Omine machi POW camp
Nearly 300 American POWs were held in Hiroshima POW
camp 6-B, Omine-machi, and
eight of them died there.
Topside work at a Japanese coal mine is strenuous. The Japanese cut into a mountainside to make roadbeds for tracks. Prisoners load large rocks onto flatcars and then roll the cars to a fill and dump them. (courtesy of Mr. Ben Steele.)
These pictures were probably taken after the liberation.
The Mainichi Shimbun
published an article on this camp on August 12. (Original
Silent Storyteller: Former POW Camp “Shinwa Ryo” in Mine
“History” that should be handed down: Memorial fostering reconciliation and friendship
In a lonely, small vacant lot off the prefectural road in Omine machi, Mine city, stands a memorial indicating there once was POW camp, “Shinwa Ryo.”
Mr. Seiki Hazama (82), who led citizen group “Fifth Day Gathering” in the project of building this memorial muttered, “There is hardly anyone left who had firsthand knowledge of the camp. There is nothing to remind people of it except this memorial.”
The POW camp was established in 1942 during WWII. One hundred and eighty-four British POWs and 288 American POWs were brought here and forced to work for Sanyo Muen Kogyosho (today’s Ube Kosan). The inscription on the memorial reads, “We record the fact here, wishing eternal peace never to repeat such a tragedy as this.”
Mr. Hazama was born in Nagato. He was a 16-year-old cadet of the Imperial Army’s Military Academy in Tokyo when the war ended. He entered the Buddhist priesthood in Mine city after the war to take over a temple run by his relative. As he conducted many memorial services for those who had died in the war, he began to ponder the question of “What did that war mean?”
It was after he organized an event to listen to Atomic bomb survivors in 1981 that he formed “Fifth Day Gathering.” He has been compiling collections of testimonies by citizens who had lived through World War II on the occasions of the 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries of its ending.
According to one such collection, a meeting was held in 1994 where former camp personnel and former soldiers, including those who had been convicted as war criminals, gathered together. They decided to build a memorial on the site “in order to pass down the record to future generations.” That led to the eventual construction of the memorial in 1996.
In the spring of 2001, twenty-four former British POWs visited the site at the invitation of the Japanese government. They met with former POW camp personnel and paid their respects to those POWs who died there. “We shook hands and sang a British folk song together. I was really glad that we had built the memorial.”
Bereaved family of another former British soldier also visited this site last fall. The memorial has been telling the history of the tragic war and fostering friendship.
“There were good histories and bad ones. We must pass down all of them.” Mr.
Hazama is now working toward the publication of a collection of testimonies on
the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.
* The lot on which the memorial was built was provided for free by Ube Kosan, the successor company of Sanyo Muen Kogyosho that used POWs.