A Brother’s Hero
F.W. Malikowski, a Japanese WWII POW’s Unforeseen Journey from Kingston, Pennsylvania to Mukaishima, Japan
By Edward Malikowski
(Francis W. Malikowski was a student of West Point Prep School in the Camp John Hay, Bugio, Philippines when the war started on Dec 8, 1941. He joined the battle of Bataan and was surrendered to the Japanese military on April 9, 1942. He survived the Bataan Death March and was held in several camps before being sent to Japan in August of 1944. He was forced to work for Hitachi Zosen in Mukaishima in Hiroshima prefecture until the end of WWII.
This book is based on the author’s memory of listening to his brother’s wartime experience immediately after the war and one interview he conducted with his brother in 1993. The author also used a diary his brother had kept during the war to trace his footsteps.)
Fran was able to keep a paper and pencil record of his whereabouts and somehow keep it from being confiscated. Diagonally, across a makeshift piece of cardboard used as a cover, he printed his name in bold capital letters and the word NOTES at the bottom. On the back he placed his serial number, 7021955, followed by his dog tag, then U.S.A.C. followed by his home address., 35 So Welles Ave. Kingston, Penna. It seems that he was leaving a record of some of his life as a prisoner of war in the event he would not survive.
On the first page of a 4-½ x 6-inch American Red Cross note pad, and sandwiched between the pieces of cardboard, he sketched a calendar of the months August through November, 1944. He drew a diagonal line through each day as it passed, and highlighted some. The first highlighted day was August 20. It was the day he left Zablan and went the dozen or so miles to Bilibid Prison in Manila with other POWs. Almost a year and a half passed since he had been at Bilibid to have his abscessed teeth repaired. His reason for being there this time was quite different.
Bilibid was the embarkation point for the POWs heading for Japan. It was here that they were checked to determine if they were healthy enough to stand the rigors of the trip to Japan and for their fitness to work.
About 30 miles past Hiroshima, the train stopped at Onimichi (Japanese people pronounce it Onomichi) a manufacturing city of about 60,000 people located on the Inland Sea of Japan. It is here that Fran was one of 100 POWs dropped off the train to become laborers for the Japanese…
On Fran’s hand drawn calendar, September 7, 1944 was blocked out. It was the day of their arrival at Onimichi. They would spend their first night there and begin moving to the small island of Mukaishima the next day. The prison camp at Mukaishima became known as Hiroshima Sub-Camp No. 4…
The island was only about a quarter to a half mile offshore. Fran recalled that they were transported there on small tug boats, about 12 or 13 men at a time. To the credit of the Japanese, it seems that they must have spent the better part of the first week organizing the men and issuing clothing. “We were issued one work uniform, amazingly resembling burlap, one cotton shirt, two Japanese army uniform (one winter, one summer), one pair split toed sneakers and two pairs socks. We were not allowed to wear the army uniforms while working. Neither were we allowed to wear the American Red Cross shoes we received in the Philippines.”
They also had
their picture taken, in a group and individually. Somehow Fran was able to
obtain his individual picture and bring it home after the war…
The next “red letter day” highlighted on Fran’s calendar was October 7, 1944. Under that date in the diary the entry read, “Oct 7-Mukaishima-Issue of Red Cross-one, eleven pound parcel for nine men…"
Another “red letter day” was Oct, 17, but was then scratched out. The diary reads, “Oct. 17-Rumor that Germany surrendered (?) (Later fizzled out)." Rumors, many of which turned out to be false, served as a lifeline for the POWs. Hopes were getting higher with rumors about the end of the war. Other rumors were probably expressions of those hopes concocted by the men to try to raise their spirits. Fran’s diary/notebook contained a long list:
It is difficult to know how aware the POWs were about the progress of the war. Every camp had its rumor mill, but in the home country of the Japanese, living in a fenced-in area, and not speaking the native language, it seemed there would be little way to determine how things were going. One sure sign would come on a day that had to give Fran and his fellow POWs more hope than they ever had in the last three years. Fran could not remember the date. He guessed that it was sometime in April, 1945. On that day, as he stood on the grounds of the Mukaishima saw mill, he could hear the distant hum of airplane engines. The low cloud cover made it impossible to see anything. The hum became louder and after what seemed like 15 minutes, a break came in the clouds as the hum became a roar. As he told the story almost 50 years later, his voice choked with emotion as he described the passing of wave after wave of American bombers flying overhead…
The POWs had amassed a huge amount of furlough time, and when they were deemed healthy enough, they were allowed to make their way home. Fran’s first trip home probably occurred in November, 1945. It was almost five and one-half years since Frank and Bertha had seen their eldest son. Their prayers had been answered.
Brother Bob and I were not at home for the occasion. Bob entered the regular Navy upon graduation from high school in 1942 and was stationed in the Navy Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as a medic. I was sworn in to the Navy on August 3, 1945, but the sudden end of the war stalled my call to active duty until October 19, 1945. I was now in Boot Camp at Camp Perry, Virginia.
One Sunday in December, 1945, we naval recruits got off the base at Camp Perry for the first time to travel by bus to William and Mary College. We were spectators at a football game between Camp Perry’s team and a team from a nearby Army base. It began to snow during the game. Following the game, which Camp Perry won, we headed back to camp. As I approached my “home,” a small Quonset hut which slept 16 recruits, I saw a sailor and a soldier standing in front of our hut. They had more than an inch of snow mounded on their hats and shoulders. I never dreamed that of the thousands of sailors at the camp, these men were there to see me. My first clue should have been when I saw a considerable number of ribbons on the soldier’s chest and a lot of gold hash marks on his sleeve, one for every six months of overseas duty during wartime. I recognized Bob first. I had seen him at home when he was on leave. The soldier had to be Fran, but how could it be, this man must have weighed 180 pounds. I had seen pictures of former POWs. I was shocked at how robust he looked. But there was no mistaking those eyes and bushy eyebrows. I t was five and one-half years since Fran and I had seen each other. I am not sure he recognized me at first. The last time he saw me, I was 13 and weighed about 90 pounds. One of the first things I said was, “Why did you stand out here in the snow, the Quonset hut door was open?” Fran replied, “This is your home, we were not about to enter, uninvited.” To them, it was a mere inconvenience. I’m sure that Fran could see the look of joy on my face and my exuberance upon seeing him. My big brother, my boyhood hero was home, and in my eyes, now a true hero in every sense of the word. The visit was short, but they told me that they would be home when I was scheduled for leave in less than a month following my boot camp training. We would all be together again, as a family, on January 10, 1946.
In the summer of 1975, thirty years after the war had ended, Fran decided to revisit the Philippine Islands and Japan, presumably to face the demons of that long ago nightmare as a POW. During the early years following the war, he exhibited some animosity toward the Japanese, but never forgot those few who treated him well. Thirty years later his feelings had softened considerably…
Upon his arrival
in Onimichi, he boarded a ferry for the short run to Mukaishima. There is no
indication that he was able to actually visit the saw mill where he performed
his forced labor, or if it still existed. A note on one of his photo envelops
reads only, “trip to Mukaishima.” Among them are several hazy photos of a
waterfront with large cranes in view. I assume that was as close as he would
come to the place where he spent that year of imprisonment at the Hitachi
(Left: Author Edward Malikowski and his daughter Susan.)
Susan leads the
DesignLeaf Studio and did the cover and interior design of this book. They
spent 14 years to publish it, truly a labor of love.
Volunteering for POWs held in Mukaishima
The author wrote
that his brother did not speak much about his POW experience. My father was a
Japanese POW in Siberia for two years. He survived harsh forced labor and
internment there. Luckily he came back home. However, he never talked about his
wartime experience. He must have witnessed many miserable deaths during his captivity,
as did this author’s brother. I imagine that what they went through must have
been too traumatic an experience for these men to talk about.
Then in 1995, I heard that a group of another former British POWs would visit Hiroshima. I volunteered to assist them, and took them on guided tours in and around Hiroshima, including Mukaishima as it was located at one-hour drive from my house.
After sightseeing, all the members of the tour group left Hiroshima
with a very good impression. They all kept waving to me through the windows of Shinkansen train as they left for Tokyo. I still remember their happy smiling
faces even today.
After going back to Britain, most of them wrote to me such kind words like, “The trip to Japan has helped me to lay many of the ghosts to rest which have haunted me since the end of the war. I’m glad to have lived to see the day when we are all friends again.” When I read these letters I felt that nothing was as rewarding as this volunteer work, and that feeling has motivated me to continue my volunteer work for POWs to this day.
In 2002, I
helped the project of building
Japan-United Kingdom Friendship Monument and placing Memorial Plate on the wall
of the former Mukaishima POW camp building.
Prisoner of War Camp
Names of the 23 British POWs who died in this camp were also inscribed.
(The inscription was based on information available in 2002. It was later learned that there were almost 130 POW camps in Japan during WWII and that one American POW died in Mukaishima POW camp.)
far as I know, no former American POW has returned to Mukaishima.
I hope this book will encourage former American POWs and their families to visit
I will be
honored to volunteer to make their visit meaningful and memorable.
* Mr. Koshi Kobayashi was President of the "AGAPE Japan-U.K. Friendship Association, Hiroshima" as well as a member of the "Japan-U.K. Friendship Monument Committee."
* Read also his article on Zentsuji POW camp