元米兵捕虜66年ぶり大牟田訪問、炭鉱重労働消せぬ記憶

 
強制労働をさせられた三川鉱前で思い出を語るフリースさん(右)
(写真提供:読売新聞)

戦時中、大牟田市の捕虜収容所に入れられ、炭鉱で強制労働をさせられた元米兵、ロイ・エドワード・フリースさん(88)(米国・カリフォルニア州)が19日、戦後66年ぶりに同市を訪れた。収容所跡地や旧三井三池炭鉱・三川鉱を訪ね、「今は許しているが、つらい思い出がよみがえるのを止めることはできない」と苦い記憶を語った。

フリースさんは、外務省が昨年9月から行っている元米兵捕虜を日本に招く事業の一環で来日した。妻と一緒に市職員の案内で市内各所を巡り、現在海外炭の貯炭場となっている収容所跡地では当時の体験を振り返った。

陸軍兵だったフリースさんは、1942年5月にフィリピン・コレヒドール島で捕虜となり、43年7月に同市新港町にあった「福岡捕虜収容所第17分所」へ送られた。炭鉱で重労働をさせられ、終戦まで過ごした。

自身の捕虜番号「173」は、忌むべき思い出として今も日本語で記憶しているという。「仕事をしないで済むよう、わざと仲間に左小指を砕いてもらった。生きて帰るという信念だけを持ち続けていた」と語った。

戦争捕虜の実態を調べている日本の団体「POW研究会」によると、第17収容所は終戦時、米兵を中心に1737人が収容され、国内最大規模だった。多くは旧三井三池炭鉱での採炭に従事させられ、重労働や飢えによって138人が死亡したという。

66年ぶりに同市を再訪し、過去の自分と対面したというフリースさん。「興味深い体験ができた。日本の皆さんに会えてうれしかった。(日本に対する)偏見は消えた」と柔和な笑みも見せた。

                                                                         20111020  読売新聞)

 

Ex-US POW Visits Omuta after 66 years;
Memories of Hard Labor in Coal Mine Cant be Erased

 The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Kyushu edition, October 20, 2011

Former US POW Mr. Roy Edward Friese, an 88 year old Californian resident, who was interned in a POW camp in Omuta City during WWII and engaged in forced labor at the coal mine, revisited the city on October 19, sixtysix years after the end of the war. He visited the former site of the POW camp, the old Miike Pit of former Mitsui Miike Coal Mining and talked about his painful memories of the past, I have forgiven, but I cant stop those terrible memories coming back.

Mr. Friese visited Japan under a program of inviting former US POWs to Japan by the MoFA which started in September last year. With his wife, he was guided through various places in Omuta by local government staff and reflected on his experiences in those days at the former POW camp site, which is now a storage depot for coal imported from abroad. Mr. Friese, a US Army soldier, was captured as a POW in Corregidor in May 1942, and was sent to Fukuoka #17 POW camp located in Shinko-machi town in Omuta City. He was forced into hard labor at the coal mine until the end of the war.

He still remembers his POW number, hyaku-nana-ju-san (173) in Japanese, as part of those terrible memories. I once had my little finger crushed by a friend so I could stay away from work. But I always kept my belief that Id be able to return home alive.

According to the POW Research Network Japan, a Japanese group that investigates the facts about POWs, 1,737 POWs, mostly Americans, were interned in camp #17, the largest in Japan. Most of them were forced to shovel coal in the old Mitsui Miike coal mine and 138 of them died from heavy labor, starvation and so on.

Mr. Friese, who revisited the city after sixty-six years to face himself of the past, said, Its been a very interesting experience. Im very happy to meet the Japanese people. My prejudices (against Japan) have all gone, he said with a gentle smile.    

                                      [Translated by Yuka Ibuki with assistance by Anthony Walsh]