George Weller / Chicago Daily News – 2005-06-23 23:45:31
NAGASAKI, Sept.8 (cdn) — More pieces to the broken mosaic of history are supplied by prisoners in the liberated, but still unrelieved camps on Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island.
While waiting for Gen. Walter Krueger’s army to arrive, the inmates are receiving humble bows and salutes from the Japanese officers who formerly ruled them with an iron red.
By exchanging visits with prisoners from other parts of Kyushu they are able to find out what happened in the blacked out periods of the past.
Camp No. 14 which was inside Mitsubishi war factory area until the atomic bomb fell there is now moved inside the eastern mouth of the Nagasaki harbor. Here you can meet Fireman Edward Matthews of Everett, Washington and the American destroyer Pope.
He fills in the unknown story of how the Pope fought trying to take the cruiser Houston through the Sunda straits in the face of a Japanese task force of “eight cruisers and endless destroyers.
“We contacted the Japs at seven in the morning. They opened fire at 8:30 a.m. We held out until 2 p.m., when a Jap spotter plane dropped a bomb near out stern and watched us go down. A Jap destroyer saw us sink. It was a perfectly clear day. They let us stay in the water – 154 men with one 24 man whaleboat and one life raft – for three days. We were about crazy when they picked us up and took us to Macassar.”
From Camp No. 3 at Tabata near Mojie in northern Kyushu come three ex-prisoners who have found the lure of the open roads irresistible after three years confinement and have come to Nagasaki in order to view the results of the atomic bomb. Charles Gellings of North East, Md., says, “The Houston was caught on the eastern side or Java side of Sunda. It was in the straits near Bantan Bay. Three hundred and forty-eight were saved, but they were all scattered.”
Chicago born Miles Mahnke, Plane, Ill., who looks all right, though his original 215 pounds dropped to 160, says, “I was, in the death march at Bataan. Guess you know what that was.”
Here is Albert Rupp of the submarine Grenadier, who lives at 920 Belmont av., Philadelphia, “We were chasing two Nip cargo boats 450 miles off Penang. A spotter plane dropped a bomb on us hitting the maneuvering room. We lay on the bottom, but the next time came up we were bombed again. We finally had to scuttle the sub. Thirty-nine men of forty-two were saved.”
Also from the submarine is William Cunningham, 4225 Webster av. Bronx N.Y., who started with Rupp on his tour of southern Japan.
Another party of four vagabond prisoners from camps whose Japanese commanders and guards have simply disappeared, are Albert Johnson, Geneva, Ohio; Hershel Langston, Van Buren, Kans., Morris Kellogg, Mule Shoe, Tex., all crew members of the oil tanker Connecticut, now touring Japan with a carefree marine from North China Guard at Peking, Walter Allan, Waxahachie, Tex.
The three members from the oil tanker would like a word with the Captain of the German raider who took them prisoner. The captain told them that “in the last war you Americans confined Germans in Japan; this war we Germans are going to take you Americans to Japan and see how you like a taste of the same medicine.”
Kyushu has about 10,000 prisoners, or about one-third the total is all Japan, mixed in the completely disordered fashion, the Japanese used and without any records.
At Camp No.2, by the entrance to Nagasaki Bay are 68 survivors of the British Cruiser Exeter which sank in the Java Sea battle while trying to expel the Japanese task force. Eight inch shells penetrated her waterline.
Five of the supposed total of nine survivors from the British destroyer the Stronghold, sunk near the Sunda straits at the same time are also here.
There are also 14 Britons of an approximate 100 from the destroyer Encounter lost at the same time, besides 62 R.A.F. mostly from Java and Singapore.
Among 324 Dutch cruisers the Java and De Ruyter were sunk at 2300 the night of Feb. 27, 1942 by torpedo attacks which the Japs boasted were staged not by destroyers or submarines, but cruisers.
There is also a Dutch officer from the Destroyer Koortenaer, torpedoed by night in the Java Sea battle.
Husky Cpl. Raymond Woest, Fredericksburg, Tex., told how remembers of the 131st Field Artillery poured 75 caliber shells into the Japs for six hours outside Soerabaya before Java fell, killing an estimated 700.
To correspondents eager questions about this outfit which had been into action in Java, Wuest said that 450 members (illegible) and were now scattered in the Far East. (illegible) Nagasaki, whereof most were moved to Camp No. 9 (at least one further sentence follows, but it is illegible.)
“A NAGASAKI REPORT” by George Weller
Copyright (c) 2005 by Anthony Weller.
All rights reserved.
Published with permission of Anthony Weller, Gloucester, Massachusetts through Dunow & Carlson Literary Agency, New York via Tuttle-Mori Agency, Inc., Tokyo.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.