 missing-raid lasted until 1 am. About 10 men were injured including Nelson who had a broken leg and fractured base of the skull-All Jap camp staff and 12 Jap guards were killed. Some of the fire party in the camp must have been blown to bits trying to make the waterfront during the lulls in the air raid, although Scotty, Murdoch and Clayton made it-God knows how--7/26/45 For the next two days we worked all day and at night slept out in the open in a smashed up warehouse at Mitsui, recovering missing bodies and clearing up debris of camp. Chow was brought from another camp nearby--7/28/45 We moved to old Nisshin Camp, the barracks which escaped catching fire the night of the raid--Continued salvage work at Mitsui camp-Bodies found were thos of W. Wilkes, Archie Sheldon (head blown off), Carey, Cracca, & Federoff. Missing were S. Paluch and a few others-Well to add to our troubles before we left Mitsui, Col. Sakaba and a supply Capt.-big fellow we called the "rice bag," came down and looked at the mess and then made a speech saying that if we worked hard enough, some comforts which we had lost would be restored. He brought with him three bastards, two Sgts. and an interpreter Kuriama by name-well known for his maltreatment of prisoners in the old days at Shinagowa. They replaced the old Jap staff and were not long establishing a reign of terror over us to the tune of a litany of "work and punishment" given out continually by Kuriama till the men were really getting into a state of desperation by the time the war ended, thank God. I endeavored to check this and in a row with Kuriama was beaten up and taken to the Commandant where both stated they had nothing to fear from the Allies re[garding] maltreatment of prisoners, as at the worst, we would all self blast together and what with the conditions as they were then re[garding] bombing I fully expected the end of all of us to [be] not too far distant--8/1/45 On this night the B29's returned to plaster Mitsui area again and complete the job on Nippon Steel, and whole area. We went into the grain silos for shelter and had two direct bomb hits over us while there.--8/2/45 Men were employed daily in clearing debris, filling bomb craters, carting water and putting out fires. We were continually bombed until August 15, 1945--8/15/45 Zero hour 12 am. All details return from work. Camp Commandant burns all office papers--8/16/45 An address by Camp commandant to Lt. Sherry, Cant and myself, that temporary truce had been arranged with Allies pm. Sneaked in paper from job with confirmation about Potsdam declaration--8/17/45 Went down to Jap office and told Commandant we were taking over control of camp, no more roll calls, Japs have same chow as us, etc. Red X stuff left handed over. Navy bombers found us and dropped food Hurrah, the end of the war at last!--8/29/45 Commander Stassen arrived with rescue party. Taken to Hospital Ship USS Benevolence in Tokyo Bay for brief exam--others then taken to Atsugi Air Base and flown to the Philippines.

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