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Mukden Prison Camp

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Mukden Prison Camp

 Mukden Prison Camp picture taken by Joseph Vater

Picture taken by Joseph Vater

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Japan controlled Mukden, Manchuria.   They needed manpower to man the Manchurian Tool Company (M.K.K. for Manchouko Kibitsu Kaishi) under Mitsibushi that produced aircraft and also had other operations. The job of the men was to make tools, clippers, and pliers.  The Japanese requested men who were skilled in aircraft mechanics or machinery for work at Mukden.

They established a prison camp there and asked for 1500 prisoners. About 1930 men from Bilibid and Cabanatuan assembled at Pier 7 in Manila and were rounded up and went aboard the Tottori Maru in October 6, 1942. The trip proved a living nightmare with no room for the men to move in the oppressive heat in the ships holds and a total lack of sanitation causing more sickness for the men.  On October 9, the Americans attempted to torpedo the ship, but missed.   The men disembarked from the ship in Pusan in Korea on Nov. 8, 1942 and about 1300 sick men disembarked, while about 580 men went to Osaka Japan.  Approximately 180 of these men were sent to the hospital and 28 died there; the rest recuperated and were sent to Mukden.  At least 28 men died on the ship’s trip. The rest boarded a train to Mukden to work for Mitsubishi. (This information comes from Death on the Hellships by Gregory F. Michno)

 They entered the barracks that furnished little heat and the temperatures in Manchuria dropped 40 and 50 degrees below zero.  The men had to go outside to the latrines several yards in the snow.  Their diet also changed to bread and cornmeal and an occasional serving of a native green vegetable.  These changes and the morale slump of their new conditions caused the men to start dying at the rate of two or three a day.  In the spring of 1943 they buried the POWs who had died in the winter who numbered over 175.

 The Machine Tool Company plant had been designed by 1940 by four American engineers.  Mr. Yoshio Kai served as an interpreter.  He was an American born Japanese who had returned to Japan in the 1920s and had some sympathy for the men.  He got them vegetables for their soup at lunch.  They had a set of coveralls to put on when they got to the factory with their POW number on it. 

According to some of the men, Japanese doctors came in from Unit 731 to examine the men in 1942 and 1943.  Not all men remember these visits.  These medical units tried different treatments on the men in an experimental fashion and were testing Caucasians’ response to bacterial infections.  Linda Goetz Holmes writes about Unit 731 in Guests of the Emperor The Secret History of Japan’s Mukden POW Camp.  She states that the men did not reveal some of the information until 1995 when a Japanese network came to one of the ADBC reunions in preparation of making a documentary on Unit 731.

In June 1943, on the night of June 21/22 three men tried to escape to Russian.  They were eventually recaptured and executed at the camp.  Meanwhile, the Japanese punished the men from their barracks.

 In July 1943, the men moved from the labor camp huts to a new building complex. This building included a bathhouse and flush toilets.  The American doctors handled most of the medical emergencies. At Christmas time, 1943, they had a Christmas party with extra food and sweets.  And in Feb. 1944, the men received some Red Cross supplies.  The men were especially grateful for shoes that arrived with the Red Cross Shipment.

 The men lined up to go to the factory at 7:00 and they worked to 5:00 PM, returning to the camp at 6:00 PM.  They worked seven days a week and were only given one or two days off per month.  The men received beatings at the camp for minor infractions at the factory.  The POWs resented having to make parts for Japanese planes and for their war effort.  Because of this, the men sabotaged some of the operations at the plant, the only way they could retaliate.  By May 1944 the Japanese sent some of the most troublesome workers to Mitsui’s lead mine where supervision was stricter. 

In 1944 new sub-camps were established. No.1 worked at the Manshu Hikaku leather company, No. 2 at the Manshu Hanpu cloth company and No 3 split employment between the Nakayama Seikoshi Steel Company and Toyo Mukuzai lumber company.

On August 20, The Russians come in to liberate the men.   Those with medical problems left first.  On Sept. 10 a little over 750 left and took a train to Darien (now Dalian).

Mukden Prisoner of War Remembrance Society

Owen "Sandy" Sandmire Bio "Sandy, Death March Survivor, " and Search for Truth, Japan's biological experiments on POW's by Lysle Lewis  Includes information on Unit 731

Note:  Above book is long, over 300 pages and is in pdf form.