The Hakodate : October 19, 2013

68 Years Ago A POW in A POW Camp in Hakodate

Mr. Robert Heer (91 years old), who was held in a POW camp in Hakodate City came over to Hakodate, and visited six places, including Kameda Minato-machi, where the Hakodate #2 Dispatch POW Camp was, for two days October 17, and 18. Mr. Heer looked back those days, saying, “I was so happy that WWII has ended and I would be able to make it home.”  

By Ayako Toratani

Mr. Heer entered the Kameda POW Camp on March 16, 1945, and was in Hakodate for three months till June 7. The POWs walked about 1.5km to Arikawa Quay, and were engaged in loading and unloading food, coal and so on from and onto ships. It was not an easy labor, but compared to other camps, the one in Hakodate was the best.”

Mr. Masatoshi Asari, 82 years old, a resident of Nanae-machi, guided him on October 17, the Kameda camp site, Arikawa Quay, and Eizenji Temple, where a Memorial is, on which are engraved the names of British POWs who died in Hakodate camps.

On October 18, the group went over to the Hakodate POW Main Camp site in Funami-machi. Mr. Asari talked about Shigeo Emoto, who was the Camp Commandant during the days Heer was in Hakodate. Mr. Heer said, “I remember him well. He came to our camp and spoke, ‘US-Japan relationship is very important. When you are back to your country after the war, we would like to be friends with you. I ask you not to hate Japan.’ I was very glad I could hear him telling us, when we were back home,.” And he showed a smile.

They went on to the remaining building of former Hakodate Quarantine Station, which served as part of the Main Camp facilities, then to Shomyoji Temple, where Memorials are built for Japanese and American victims of the Hakodate Bombing. Mr. Heer mourned the victims, “Unfortunately war will go on as long as the mankind lasts.”

“I’m very happy I could come back to Hakodate. I want to keep the good memories I’ve made this time,” Mr. Heer said. “Mr. Heer has taught me again the ideas of cherishing one’s own life, and living together, admitting differences. Not only the cruelty of war, I’d like to pass on these ideas to children who live today,” Mr. Asari said.