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Although the number of persons with criminal records who served during World War I is unknown, we know that more than former inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia did serve. Despite being imprisoned behind foot high walls, the inmates at Eastern State remained well informed about the war, publishing news and letters from the Front, pining for greater opportunities for participation, and mirroring outside civilian contributions to the war effort. Eastern State prisoners went to work rolling bandages and making slings for the troops. A typical box contained a pumpkin plant, three tomato stalks, and a patch of lettuce.

On the roofs are many more carefully tended vegetable plots. Every man of them knows that it is only by such giving that we, who may neither fight nor work for the country that we love better than life itself, can do it service. Eastern State inmates practiced elementary drill tactics and repeated their appeals to join the war effort outside of the prison walls. Prisoners by and large have been one of our notable failures. We have punished them for a fault and generally turned them out in a condition where they were less competent to avoid faults than when they went in.

The common effect of prison regimen has been to mark men off and shut them out from their fellowmen. This war raises the gregarious instinct, the impulse to fellowship, to its greatest height.


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Prisoners are entitled to take their share in the common lot and participate consciously in the fate of their country. They are entitled to feel that they are doing something to help win the war. Wherever it can possibly be managed they should be put at work that has a tangible connection with the war. Resources Research Documents. A written conversation about the process of veteran Harold H.

What Was Life Like For Prisoners of WWII

AZ Biographical Database. Hunt and Paul J.

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Fannin as well as within the Historical Maps Collection. Please contact Library Archives for more information. Papago Trackers, a history of unique events: "building friendships with former enemies.

Papago Park prisoner of war camp, exhibit O [diagram of prison compound] and exhibit P [blow-up of diagram of compound no. While the attitude of the Japanese authorities regarding prisoners' mail seems to have been one of indifference, their attitude regarding visits to prisoner-of-war and internment camps was much more positive. In the first place they refused for the greater part of the war to recognise, except in Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the right of representatives of the Protecting Power and the International Red Cross Committee to pay visits of inspection.

The result of this was that International Red Cross Committee delegates were able to visit only 43 camps and Protecting Power representatives only, whereas there were at the end of the war camps in Japan, Formosa, Korea, and Manchuria alone. Moreover, for most of the war period it was estimated that some nine-tenths of the , Allied prisoners and civilians in Japanese hands were held in occupied territories, south of a line running roughly from Rangoon to the northern Philippines, in which not only were inspections of camps forbidden but no relief action of any kind could be undertaken without express permission from the Japanese authorities.

Only in were the agents of the International Red Cross Committee in Singapore and the Swiss Consul in Bangkok able to work openly and effectively as distributors of Red Cross relief supplies. Some ex-prisoners of war and internees have directly or implicitly criticised the neutral representatives who were able to visit camps, on the grounds that they accomplished nothing with the Japanese authorities. It should be mentioned that they had the greatest difficulty in obtaining the necessary permits for each visit, that during the visit they had to refrain from all reference to humanitarian texts in order not to anger the Japanese authorities, and that the latter always regarded them with suspicion and ill-will.

The report of the International Red Cross Committee gives the best idea of how the visits were conducted:. The duration of the visit to the camps was generally restricted to two hours, made up of one for conversation with the camp commandant, thirty minutes for visiting quarters, and thirty minutes for an interview, in the presence of the Japanese officers of the camp, with a camp leader appointed by them. No communication with the other prisoners was authorized, and negotiations undertaken with the object of altering this state of things were not successful.

The camp commandants often refused to reply to questions put to them. A camp leader who openly criticised conditions and treatment was liable to be beaten after the departure of the visitor, and recourse was had sometimes to the passing of messages while shaking hands in order to convey the true situation.


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  6. In , when the International Red Cross agent in Singapore complained to a senior military official concerning his continued non-recognition, he was arrested and interrogated by the Japanese military police as a suspected spy. These men had no assurance that the Japanese would respect the persons of neutral nationals any more than they did those of the nationals of enemy countries.

    By taking too aggressive a stand they would have run a great personal risk and would probably at the same time have jeopardized what scant opportunities for relief work they had. Negotiations with the Japanese for an exchange of sick and wounded prisoners of war produced no result, but those for an exchange of civilians made possible two repatriation operations, one in and the other in As early as February proposals had been made to the Japanese by the British Commonwealth and United States governments for an exchange of civilian officials, together with a certain number of non-officials.

    For Japanese from various parts of the Commonwealth there were to be exchanged Commonwealth civilians who wished to leave China, Japan, Thai-land, and Indo-China. Besides returning with Japanese officials and other civilians, these ships carried back mail and relief supplies for Allied nationals held by the Japanese. The Allied governments began negotiations for a second exchange almost immediately, but only the United States and Canada succeeded in reaching an agreement with the Japanese authorities.

    They expressed their thankfulness for having escaped from the semi-starvation of their internment camps, as well as their anxiety for the health of those they had left behind in Japanese custody.

    European Theatre of War

    The information they provided gave urgency to the question of further exchange agreements, but in spite of unceasing negotiation, this draft was destined to be the last to be repatriated from Japanese custody until the liberation of the Philippines in February Allied POW camps and ship-transports were sometimes accidental targets of Allied attacks. The number of deaths which occurred when Japanese "hell ships"—unmarked transport ships in which POWs were transported in harsh conditions—were attacked by US and Royal Navy submarines was particularly high.

    There were three kinds of camps; branch, detached and dispatched camps. The detached camp was a branch camp of a smaller size, typically a mine or factory camp. The camps were mainly set up in mines and in the industrial areas such as Keihin Tokyo and Yokohama , and Hanshin Osaka and Kobe. Toward the end of the war, the IJA moved many of the camps in the industrial areas inland or to areas closer to the Sea of Japan because of air raids by the U.

    Prisoner of war

    Air Force and in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. The Japanese Army was responsible for the administration of the camps, but the Japanese Navy wanted to interrogate pilots they captured in an attempt to improve their naval intelligence. This was a special camp where the POWs captured by the Navy were held before they were transferred to Army control. It was commonplace for a senior Japanese officer to strike his subordinate officers who then passed the same treatment down the chain of command to their non commissioned staff and down to the lowliest Japanese soldier who then invariably took this out on prisoners under his control.

    Few POW camp buildings were new. In most cases existing warehouses, company employee dorms, or school buildings were remodelled and used as POW camp buildings. Typically, they were two-storied wooden buildings in a compound surrounded by wooden walls topped with barbed wire. Japanese staff worked and lived in the camp's administration building, which also contained storage and toilet facilities.

    Prisoners of War of the Japanese 1939-1945

    Inside the compound, POW quarters usually consisted of rows of two or three storied bunk beds with either traditional Japanese goza woven straw mats or tatami straw mattresses on the wooden bunks. Bare bulbs were used for the lights, and heat came from fire pots or stoves made from shipping drums. In most camps blankets were provided by the camp, however, many POWs reported that the severe winter cold adversely affected their health.

    In most cases a Japanese style multiperson bathing facility was provided, but there were camps where it was unavailable due to the general shortage of fuel. In some camps the large number of prisoners trying to bathe limited baths to one per week, and some POWs washed themselves at laundry sinks or wash stands or in the nearby bodies of water. Generally, the Japanese guards were responsible for providing rice and other ingredients for meals, and the POWs took turns preparing the food. The basic menu was a bowl of rice, a cup of miso-soup, and some pickles.

    In some camps they had bread once a day. Several times a month, meat or fish was provided, but as the food situation in Japan worsened, the meat disappeared. Starvation and malnutrition were the POW's most critical problems. There are some Japanese who claim that the Japanese Army did their best to secure food for the POWs under the wartime conditions, but there is no denying that the POWs were in poor physical condition toward the end of the war.

    The POWs used the clothes that they had with them upon their arrival in Japan, and the camps provided work clothes such as tenugui Japanese cotton towel , jikatabi traditional work footwear , and gunte work gloves made of cotton. Most of the POWs did not have the means to mend or repair their clothes. Some camps provided overcoats for the winter and some did not. Towards the end of the war, the lack of clothing was very serious, and POWs were dressed in rags. In some camps there were canteens where the POWs could buy simple daily necessities.

    In those camps, which had no such facilities, POWs were allowed to shop in the neighbourhoods near the camps under the supervision of the Japanese guards. Some camps even provided POWs with small amounts of tobacco. The POWs were supposed to be able to communicate with their family at home through the International Red Cross under certain conditions.

    For example, they were limited to letters.

    United States World War II Prisoner of War Records Genealogy - FamilySearch Wiki

    However, in reality it was impossible for them to communicate with family more than once or twice during the duration of imprisonment, and there were camps where the POWs were not allowed to communicate with the world outside the camp at all. The standard work schedule was eight hours a day with one day a week off, but POWs were often forced to work longer. In all of the industries where POWs were assigned, their work consisted mostly of simple physical labour, such as carrying raw materials or goods, loading, unloading, construction work, and mining.

    A few POWs did technical work and demonstrated their excellent technical skills.

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    The rate of pay was one yen per day per POW, paid to the camp by the company, out of which a Private received 10 sen a day, a non-commissioned officer 15 sen, and a warrant officer 25 sen. Officers were paid according to rank. However, pay was in the form of account books, not in cash. They were not allowed to buy food.

    Some POWs testified that they had never received any pay in any form. This may have been because the wages were only on paper. There were Japanese civilian doctors or medical officers who came around the camps, or there were the POW medical officers in each camp who conducted treatment. In each camp, there was some facility like a simple clinic, but medical supplies were as scarce as they were among Japan's civilian population.

    When the POWs were unable to work because of illness their food ration was cut. Due to poor sanitation, lice and fleas plagued POWs, and there was danger of spreading infectious diseases. In addition to those two hospitals, POWs were sometimes sent to nearby Army hospitals or hospitals that belonged to the companies where they worked. In the prison camp and on the way to work, guarding the POWs was the responsibility of the Japanese Army soldiers and camp staff.

    Company guards were responsible for the POWs while they were at work. Sometimes those soldiers in charge of guarding the prisoners around the camp and the work site were dispatched from a nearby regiment or other unit. Violence by the guards was often reported, and it was common to receive a Binta strong slap on the face or various kinds of beatings. Such beatings could result from simply offending the guard in some way. Punishments were severe even for slight infractions of the rules. Theft of food because of hunger was met with especially terrible punishment.

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