Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

John Allison Fitzgerald

John Allison Fitzgerald was born in California in 1908, and he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1931. When World War II broke out, he was the executive officer and navigator of the submarine the USS Gar. In 1942, he assumed command of the USS Grenadier, which was sunk by the Japanese on April 21, 1943 west of the Malay Peninsula. Fitzgerald became a prisoner of war the next day and was sent to Japan, arriving at the Japanese Naval Interrogation Camp at Ofuna on May 1, 1943. He remained there until January 15, 1945.

Around May 18, 1943, an Australian officer named Gibson arrived, sent from Yokohama because he had refused to make Japanese propaganda broadcasts. The prisoners were forced to run four miles around the compound under the direction of Kakuzo Iida, the camp's commanding officer. They also frequently had to perform excessive exercise and daily scrub the decks with handle-less mops.

Fitzgerald spent the summer of 1943 mixing concrete with shovels for a wall that was to be constructed between two of the buildings. He was not allowed to be relieved by the other men. On October 12, 1943, twenty-nine officers and men from the Grenadier came to Ofuna, and the prisoners again had to run around the compound for a distance of three or four miles. Then, on July 4, 1944, the prisoners were forced to do the so-called "Ofuna Crouch," which consisted of standing on the balls of one's feet with the knees half bent and the arms extended over the head, for nearly half an hour because Iida's wash basin had not been cleaned.

Furthermore, the prisoners were not given sufficient rations. Hata, or "Curley," was the Japanese civilian who ran the kitchen at Ofuna, and although there was enough food, the POWs were given only the bare minimum because Hata and other guards confiscated the food. When Red Cross supplies arrived in January 1944, the prisoners' rations were cut by 25%, and again by the same percentage in April. When Fitzgerald was questioned by Gunrabo, a member of the Japanese Intelligence Division, he was given a piece of paper stating that he was not a POW but rather an "unarmed enemy" whose safety was not guaranteed. 

Fitzgerald was released on September 2, 1945, and he subsequently received the Navy Cross, the Silver Cross, and the Prisoner of War Medal. He retired from active duty as a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral in November 1959 and held several executive positions in industry. He died on July 6, 1990.