Photo Album of Zentsuji POW camp

After I posted Mr. Koshi Kobayashi's essay, "Zentsuji POW camp," Mr. Fumio Yoshida, whose father, Lt. Shigeru Yoshida, was in charge of bookkeeping at Zentsuji camp during the war, sent me many photos and some papers his father kept after the war.

Here are some of them. Brief background information were provided by Mr. Roger Mansell of Center for Research: Allied POWS Under the Japanese,

(Right: Cover of the file in which Lt. Yoshida kept information on Zentsuji POW camp)   



The Japanese are handing the men packets of cigarettes, a single tangerine and other food. It was a pure propaganda event. The men were immediately sent to the other side of the barracks where the items were confiscated. Numerous memoirs and books recall this incident clearly. It was on 16 January 1942, immediately after an address to the POWs by Major General Mizuhara. He apparently was in charge of camps in the area.


                                      roll call                                                                                 baking bread


The men worked to regrade the hillside for terraced rice paddies. The men knew the place as Osa Yama (Mount Osa) and this project continued well into late 1944. In general, the guards on this detail rarely assaulted the POWS. The guards would go to sleep and the POWS would wake them up if they saw a superior coming uphill for inspection.

Caption says, "exercise in early morning"

             Nurses from Guam                                     John and Ruby Hellmers
          One is not in this photo                 
with their baby daughter Charlene

                                 Lt. Yoshida's handwriting record on nurses' salary

Thank you letter to Mrs. Yoshida from nurses,  all of whom were returned to the US
exchange ship the Gripsholm


Capt. George Johnson McMillin (acting Governor of  Guam)  and Dewey Danielson [FM1c, USN] departed for Karenko POW Camp on Formosa on August 24, 1942

The day of of Cap. McMiilin's departure (Lt. Yoshida stands to his right)

Post Script

Within a few days after I had forwarded these photos to Mr. Roger Mansell, I received the following email.

I am indeed very thankful for the pictures you sent to Roger and he forwarded to me.

My name is Charlene Suzana Hellmers Gloth.  My parents were John and Ruby Hellmers and were in the pictures.  My father was stationed on Guam and my mother was a civilian dependent living there as a family. She became pregnant with me and could not go home with the last of the dependents living on the island because it was too close to her due date. I was born on November 21, 1941 and when the island was taken by the Japanese on December 10, I was 17 days old.  The five nurses, my mother, and myself were the only American women left on the island. 

The nurses helped my mother take care of me while we were held in Zentsuji POW camp and I am glad to put faces to the ones who helped my mother and probably responsible for my survival during that time.

Mr. Fumio Yoshida was very pleased to learn that the baby in the photo could finally see the photo. It is very heartwarming that this kind of dialogue became possible after 66 years since these events had taken place.                                                      (Kinue Tokudome)

Read also Zentsuji POW Camp

Post Script II

After posting two entries on the Zentsuji POW camp, “Zentsuji POW Camp” and “Photo Album of Zentsuji POW Camp,” I received the following email from Mr. Kevin Menzies from New Zealand. His father was held in Zentsuji camp for nearly the entire duration of the Pacific War. Since the deaths of 10 POWs in this camp occurred in 1943, 1944, and 1945, Mr. Menzies’ concern merits our attention.

I am concerned about the inaccurate reference to Zentsuji POW camp as a "propaganda camp" or a "show camp". This assertion seems to be based on two premises:

1) Tojo visited Zentsuji POW camp (He never came.)
2) The Red Cross visited Zentsuji camp

Tojo never visited this camp. There is no record at all of such as event ever being mooted or taking place. There was a rumor in the camp once, but it turned out to be nothing. And the Red Cross visited many camps, not just Zentsuji camp.

My father was in the group of 7 New Zealanders, 1 Englishman and 1 American who were the first to arrive at the Camp a few hours before the Guam POWs. He was there until the camp was liberated in 1945.

Early on, as Japan was doing well conditions were not as bad as they were to get. Yes they were harsh, but at this stage not brutal. Many early POWs passed through this camp. In time they were sent to other camps. These other camps were often initially much harsher than Zentsuji. Thus their impressions of Zentsuji are that it was a good place (comparatively) when compared to other camps.

This view does not take into account the worsening conditions at Zentsuji as the war progressed.

As well many who passed through the camp were officers. Officers were not subjected to the daily grind of slave labour as the 120 enlisted men were. Thus officers tend to have a different view to the camp than that of the enlisted men, such as my father.

It does not make sense that one camp would be treated any different to the others.

Mr. Roger Mansell of "Center for Research: Allied POWS Under the Japanese" wrote regarding Mr. Menzies’ concern as follows:

What we can all agree upon is that Tojo never visited the camp and that the Red Cross, as represented by a Swiss/Italian, was EXTREMELY partial toward Japan. It was the Red Cross that called this a "show camp,” an appellation that continues to today.

In general- and by comparison- it was about mid-range in the treatment and condition of the survivors. The real horror of Zentsuji was the Japanese looting of Red Cross supplies and almost total denial of medical tools and supplies that were delivered in abundance by the Red Cross. Such was the hatred of the Japanese toward the Allies. When Japan surrendered, tons of Red Cross supplies and medical supplies were found at the camp. (This was true in almost every camp) It will always be a stain on whatever honor Japan may claim.