From the book UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand
WE SEE HERE THE HUNT FOR WAR CRIMINALS AND THEIR PENALTY. WE SEE ALSO THE HORRIFIC IMPACT OF JAPAN POW CAMPS HAD ON THOSE SO IMPRISONED IN THEM - Keith Hunt
For Louie, these were days of bliss. Though he was still sick, wasted, and weak, he glowed with euphoria such as he had never experienced. His rage against his captors was gone. Like all the men around him, he felt flush with love for everyone and everything.
Only the thought of the Bird gave him pause. A few days earlier, Louie would have bound and killed him without remorse. Now the vengeful urge no longer had sure footing. The Bird was gone, his ability to reach Louie-—-physically, at least—extinguished. At that moment, all Louie felt was rapture.
Forgiveness coursed through all of the men at Naoetsu. POWs
* Japan also held more than 215,000 POWs from other countries and untold thousands of forced laborers. Their death rates are unknown.
doled out supplies to civilians and stood in circles of children, handing out chocolate. Louie and other POWs brought food and clothing to the guards and asked them to take it home to their families. Even Kono was spared. Ordered to stay in camp, he holed up in his office for eleven days, so afraid of retribution that he never once came out. When a POW opened the door, Kono gasped and ran to a corner. A few days before, he might have met with reprisal, but today, there was no such spirit. The POWs left him alone.*
There was only one act of vengeance in the camp. When a particularly hated guard appeared in the galley, a POW grabbed him by the collar and the seat of the pants and threw him out the door with such force that he sailed over the riverside drop-off and into the Hokura River. The POWs never saw him again.
The pallets didn't stop falling. After a few days of B-29 visits, food, medicine, and clothing were piling up everywhere. The officers distributed the food as soon as it landed, and every man was entombed in goodies. Eventually someone climbed on the roofs and wrote: no MORE—THANKS. ANY-NEWS?
Gorging brought consequences. Digestive systems that had spent years scraping by on two or three cups of seaweed per day were overwhelmed. Naoetsu became a festival of rapid-fire diarrhea. The benjo lines wound everywhere, and men unable to wait began dropping their pants and fertilizing Japan wherever the spirit moved them. Then they went right back to happy feasting.
All over Japan, B-29s continued pouring food down on POWs. More than one thousand planes saturated the landscape with nearly forty-five hundred tons of Spam and fruit cocktail, soup, chocolate, medicine, clothing, and countless other treasures. At Omori, Bob Martindale had taken over the hateful little office where the Bird had sat before his picture window, hunting men. He was there when an enormous box sailed out of the sun, hit the ground just outside the window, and exploded, obliterating the Bird's office in a cataclysm of American cocoa powder. Martindale stumbled out, caked head to toe in cocoa, but otherwise uninjured.
* Kono put on civilian clothes, fled camp, wrote his mother to say he was killing himself, then took a false name and moved to Niigata. A year later, he was recognized on a wanted poster and arrested. Convicted of abusing POWs, he was sentenced to life at hard labor……..
Liberation was a long time coming for Phil and Fred at Rokuroshi. After the August 22 announcement of the war's end, the POWs sat there, waiting for someone to come get them. They got hold of a radio, and on it they heard chatter from men liberating other camps, but no one came for them. They began to wonder if anyone knew they were there. It wasn't until September 2 that B-29s finally flew over Rokuroshi, their pallets hitting the rice paddies with such force that the men had to dig them out. The POWs ate themselves silly. One man downed twenty pounds of food in a single day, but somehow didn't get sick.
That afternoon, an American navy man dug through his belongings and pulled out his most secret and precious possession. It was an American flag with a remarkable provenance. In 1941, just before Singapore had fallen to the Japanese, an American missionary woman had given it to a British POW. The POW had been loaded aboard a ship, which had sunk. Two days later, another British POW had rescued the flag from where it lay underwater and slipped it to the American navy man, who had carried it through the entire war, somehow hiding it from the Japanese, until this day. The POWs pulled down the Japanese flag and ran the Stars and Stripes up the pole over Rokuroshi. The men stood before it, hands up in salutes, tears running down their faces.
On September 9, Phil, Fred, and the other POWs were finally trucked off the mountain. Arriving in Yokohama, they were greeted with pancakes, a band playing "California, Here I Come," and a general who broke down when he saw them. The men were escorted aboard a ship for hot showers and more food. On September 11, the ship set off for home.
When news of the Trumbull story reached Indiana, Kelsey Phillips telephone began ringing, and friends and reporters flocked onto the front porch. Remembering the War Department's request that she not speak publicly of her son's survival, Kelsey kept a smiling silence awaiting official notification that Allen had been released from the POW camp. It wasn't until September 16 that the War Department telegram announcing Allen's liberation reached her. It was followed by a phone call from her sister, who delivered a message from Allen that had passed from person to person from Rokuroshi to Yokohama San Francisco to New Jersey to Indiana: He was free. Allen's friend went downtown and bought newspapers, spread them out on some one's living room floor, and spent the morning reading and crying. She celebrated, Kelsey thought of what Allen had written in letter to her. "I would give anything to be home with all of you," the letter said, "but I'm looking forward to the day—whenever it come;" That day, Kelsey rejoiced, "has come."…….
On September 11, General MacArthur, now the supreme commander of Allied powers in occupied Japan, ordered the arrest of forty war-crimes suspects. While thousands of men would be sought later, this preliminary list was composed of those accused of the worst crimes, including list-topper Hideki Tojo, mastermind of Pearl Harbor and the man on whose orders POWs had been enslaved and starved, and Masahuru Homma, who was responsible for the Bataan Death March.* On the list with them was Mutsuhiro Watanabe.
The Bird had left Naoetsu in a panic, and without a plan. According to Watanabe family accounts, he fled to the village of Kusakabe, where his mother and other relatives were living. About a week and a half after Mutsuhiro's arrival, his aunt found him out drinking and told him that she'd just heard a radio broadcast naming him as a war-crimes suspect. Mutsuhiro decided to make a run for it. He apparently told his mother that he was leaving to visit a friend's tomb, then took his little sister aside and told her that he had to escape, but asked her not to tell his mother. As Mutsuhiro was preparing to go, his little sister gave him a deck of playing cards, to be used for fortune-telling.
Wearing his uniform with the insignia torn off, Mutsuhiro packed a trunk with food and clothing and lugged it to a car. He drove to the rail-
* Tojo was found in his home that day, sitting in a chair, blood gushing from a self-inflicted bullet wound in bis chest. Whispering "Banzai!" and saying he'd rather die than face trial, Tojo was given a pint of American blood plasma, then taken to a hospital. When he recovered, he was housed at Omori, sleeping in Bob Martindale's bunk. He complained about lice and bedbugs. He was tried, sentenced to death, and, in 1948, hanged. He and 1,068 other convicted war criminals were later honored in Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, memorializing Japanese who died in the service of the emperor.
(GOT TO BE NUTS…. HONORING THEM! SEEMS LIKE JAPAN IS STILL WAY OUT OF REALITY IN THEIR OWN LITTLE WORLD - Keith Hunt)
station and walked onto the first train he saw, without checking its destination. He hoped it would take him to someplace distant and obscure, but the train reached its terminus only two towns down the line, at the metropolis of Kofu. He got off, wandered the station, then lay down and slept.
In the morning, he meandered around Kofu. Somewhere in the city, he passed a radio and heard his name listed among those wanted for war crimes. To learn that he was being sought was no surprise, but he was shocked to hear his name listed alongside that of Tojo. If his case was considered comparable to that of Tojo, he thought, arrest would mean execution.
At all costs, he vowed, he wouldn't let himself fall into the hands of the Americans. He resolved to disappear forever.
As Mutsuhiro fled, the hunt for him began. Though they were now operating under the orders of their former enemies, the Japanese police worked swiftly and energetically to round up war-crimes suspects. The Watanabe case was no exception. After finding nothing at Mutsuhiro's last known address, police appeared at his mother's door in Kusakabe. Shizuka Watanabe told them that her son had been there, but had left. They had missed him by three days. Shizuka suggested that he might seek refuge with his sister Michiko, who lived in Tokyo. She'd soon be visiting Michiko, she said, and if she found Mutsuhiro there, she'd urge him to turn himself in.
The police seized on the lead. Shizuka gave them an address for Michiko, and they converged on it. Not only was there no Michiko there, there was no house. Every home in the neighborhood had burned long ago, in the firebombing.
Shizuka was now the focus of suspicion. On her regular visits to Tokyo, she always stayed with Michiko, and given that she was scheduled to do so that very week, she surely knew that her daughter's home had burned down. Shizuka's misdirection of the detectives may have been an honest mistake—Michiko had moved to a home down the same road, so the only change in the address was the door number—but the police began to suspect that she knew where her son was. On September 24, the police arrested her. If she knew anything, she let nothing slip. She was released.
The police were a long way from giving up. Two detectives began tailing Shizuka and often came into her home to question her. Her monetary transactions were tracked, and her landlord was regularly questioned. Mutsuhiro's other relatives were investigated, questioned, and sometimes searched. Police intercepted all of the family's incoming and outgoing mail. They even had a stranger deliver a fake letter, apparently making it appear to be from Mutsuhiro, in hopes of getting the family to betray his whereabouts.
Widening the hunt, the police investigated Mutsuhiro's former army roommates. The home of his Omori commander was searched and put under surveillance. Mutsuhiro's photograph was distributed throughout police ranks in the Tokyo metropolitan area and four prefectures. Every police station in Nagano Prefecture, where a Watanabe family mine was located, conducted special searches. Detectives went through Mutsuhiro's academic records and searched for his teachers and classmates, going back to his childhood. They even got hold of a love letter from a girl who had asked Mutsuhiro if he'd marry her.
They found only two leads. A former soldier told them that Mutsuhiro had spoken of his intention to flee to Fukuoka Prefecture to be a farmer. The soldier thought that Mutsuhiro would hide with a friend named Yo. Police found Yo, questioned and investigated him, and questioned people in his neighborhood. It was a dead lead. Meanwhile, a detective at Mitsushima found a man who'd seen Mutsuhiro in August. The man said that Mutsuhiro had left, claiming to be headed for Tokyo, at the war's end. But Mutsuhiro had gone to Kusakabe; there was no evidence that he'd gone to Tokyo. He may have seeded his acquaintances with false information to misdirect his pursuers.
There was one other possible clue. The man at Mitsushima mentioned something he had overheard Mutsuhiro say: He would rather kill himself than be captured. It seemed no idle threat; that fall, during a roundup of suspected war criminals, there was a wave of suicides among those sought. Perhaps the Bird was already dead.
While investigators combed Japan for Mutsuhiro, prosecutors were inundated with some 250 POW affidavits concerning his actions in camps. These would be distilled into an 84-count indictment. Even with each count stated with maximum brevity, in single spacing, the indictment stretched over eight feet of paper. It would reflect only a tiny fraction of the crimes that POWs said Watanabe had committed; Louie's accusations of myriad attacks would make up only one count. Investigators believed that they had far more evidence than they needed to have Watanabe convicted and put to death. But nothing could go forward. The Bird was still at large.
As his tormenter disappeared into darkness, Louie was pulled into blinding light. With his Odyssean saga featured in newspapers, magazines, and radio shows, he was a national sensation. Two thousand people wrote him letters. Press photographers tailed him. His attempts to sleep were invariably interrupted by a ringing phone. Strangers teemed around him, pushing for news on what he'd do next. Everyone wanted him to tell his story. The War Department booked him on a speaking tour, and he was inundated with speaking invitations that usually came with an award, making them impossible to decline. In his first weeks home, staying with his parents, he gave ninety-five speeches and made countless radio appearances. When he went to dinner clubs, the managers begged him to regale the guests. For Louie, all of the attention was drenching, a great noise, overpowering.
When Payton Jordan first saw Louie again, he was reassured by his old friend's familiar impish grin and the springy cadence of his speech. But when Louie spoke of the war, Jordan sensed something rustling just behind his eyes, a clamoring emotion pent up in a small space. He spoke not with anger or anguish but with bewilderment. Sometimes he'd pause and drift off, a troubled expression on his face. "It was like he got hit real hard," Jordan recalled, "and he was trying to shake it off."
Louie was struggling more than Jordan or anyone else knew. He was beginning to suffer bouts of suffocating anxiety. Each time he was asked to stand before a crowd and shape words around his private horror, his gut would wring. Every night, in his dreams, an apparition would form in his head and burn there. It was the face of the Bird, screaming, "Next! Next! Next!"…….
At the end of World War II, thousands of former prisoners of the Japanese, known as Pacific POWs, began their postwar lives. Physically, almost every one of them was ravaged. The average army or army air forces Pacific POW had lost sixty-one pounds in captivity, a remarkable statistic given that roughly three-quarters of the men had weighed just 159 pounds or less upon enlistment. Tuberculosis, malaria, dysentery, malnutrition, anemia, eye ailments, and festering wounds were widespread. At one chain of hospitals, doctors found a history of wet beriberi in 77 percent of POWs and dry beriberi in half. Among Canadian POWs, 84 percent had neurologic damage. Respiratory diseases, from infections and exposure to unbreathable air in factories and mines, were rampant. Men had been crippled and disfigured by unset broken bones, and their teeth had been ruined by beatings and years of chewing grit in their food. Others had gone blind from malnutrition. Scores of men were so ill that they had to be carried from camps, and it was common for men to remain hospitalized for many months after repatriation. Some couldn't be saved.
The physical injuries were lasting, debilitating, and sometimes deadly. A 1954 study found that in the first two postwar years, former Pacific POWs died at almost four times the expected rate for men of their age, and continued to die at unusually high rates for many years. The health repercussions often lasted for decades; a follow-up study found that twenty-two years after the war, former Pacific POWs had hospitalization rates between two and eight times higher than former European POWs for a host of diseases.
As bad as were the physical consequences of captivity, the emotional injuries were much more insidious, widespread, and enduring.
In the first six postwar years, one of the most common diagnoses given to hospitalized former Pacific POWs was psychoneurosis. Nearly forty years after the war, more than 85 percent of former Pacific POWs in one study suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterized in part by flashbacks, anxiety, and nightmares. And in a 1987 study, eight in ten former Pacific POWs had "psychiatric impairment," six in ten had anxiety disorders, more than one in four had PTSD, and nearly one in five was depressed. For some, there was only one way out: a 1970 study reported that former Pacific POWs committed suicide 30 percent more often than controls.
All of this illness, physical and emotional, took a shocking toll. Veterans were awarded compensation based on their level of disability, ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent. As of January 1953, one-third of former Pacific POWs were categorized as 50 to 100 percent disabled, nearly eight years after the war's end.
These statistics translated into tormented, and sometimes ruined, lives. Flashbacks, in which men re-experienced their traumas and were unable to distinguish the illusion from reality, were common. Intense nightmares were almost ubiquitous. Men walked in their sleep, acting out prison camp ordeals, and woke screaming, sobbing, or lashing out. Some slept on their floors because they couldn't sleep on mattresses, ducked in terror when airliners flew over, or hoarded food. One man had a recurrent hallucination of seeing his dead POW friends walking past. Another was unable to remember the war. Milton McMullen couldn't stop using Japanese terms, a habit that had been pounded into him. Dr. Alfred Weinstein, who had infected the Bird with dysentery at Mitsushima, was dogged by urges to scavenge in garbage cans.* Huge numbers of men escaped by drinking. In one study of former Pacific POWs, more than a quarter had been diagnosed with alcoholism.
Raymond "Hap" Halloran was a navigator who parachuted into Tokyo after his B-29 was shot down. Once on the ground, Halloran was beaten by a mob of civilians, then captured by Japanese authorities, who tortured him, locked him in a pig cage, and held him in a
* Returning home to the postwar housing shortage, Weinstein took out a $600,000 loan, built an apartment complex in Atlanta, and offered the 140 family units to veterans"at rents averaging less than $50 per month. "Priorities: 1) Ex-POWs; 2) Purple Heart Vets; 3) Overseas Vets; 4) Vets; 5) Civilians," read his ad. "... We prefer Ex-GI's, and Marines and enlisted personnel of the Navy. Ex-Air Corps men may apply if they quit telling'us how they won the war." His rule banning 'KKK members drew threatening phone calls. "I gave them my office and my home address," Weinstein said, "and told them I still had the .45 I used to shoot carabau [water buffalo] with."
burning horse stall during the firebombings. They stripped him naked and put him on display at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, tied upright in an empty tiger cage so civilians could gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body. He was starved so severely that he lost one hundred pounds.
After liberation and eight months in a hospital, Halloran went home to Cincinnati. "I was not the same 15-year-old Raymond whose mother kissed him goodbye that fall morning in 1942.," he wrote. He was intensely nervous and wary of anything approaching him from behind. He couldn't sleep with his arms covered, fearing that he'd need to fight off attackers. He had horrific nightmares, and would wake running in his yard, shouting for help. He avoided hotels because his screaming upset other guests. More than sixty years after the war, he was still plagued by "poor inventory control," keeping eight pillows and six clocks in his bedroom, buying far more clothes and supplies than he'd ever need, and stockpiling bulk packages of food. And yet Halloran was fortunate. Of the five survivors of his crew, two drank themselves to death.*
Some former POWs became almost feral with rage. For many men, seeing an Asian person or overhearing a snippet of Japanese left them shaking, weeping, enraged, or lost in flashbacks. One former POW, normally gentle and quiet, spat at every Asian person he saw. At Letterman General Hospital just after the war, four former POWs tried to attack a staffer who was of Japanese ancestry, not knowing that he was an American veteran.
Troubled former POWs found nowhere to turn. McMullen came out of Japan racked by nightmares and so nervous that he was barely able to speak cogently. When he told his story to his family, his father accused him of lying and forbade him to speak of the war. Shattered and deeply depressed, McMullen couldn't eat, and his weight plunged back down to ninety pounds. He went to a veterans' hospital, but the doctors simply gave him BI2 shots. As he recounted his experiences to a military official, the official picked up a phone and began talking with someone else. After two years, McMullen got his feet under him again, but he would never really recover. Sixty years after VJ Day, his dreams
* As Halloran parachuted over Tokyo, the Zero that had shot him down sped toward him, and Halloran was certain that he was going to be strafed, as so many falling airmen were. But instead of firing, the pilot saluted him. After the war, Halloran and that pilot, Isamu Kashiide, became dear friends.
still carried him back to the camps. Recounting his war experiences was so painful that it would leave him off-kilter for weeks.
The Pacific POWs who went home in 1945 were torn-down men. They had an intimate understanding of man's vast capacity to experience suffering, as well as his equally vast capacity, and hungry willingness, to inflict it. They carried unspeakable memories of torture and humiliation, and an acute sense of vulnerability that attended the knowledge of how readily they could be disarmed and dehumanized. Many felt lonely and isolated, having endured abuses that ordinary people couldn't understand. Their dignity had been obliterated, replaced with a pervasive sense of shame and worthlessness. And they had the caustic knowledge that no one had come between them and tragedy. Coming home was an experience of profound, perilous alone-ness.
For these men, the central struggle of postwar life was to restore their dignity and find a way to see the world as something other than menacing blackness. There was no one right way to peace; every man had to find his own path, according to his own history. Some succeeded. For others, the war would never really end. Some retreated into brooding isolation or lost themselves in escapes. And for some men, years of swallowed rage, terror, and humiliation concentrated into what Holocaust survivor Jean Amery would call "a seething, purifying thirst for revenge."…….
As the Bird hid, other men who had abused POWs were arrested, taken to Sugamo Prison, in Tokyo, and tried for war crimes. Roughly 5,400 Japanese were tried by the United States and other nations; some 4,400 were convicted, including 984 given death sentences and 475 given life in prison.* More than 30 Ofuna personnel were convicted and sentenced to a total of roughly 350 years in prison. The thieving cook, Tatsumi "Curley" Hata, was sentenced to twenty years. Masajiro "Shithead" Hirayabashi, who'd beaten countless prisoners and killed Gaga the duck, was given four years. Commander Kakuzo Iida, "the Mummy," was sentenced to death for contributing to the deaths of five captives. Also convicted was Sueharu Kitamura—"the Quack"—who had mutilated his patients, bludgeoned Harris, and contributed to the deaths of four captives, including one who was carried from Ofuna at the war's end, hours from death, crying out "Quack" over and over again. Kitamura was sentenced to hang.
Kaname Sakaba, the Omori commander, was given a life sentence. Of the men from Naoetsu, six civilian guards were tried, convicted, and hanged. Seven Japanese soldiers were also convicted: two were hanged, four given life imprisonment with hard labor, and one given twenty years…….
* Some death sentences were later commuted; 920 men were eventually executed.
Of the postwar stories of the men who ran the camps in which Louie had lived, the saddest was that of Yukichi Kano, the Omori private who'd risked everything to protect the POWs and had probably saved several prisoners' lives. Just after the war's end was announced, Kano came upon a group of drunken guards stumbling toward the barracks, swords drawn, determined to hack some captured B-29 men to death. Kano and another man planted themselves in the guards' path and, after a brief scuffle, stopped them. Kano was a hero, but when the Americans came to liberate the camp, two of them tried to rip the insignia off his uniform. Bob Martindale stepped in and gave the Americans a furious dressing-down. Fearing that Kano might be mistakenly accused of war crimes, Martindale and several other POW officers wrote a letter of commendation for him before they went home.
It did no good. Kano was arrested and jailed as a suspected war criminal. Why he was fingered remains unclear. He was mentioned in many POW affidavits and, in every one, was lauded for his kindness. Perhaps the explanation was that his last name was similar to those of two vicious men, Tetsutaro Kato, an Omori official said to have kicked a POW nearly to death, and Hiroaki Kono, the Bird's acolyte at Naoetsu. Months passed, and Kano languished in prison, frightened and humiliated. He was neither charged nor questioned. He wrote a plaintive letter asking authorities to investigate him so his name could be cleared. "Cross my heart," he wrote, "I have not done anything wrong."
In the winter of 1946, Kano was finally cleared, and MacArthur ordered his release. Kano moved to Yokohama and worked for an import-export business. He missed his POW friends, but for years didn't try to contact them. "I thought I should refrain from writing them," he wrote to Martindale in 1955, "as my letter might make them to remind up the hard days in Omori, which, I am sure, they would like to forget." Sometime later, he died of cancer.
In the mountain village where he was known as Saburo Ohta, Watanabe waited out a bitter winter. The visit from the policeman shook him. After the policeman left, the farmer's wife eyed Watanabe what seemed to be recognition. When night fell, Watanabe lay awake mulling capture and execution………