Revisit and First Visit : Japan

Yuka Ibuki

After the Hellship Memorial Dedication and Tour of Luzon for nine days, three participants extended their journey to Japan. Everett Reamer, former POW held in Osaka area, Nancy and David Browns, who are a daughter and a grandson of late POW who passed away in Tanagawa branch camp of Osaka, arrived in Kansai Airport to Osaka on January 25, and were welcomed by Mr. Toru Fukubayashi, an excellent researcher and high school teacher, and Mr. Yoji Hanaoka, a bilingual reporter of the Mainichi Newspaper.

Back in May 2005, Duane Heisinger had mentioned to me that a former POW Mr. Reamer was planning to join the Japan portion of the Valor Tours, when I was first given the opportunity to attend the ADBC Convention in Cincinnati. However, although I was always concerned about his revisit, wishing it would be a fruitful one, I’ve had no chance of direct contact with him. When I was permitted to join the Hellship Memorial Tour of Luzon, I decided to arrange my flights through Osaka, in the same wish that I might be able to offer my assistance to make their time in Japan comfortable and meaningful. However, at that stage, neither my husband nor I wasn’t sure of my role after reaching Osaka.

I joined the Tour in Manila, and on January 17, just before the first dinner, Kinue Tokudome, who had already met the three at the SF Airport the previous day, introduced me to them. I thanked them for their decision of coming over to Japan, which must have not been easy. The time in the Hellship Memorial Tour was so blessed as it seems to me I was in a series of miracles. By the end of the Tour, I was sure it was my mission to be with the visitors all through their journey in Japan. I called Juji, my husband, from Manila on January 24 and told him I’d be staying in Osaka two more nights. Although I was impressed by each participant I met in the Hellship Memorial Tour, time was still not enough to listen to every experience and grasp the enormous amount of facts. However, I believe I was able to know enough to write an essay for the website, US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, in regards with Everett, Nancy and David.

On January 26, we were guided by Toru to the Sakai Prison, where Everett was held in a solitary as a prisoner. Thomas Kreutzer, the US Consulate, had arranged permission for the three Americans, and he escorted them inside the prison, which had been rebuilt into a totally modern facility, and received welcome of the Prison Warden. An old type of the solitary, without heating, in which Everett suffered from September 18, 1944 to August 22, 1945, was still preserved as museum stuff.

After the visitors challenged and enjoyed warm noodle lunch, we visited Tanagawa, where Nancy’s father, Captain Charles D. Tinley passed away in the POW Camp, on Feb. 2, 1943. Osaka POW Camp #4 Tanagawa is known for its large death rate. Out of the total around 400 POWs, more than a hundred died. Toru discovered from the US National Archives the permission for cremation of the fifty POWs, including Nancy’s father, which the local government office had issued. We went around the former common cremation site in the cemetery, the former POW campsite, which is now a residential area, the remaining site of Kawasaki Heavy Industry dockyard, where POWs were slave labored. Then in the local government office, a person in charge showed them some newspaper article clippings, letters exchanged with some former POWs, and he promised he would keep in touch with Nancy to send her more information. The family was notified of Captain Tinley’s death in June 1944, and his ashes were buried in the Arlington Cemetery in November 1948. In 1946, his close friend returned and sent them his bill-folder. It contained unmailed letters from him, written in O’Donnell and Cabanatuan, and by the date in the last letter, Duane Heisinger suggested Nancy of high possibility he was transported in the Hellship Nagato Maru and he also mentioned the Tour. The reporter Yoji finally escorted us to a restaurant in the central Osaka, and hurriedly left to submit the article of the day to the main office. 

Mainichi Reporter Hanaoka showing a map of Tanagawa camp

Sitting for supper of grilled pork, rice with salted plum on it poured with hot green tea, and some pickled vegetables, Everett said to Toru. “We are so grateful for all the very informative materials you had given us, and also thank you very much for spending your holiday to guide us around. Now please tell me what you think of us three Americans.” “Well, first of all I feel sorry that you and Nancy had paid for the taxis we hired in Tanagawa.” “You need not feel sorry about such things. What I’d like you to know is that I have no animosity to Japanese people, and I’d like you to let them know that,” Everett said.

Toru said, “My father was conscripted twice by the Japanese Army, but during the time in between, he was summoned with a so called ‘Green Order’, and was forced to work in the factory of Kawasaki Heavy Industry Dockyard in Tanagawa, along with the POWs and Korean forced laborers. I was reminded of that by meeting Nancy. First he was sent to China, and for the second conscription, he was ordered to be sent to South East Asia. However, there was no ship available any more, so he was taking care of military horses in Kyoto. You see, death of a soldier wasn’t worth caring, but you’d have got into trouble if a military horse died which you were in charge of.” The coincidence of the two fathers working in the same spot touched us. Toru was born after the war.

Yoji’s article appeared in the Mainichi on Jan. 27, with a picture. Toru took another half a day off and in the afternoon, guided Everett to the Osaka Castle, where the Central Army District had their HQs. The building, former Osaka City Museum till a new one was opened, was still there, though it is now closed. Toru pointed out,” The court martial in which you were tried on theft must have been held upstairs of this building.” Everett confirmed, “Yes, it was upstairs.” He told us how he and another POW attempted to take Red Cross Boxes one night, which was stored up, some of them been opened by the Japanese but was never given to POWs. The torture, which lasted for more than a month in the camp, was mostly beating, pumping water in the lung, and standing in attention without food for the first 132 hours, till he became unconscious. They were tried and given a sentence of one year imprisonment. In Sakai Prison, there were seven other Allied POWs, including two British and one Dutch, and eighteen non-Japanese civilians including Russians, Germans, French and other nationalities.

Once his right hand and arm got gangrene caused by the frost bite. Against the rule, he was lying in the cell in order to draw the guards’ attention. After several days of kicking, finally the prison warden, who spoke perfect English, came and found out the problem. Everett was walked barefooted in the snow to a doctor’s in the Prison Aid Station, who cut out the dead part without anesthesia, while two guards were holding him. The doctor, who was in his nineties, saved his life.

At the harbor area, where the Osaka POW Camp#1 was and the POWs were forced to work, Everett recognized some surviving warehouses, and remembered and told us details of how the camp was situated, how some buildings were added. He was an anti-aircraft gunner stationed at Corregidor, arrived the Camp in an early stage of November 11, 1942, after he was shipped to Japan in the Tottori Maru.

Everett and Toru at the former site of Osaka POW Camp #1.

Before visiting the campsite, Toru escorted us to the Peace Osaka War Museum next to the Castle, where the WWII atrocities by the Japanese, along with the air raids of Osaka, are shown in films, photos, and first hand bilingual narratives. Everett strongly commented, “I know all about the air raids, and have seen bodies lying, in Osaka and on Corregidor. The war should never happen again.”. That night I returned home in Tokyo after twelve days, and Everett joked, “You might not have a husband anymore when you’ve returned.” It seems we had the same trouble. In the e-mail sent recently he says, “Our sixteen-year-old dog, a white poodle, was mad at me for being gone so long, and would have nothing to do with me for quite a while.”

Nancy’s visit of places related to her father didn’t lead to any clear images or words about him, but the taxi driver of Tanagawa said, “In this area people live long. It’s easy to find those in their 80’s, 90’s, even 100. If you come back in a better season, you’ll be able to talk with some you can ask about your father.” He gave us a discount as a token of his support for the effort she has made for her father. “It’s finished. Now I’m a tourist.” She gracefully announced and mother and son of the Browns enjoyed Kyoto, and some perfect views of Mt. Fuji from the bullet train to Tokyo. On Jan. 30, we visited Yokohama War Cemetery guided by Mrs. Taeko Sasamoto, and were invited to her home for tea. It was a sunny day with some winter camellias blooming, and birds were chirping in the trees that surrounded the vast cemetery. “We’ll come back, as our search of my father goes on, “ Nancy said, “and I’ve become very fond of Japanese fridges.” “My grandfather had a card on which he put all the birthdays of the family.” David, who doesn’t know his grandfather, told me at the Cemetery Churn House, as we were looking at the names of the 48 Oryoku Maru victims, who passed away in Moji Hospital right after the arrival.
Both Toru and Taeko are co-representatives of the POW Research Network Japan.)

Everett left Japan on January 28, and the Browns on 31, to return home after a long journey which required a full day, making connection of flights. They are both back home safely and say the stay in Japan was satisfactory and fruitful. We look forward to meet again in Phoenix. There came sad news of Chuck Towne’s passing away on January 31. He was a medic at Corregidor, one of the few survivors of the Oryoku-Maru. His determination to commit to every phase of the Memorial Tour profoundly impressed me, but as I talked with him at Edna’s party and other occasions, he talked of the plants he grew at home, and some funny stories as he ate hundred candies that was dropped to his Prison Camp after the war.    Mr. Towne at the Cabanatuan Memorial

Those of us who can meet the witnesses of the past history would like to join in digging out the truth over the border. Japanese people must know more of the facts of Japan’s war, and have to deal with the results with integrity. May Chuck’s brave and sweet soul rest in peace. I’d like to thank for everyone who opened their heart to me across the national border.           

* This essay was focused on the Japan portion of the Valor Tours. From my note, I just would like to add what I learned about the Bataan Death March. A guard made a speech in English, "We are enemies. Shall be enemies. You think you are lucky to have escaped death. The dead are lucky." I heard this as a belief at the back of the atrocities.