Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sendai's POW Camps

Map courtesy of Wes Injerd
The Sendai region of Japan has been much in the news lately. The March 11, 2001, triple disasters – earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear – were centered in this region. For many survivors of Japan’s POW camps, the names of these cities brought back memories.

Of the 88 POW camps for Allied prisoners of war on Japan's main islands (96 more throughout the Empire) there were 11 in the Sendai region between the years of 1942-1945. All used POW slave labor and a number were associated with companies involved with critical war production that were the first bombing targets of the U.S. Navy in 1945. At least 32 POWs were killed by the shelling. Exact information is hard to come by as research on the POWs of Japan is still evolving and slowly becoming more sophisticated and professional.

All of the companies that used POW slave labor still exist and prosper. The name of each of the eight wartime Japanese companies that used POW slave labor in the Sendai region is identified below along with its contemporary name in English and Japanese. The eight companies are today: Joban Kyodo Power Co. Ltd.; Furukawa Co. Ltd.; Mitsubishi Materials; Nippon Steel Company; Nippon Express Company; Dowa Holdings Co., Ltd.; Tohoku Electric Power; and JX Nippon Mining & Metals. None have apologized or offered to make amends for their use of slave labor.

Each of the 11 camps that researchers has been able to identify in the region that held Allied POW slave laborers is listed below, along with the type of slave labor performed and the modern name of the town, if it was changed. More detailed information is available through the hyperlinks. A number of the now-closed mines have been turned into tourist attractions, albeit with no mention of Allied POW slave labor or the tens of thousand of Chinese and Korean forced laborers. The rails that transported the POWs to the camps and factories are now owned by JR East.

1-B: Yumoto
Town: Fukushima-ken, Iwaki-gun, Yumoto-machi [Contemporary city name: Fukushima-ken, Iwaki-shi, Joban Yumoto, 福島県いわき市常磐湯元] MAP 
Labor: Coal mining
Company: Joban Coal (Tanko) Company
Company Today: Joban Kyodo Power Co. Ltd. (Joban Kyodo Karyoku Kabushiki Kaisha 常磐共同火力株式会社)
Notes: The largest of the Sendai Group camps, with a liberation total of 232 British, 198 Canadian, 135 Dutch, and only two American POWs; there were 32 deaths. The coast side of the city was destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but inner town had no major damage.

 2-B: Yoshima
Town: Fukushima-ken, Iwaki-gun, Yoshima-mura [Contemporary City Name: Fukushima-ken, Iwaki-shi, Yoshima 福島県いわき市好間] MAP
Labor: Coal mining
Company: Furukawa Mining Company
Company Today: Furukawa Co. Ltd. (Furukawa Kikai Kinzoku Kabushiki Kaisha 古河機械金属株式会社)
Notes: Mostly British POWs were here, but also an international mix of American, Canadian, Australian, Norwegian, Belgian, French, Danish, Irish, Portuguese, Czech, Romanian, and Polish POWs. The area of Yoshima-machi suffered no major damage from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

3-B: Hosokura
Town: Miyagi-ken, Kurihara-gun, Uguisusawa-mura [Contemporary City Name: Miyagi-ken, Kurihara-shi, Uguisusawa 宮城県栗原市鶯沢] MAP
Labor: Coal, lead, zinc mining
Company: Mitsubishi Mining Company
Company Today: Mitsubishi Materials (Mitsubishi Material Kabushiki Kaisha 三菱マテリアル株式会社)
Notes: Mostly American POWs. The mine was closed in 1987 and turned into an amusement and theme park (Hosokura Mine Park) by the City of Kurihara in 1990 where visitors can walk through its main tunnel. There are explanation boards throughout the tunnel, but the wartime use of Allied POWs is not mentioned. The city of Kurihara did not suffer major damage from the March 2011 earthquake.

4-B: Ohashi
Town: Iwate-ken, Kaihei-gun, Katsushi-mura [Contemporary City Name: Iwate-ken, Kamaishi-shi, Katsushi-cho 岩手県釜石市甲子町] MAP
Labor: Iron mining and charcoal manufacturing
Company: Kamaishi Iron Mining Company and the Nitto Company Charcoal Manufacturing Plant
Company Today: Nippon Steel Company (Shin Nihon Seitetsu Kabushiki Kaisha 新日本製鐵株式会社)
Notes: Mostly Canadian POWs. Camp to which POWs were evacuated to after the July and August shelling of the Kamaishi camp.

5-B: Kamaishi
Town: Iwate-ken, Kamaishi-shi, Yanoura [Contemporary City Name: Iwate-ken, Kamaishi-shi岩手県釜石市] MAP
Labor: Iron milling
Company: Nippon Steel - a Mitsubishi Company at the time
Company Today: Nippon Steel Company (Shin Nihon Seitetsu Kabushiki Kaisha 新日本製鐵株式会社)
Notes: Mostly Dutch POWs. Kamaishi, an important foundry town, was the first city bombarded by the US Navy in WWII. The largest number of POW deaths occurred here, 50, 32 killed by the US Navy shelling in July and August 1945. A video of the shelling can be found HERE. The town was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


6-B: Hanawa (Osarizawa)
Town: Akita-ken, Katsuno-gun, Osarizawa-mura [Contemporary City Name: Akita-ken, Kazuno-shi, Osarisawa 秋田県鹿角市尾去沢] MAP
Labor: Copper mining
Company: Mitsubishi Goushi Company [三菱合資会社]
Company Today: Mitsubishi Materials (Mitsubishi Material Kabushiki Kaisha 三菱マテリアル株式会社)
Notes: Mostly American POWs. The mine closed in 1978 and was turned into a museum, the Osarizawa Mine Historical Site [Shiseki Osarizawa-Kouzan (史跡尾去沢鉱山)] that recounts the 1300-year history of mining the mountain. Visitors can also go through some of the main tunnels. An amusement park and museum opened in 1982 as “Mine Land Osarizawa.” In 2008, the site was renovated with the amusement section, Cosmo Advesture [Sic], focused on space-themed indoor shooting games. VIDEO. There is no mention of the slave laborers who worked the mine during the war. The museum is operated by Golden Sado Corporation (Kabushiki Kaisha Golden Sado, 株式会社ゴールデン佐渡), a branch company of Mitsubishi Materials. An interesting video tour of the mine is HERE and HERE are more photos by the same photographer. The area suffered no major damage from the March 2011 earthquake.

7-B: Hanaoka
Town: Akita-ken, Kita Akita-gun, Hanaoka-machi [Contemporary City Name : Akita-ken, Odate-shi 秋田県大館市] MAP
Labor: Copper mining
Company: Fujita-gumi Construction Company
Company Today: Dowa Holdings Co., Ltd. (DOWA Holdings Kabushiki Kaisha, DOWAホールディングス株式会社)
Notes: Mostly American POWs; almost all civilians were from Wake Island, having earlier been sent to the Woosung POW Camp near Shanghai, China.

8-B: Kosaka
Town: Akita-ken, Kazuno-gun, Kosaka-machi MAP
Labor: Copper mining and smelting
Company: Fujita-gumi Construction Company
Company Today: Dowa Holdings Co., Ltd. (DOWA Holdings Kabushiki Kaisha, DOWAホールディングス株式会社)
Notes: Mostly American POWs. There is a museum in Kosaka on the history of the local mine, which was one of Japan’s most productive and the origin of Dowa Holdings’ metal and mining business. The Kosaka Mine Office Museum and mine are pictured on Dowa’s website.

9-B: Sakata
Town: Yamagata-ken, Sakata-shi (山形県酒田市) MAP
Labor: Stevedores at the train yards and docks, loading and unloading all forms of materials, including military equipment and ammunition
Company: Nippon Express Company
Company Today: Nippon Express Company (Nippon Tsuun Kabushiki Kaisha 日本通運株式会社) 
Notes: Mostly British POWs at the camp.

10-B: Iwate (Wakagawa)
Town: Iwate-ken Wakai-gun, Iwasaki-mura [Contemporary City Name: Iwate-ken, Kitakami-shi 岩手県北上市] MAP
Labor: Pig iron smelting
Company: Tohoku Denki Seitetsu Company/Tohoku Denki [Tohoku Electrical Ironworks]
Company Today: Tohoku Electric Power (Tohoku Denryoku Kubushiki Kaisha 東北電力株式会社)
Notes: Mostly American and British POWs here. In 1942, the company was named Tohoku Haiden (東北配電株式会社) and renamed to Tohoku Electric Power in 1951. Tohoku Electric Power built a hydroelectric power plant by the Kosaka mine works in the northern Tohoku Prefecture of Akita in 1903. The power plant was initiated by the chief electric engineer at the mine Namihei Odaira, who later became the founder of Hitachi.

11-B: Kamikita (Aomori)
Town: Aomori-ken, Kamikita-gun, Temmabayashi-mura [Contemporary City Name: Aomori-ken, Kamikita-gun, Shichinohe-machi 青森県上北郡七戸町] MAP
Labor: Iron mining
Company: Nippon Mining (company chairman also founded Nissan Motors)
Company Today: JX Nippon Mining & Metals (JX Nikko Nisseki Kikinzoku Kabushiki Kaisha JX日鉱日石金属株式会社)
Notes: All POWs here were American, mostly civilians from Wake Island (among them were a few Pan-American mess boys from Guam) and U.S. military from China.

Original research in Japanese and English in July and August 2011 by Asia Policy Point

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