Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

Hanawa Sendai Camp No. 6 Prison Camp


BY JOHN M. GIBBS      31 JULY 1946



This copper mining project near the town of Hanawa was located about 50 miles from the northern tip of the Island of Honshu in the mountains and approximately equi-distant from the Pacific Ocean on the east and the Japan Sea on the west.  The town of Aomori is 46 miles to the north.   The towns of Futatsui and Kemonai flank Hanawa on the east and west.  Sendai on the east coast of Honshu is approximately 125 miles to the south.  The coordinates of Hanawa are 40 degrees 11 minutes N, 140 degrees 48 minutes E.


Size of the compound was 130 feet by 325 feet.  A 12 foot wood foot surrounded the installation and the entrance, or north end of the compound was flanked by a canal.


This camp was opened on 9 Sept. 1944 - a new construction – and the first detail of prisoners to occupy it was composed of Americans from the Philippine Islands.


The work project (copper mining) was a short distance from the camp compound in a north-westerly direction.




A detail of 500 Americans, prisoners from the Philippines occupied Hanawa on 9 Sept. 1944 divided by service as follows:  Army 300, Navy 100, Marines 100 = 500.  A contingent of 50 British prisoners were sent to this camp a few months after the arrival of the Americans which increased the total prisoner personnel to 550.  Six American prisoners died during the year of the internment.  The maximum camp population (prisoners) at no time exceeded 550.  Upon liberation of the camp in Sept. 1945, 494 American prisoners were evacuated. 


Col. Walker, AAF was senior officer; Capt. E.P. Fleming, Jr., Army Medical Corps was camp medical officer who, upon transfer to another camp was succeeded by Capt. Daniel Galentenak, Army Med. Corps.  Four other American officers were in this camp.




Lt. Osaka was camp commandant.  The second in command was Sgt. Takahashi, said to have been more considerate of the prisoners than any of the other Japanese officials.  A 2 star private had considerable voice in the camp administration, and he was rated by the prisoners as cruel and despotic.




(a)                Housing Facilities:  The prisoners were housed in 3 barracks measuring 20’ by 150’ each, 2 of which were practically made into 1 building, and under a single roof, by being brought together end to end, with a communicating covered passage way.  The barracks were located at the north end of the compound.  The 3 barracks were made communicable by a covered walk-way on the outside.  Sheltered outside paths connected the prisoner barracks with the Japanese administrative and sleeping quarters.


The barracks, adequately lighted, were constructed of wood with shingle (wood) roofs and packed dirt floors.  They were very inadequately heated.  The interior was of rough wood without sheathing on side walls or the 30’ ceiling.  Double deck sleeping platforms lined either side of each of the 3 buildings into which straw-sleeping mats has been placed.


Other buildings constituting prisoner facilities were  2 rectangular structures housing the hospital, first aid room, doctors office and corpsmen quarters.  These buildings were made communicating at one end by 2 latrines.  Another structure “L” shape contained the galley, a store room, a bake shop, a prisoner bath, a wash room and a latrine.  There were 2 latrines at the west end of one of the barracks.


Tables and benches were placed in the aisles of the barracks.


(b)               Latrines:  Three latrines, squat type, conveniently located, were adequate.  The latrine buildings were floored with cement into which holes had been cut.  Underneath were cement pits, which were emptied about each 3 months.


(c)        Bathing:  Two tubs of wood 12’ square and about 4’ deep constituted the bathing facilities.  Each tub accommodated 6 to 8 prisoners simultaneously without a change of water.  Hot water was available.  The bathing facilities were augmented by 3 cold water spigots.


(d)               Mess Hall:  The food was served in the barracks, therefore there was no mess hall.  The mess was drawn from the galley in wood kegs by prisoner mess-men.


(e)                Food:  The food was prepared by American prisoners in large iron cauldrons.

Rice, of course, was the staple article of diet.  The prisoners who worked in the mines were allowed 625 grams per man per day of grain—rice and barley.  The sick prisoners were allowed 500 grams per man per day.  On occasions all the prisoners were given soup made from vegetables and meat.  At other times putrid fish were served.  Whenever meat and/or fish were served the staple items were reduced to the calorific content of these diversions.  On this diet, the average loss in weight per man  was approximately 25 pounds in a little less than 1 year.  The quality of all the items of food, except the fish, was not complained of, although the lack of seasoning in cooking the food was mentioned by some of the prisoners.



(f)             Medical Facilities:  The hospital was located in a separate wood building which has been partitioned into 3 rooms, on which rooms was equipped with 20 wood bunks.

The other 2 rooms (smaller) contained 5 wood bunks each.  Heating facilities were poor and there was a persistent dearth of medicine.  The heating unit was 1 stove.  The only fuel available was what could be obtained by the prisoners, sometimes through unorthodox channels.  The medical program was administered by a member of the Army Med. Corps under jurisdiction of Japanese authorities, who was assisted by 3 prisoner corpsmen.  The Japanese medical officer would go through the form of examining the prisoners monthly, but no beneficial results followed these examinations.  There were no bandages or sterilizing equipment hence the bandages were used over and over again in hope they would not set up reinfection.


Regardless of the physical condition of the prisoners only a fixed number of them would be released from work.  Frequently the men were punished by a medical sergeant named Yodo for reporting themselves to be sick.


(g)                Supplies:  (1) Red Cross – Y.M.C.A. - Other relief.  Notwithstanding evidence that the Japanese camp officials purloined articles such as food and cigarettes from the Red Cross parcels intended for the prisoners, there is no evidence of widespread theft which fact may be determined by the delivery of the equivalent of 5 complete food parcels to each prisoner during the period of internment.  An additional parcel was given the prisoners immediately after surrender.  No claim is made that an accumulation of Red Cross contributions had occurred.


Doubtlessly the Japanese did not allow even reasonable use of Red Cross medicines and medical supply by the Army Med. Official for the benefit of sick prisoners.  This is borne out by practically all of the prisoners who reported on this camp but the death rate was low (a total of 6 out of 500 American prisoners) which perhaps is an indication that the Army Med. Officer was ingenious in overcoming to a large extent the refusal of the Japanese to allow, to a reasonable extent, the use of Red Cross medicaments provided for the relief of the prisoners.


(2) Japanese Issue:  Upon arrival at this camp, the prisoners were issued:  1 thin and 1 heavy suit of clothes, also 1 hat and 1 pair of shoes.  Later on the prisoners were given captured British overcoats and a few pairs of socks.  The issue of clothing by the Japanese seems to have been reasonably adequate.


(h)                Mail:  (1) Incoming:  Very little mail was received by the prisoners.  This dearth is more attributable to lack of transportation than to indifference on the part of the Japanese camp officials.


(2) Outgoing:  The prisoners generally could send a 25-word message each 3 to 6 months.  Some of the men occasionally were allowed to write 100-word letters home. This privilege was reduced to 50-word letters and subsequently to 25-word communications.  These later were supposed to be broadcast.  It should be borne in mind that all communications prepared by the prisoners were made to be of the propaganda type.


(i)                  Work:  The enlisted men worked in the copper mine and the smelting plant near the camp.  Details were selected to work in the machine shop, the blacksmith shop and in the electrical equipment department.  The prisoners working in the mines frequently were standing in water.  The ore was broken up by the use of sledge hammers and very large deposits required dynamiting to enable handling and loading in the mine cars.  The work was dangerous, the lighting was poor and there were very few safety contrivances in the mine.  The prisoners worked under the direction of civilian foremen who were claimed to be more brutal in their treatment of the men than military bosses.


The officers, six in number, were engaged in camp supervision and administering medical treatment.


There were no fatal accidents in the mining project


(j)                 Treatment:  Reports on treatment are conflicting.  Compared with the Philippine Island camps one prisoner proclaims Hanawa to be “good.”  Another stated that from what he could hear about other camps in Japan, Hanawa was not “too bad.”  Another prisoner tells of brutal treatment of 6 prisoners who were beaten and made to stand attention outside the barracks for several hours in zero weather.  This sentence was executed because of an admitted violation of a camp rule.


Summing up the situation, there is no doubt that the men worked hard, that they were hungry most of the time, and that they were short on medical supplies but there is no evidence of sustained cruelty, planned indignities or the deliberate humiliation of the officers.


(k)               Pay:  (1) Officers:  Same as Japanese officers of comparable rank.  No statement was made by the prisoners concerning deductions from pay and the maximum amount of money the officers may be allowed to keep. (2) Enlisted men:  The regular rate of pay was 10 to 15 sen per day.  The rate varied, however according to the job.  Some of the prisoners were paid 30 sen per day, but it is not stated how many of the men were paid the higher sum. 


(l)                  Recreation:  None and no library.


(m)               Religious Activities:  Two Catholic services were conducted by priests; one at Easter 1945, and the other at Christmas 1944.


(n)    Morale:  The morale of the American prisoners at this camp as at most of the other camps in Japan, was high.  They seemed to have possessed an abiding belief that the war would end soon by a complete American Victory.



The entire remaining American contingent of 494 men were liberated 13 Sept. 1945.  After traveling 10 hours on a comfortable train to the port of Shiogama, a suburb of Sendai, was reached.  From this port the men departed for the United States.