Hakodate # 2 - Akabira

The issue of which North China Marines were in which of the Hakodate camps is a little unclear.  All the officers were held at Camp # 4, Nishi-Ashibetsu.  The enlisted men were held at Camp # 2, Akabira or Camp # 3, Utashinai. All three camps were within a few miles of each other.  If the rescue rosters are correct they show 100 North China Marines in the three camps at time of rescue (about 15 Sep 45).Some men remember certain individuals being in one of the camps with them but rescue rosters show that individual in the other camp.  At least one is in a photo at Akabira but on the rescue roster for Utashinai.  Diaries kept by individuals put them in one camp but other notes put them in a different camp.  John White's book confuses the issue more.  He says Colonel Ashurst sent him to Akabira after the Japanese surrender to take command of that camp.  He gives the impression Akabira held the majority of the North China Marine enlisted men.  But rescue rosters have only 28 NCM at Akabira and 63 at Utashinai.  White also describes Akabira when he arrives as being surrounded by an eight foot high board fence.  Others describe Akabira as being surrounded only by an electrified fence.  A photo of Utashinai shows an eight foot high board fence.  White's book was written thirty years after the fact - this may explain the differences.  White definitely went to Akabira, men who appear in a photo taken just before rescue at Akabira remember him being there.After the Japanese surrender and before rescue men from the two camps would walk to the other to visit.  This is probably also a factor in the confusion.  Men who spent their time in Akabira may have been at Utashinai when the rescue rosters were made up.  There is no way at this time to determine exactly who was were.  Nor does it matter.  The prisoners from China arrived at all three Hakodate camps just after 4 July 1945.  Conditions and work at Akabira and Utashinai were close to identical.  All the men were rescued about 15 Sep 1945. The following North China Marines appear on rosters for Akabira:

Becker, Beeman, Beeson, R Bennett, Callis, Carlson, Carpenter, Darr, J Davis, Gessner, Haberman, Harbison, Hardway, Harmon, Jarrett, Kahl, Kelly, Leon, Lusk, MacDonald, C Parr, G Parr, Reader, Schick, Schneider, Sedenberg, Warshafsky, and Welsh. See the end of the report below for my notes on phone conversations with Ray Haberman, and Les Sedenberg.___________________________________________________________ 

The report below is scanned from the original document.  Spelling errors are a result of the scanning process.

Click here to see map showing locations of Hakodate/Hokkaido camps.

Received above photo from Charles Darr.  It was sent to him by Tom Carpenter's wife.Front row l to r:Gessner, Jarret, Carlson, Timpany, Hardway, Kelly, Beeman, Beeson, CarpenterBack row l to r:Davis, MacDonald, Leon, Darr, Becker, Schneider, Schick, Callis, Bennett, C Parr, G Parr. Photo was taken after POWs had moved outside to sleep so as to escape the fleas.  This  explains gear on ground in front of POWs.


This article says Stowers was at Akabira.  It would seem to describe Akabira.  But rosters show both Stowers and Dietz at Utashinai, which was camp # 3 nearby. Photo above is from the 14 August 1965 Dallas Morning News.  It was part of an article written by North China Marine Henry Stowers, who was working for that paper at that time.  The article was brought to my attention by Bill Waddell,  a nephew of Henry Stowers.  I was able to obtain a copy from the Dallas Public Library.There were at least 200 POWs at Hakodate # 2, as Stowers writes about 100 of them coming out of the mine on the morning of 14 August 1945 and finding the other shift of 100 Marines not there to take over.  He describes the camp as "a couple of long huts made of rough-hewn log slabs and surrounded by two electrified barbed wire fences.  Gouged half way up the side of a mountain, and with guard towers squatting at each of the four corners, the compound was about five miles from the coal mine where we toiled seven days a week. It was strictly a pick-and-shovel and hard labor operation, even to pushing by hand the loaded coal cars from the bowels of the earth a mile or more down."  Cave ins from rotten timber and earthquakes were common.On August 15th Sergeant Major Dietz, Stowers, and two others confronted the camp commander about the war being over and he surrendered to them.  B-17s made food drops.  Then a team parachuted in to the camp and led the POWs on a 22 mile hike to a landing strip where C-47s flew them to Yokohama.  The next day they were to board a combat cargo ship for the trip to Guam."Dietz stood firmly in front of us. "Remember you are Marines," he ordered.  "And I want you to act like Marines."After that he left us at attention to get permission to come aboard.At that precise moment a young angel in a Navy nurse's uniform came tripping down the gangway.  Two hundred scarecrows, wearing new Army dungarees that hung on us like great sacks, threw caps high in the air and began whooping like maniacs.The startled nurse froze, clapped a hand to her mouth, looked at us, then turned and fled back to the ship's deck to disappear.We didn't blame her in the least."
Stowers praises Sgt Major Dietz for helping the POWs to maintain their pride and morale.  He steadfastly refused to bow or to salute the Japanese and regularly protested the inhuman treatment.  For these actions Sgt Major Dietz received regular beatings. 

The report below is in error.  First, Colonel Ashurst was the senior officer of the Americans.  Major Brown was a major, not a colonel. This error could be a result of Major Brown's active role as second in command under Col. Ashurst, who by this time was apparently very ill.  Captain White was a captain, not a lieutenant colonel. The mistakes in rank may be partly due to promotions at the end of the war.  This report was completed in July of 1946. 
Second, the officers were clearly separated at this point and sent to nearby Hakodate # 4, Nishi-Ashibetsu.  Both the Biggs and the White books point out this fact.  The officers were sent to a separate camp.  White tells how after the Japanese surrender Col. Ashurst sent him to take command of camp #2 while Maj. Devereux was sent to command camp #3.  Camp #2 is often referred to as Akabira and camp #3 is called Utashinai.  White states in his book he was assigned to take over #2 and this is backed up by a phone conversation with Robert "Ray" Haberman in November 2002.  Fran Plog recalls Devereux coming to #3. The camps were apparently within walking distance, but there were at least 3 separate camps in this area.  Ashurst, Brown, and White were not in #2 (except for White as noted above).  

. ^ HAKODATE. Page 1 of 3


by JOHN M. GIBBS 31 July 1946


This was Hakodate Branch Camp #2 at Akabira

[Utashinai was #3]

LOCATION: This location is near the center of Hokkaido and is approximately 18 miles south and west of Takikawa. and about 100 miles northeast of Hakodate, Coordinates are 43" 24' N, 142° 06' E The most obvious landmarks are huge heaps of slag on the side of the mountain representing waste material from the coal mines.

The camp compound 180' x 120' was surrounded by a high wood fence on three sides. The boundary of the fourth side was a very steep diff paralleling the river The camp borders were constantly patrolled by Japanese guards.

PRISON PERSONNEL: This camp was for the first time occupied very early in July 1945 by American prisoners transferred from the Fengtai prison camp in China (THE AMERICANS HAD BEEN HELD AT KIANGWAN NEAR SHANGHAI) and British prisoners originally captured at Singapore transferred from
another camp. The American detail numbered 130 prisoners, divided between services as follows: Army 5; Navy 8;
Marines 117, Col. Luther A. Brown, U.S.M.C., was senior officer of American contingent. Other American officers were Lt, Col. White. U.S.MC, and Col. W, Ashurst, U.S.M.C, The names of American non-commissioned officers mentioned in connection with camp administration are: Warrant Ofc, CarLson. and Sgt Maj. Dietz, all of the U.S.M.C [This is an error. Carlson was at # 2, but Dietz at # 3. The other officers mentioned were held at # 4. Ashurst was senior.]

The British prisoners numbered 150 men, Maj. Murray was senior officer and by reason of the British majority, he became senior officer of the camp. The total prisoner personnel was 280. CapL Lynch of the RCA Medical Corps was the ranking medical officer.

GUARD PERSONNEL: Lt- Tindo of the Japanese Imperial Army was camp commandant A Civilian named Kitteygowha (probably spelled phonetically) was camp interpreter. Three Japanese army sergeants, unnamed, were assisting in camp administrative details. None of the Guard personnel is charged with brutality toward the prisoners, but they would not release medicines and medical supplies to the prisoner doctors with reasonable adequacy,


(a) Housing Facilities: There were 3 wood barracks, 60' x 40', with lap siding walls, leaky wood shingled roofs and dirt floors into which had been built 4 wood sleeping platforms running the length of each building. The middle platform (double) was wide enough for 2 prisoners to sleep head to head. Two dirt walk-ways on either side provided the prisoners access to the middle sleeping platform as well as to the 2 other sleeping platforms flanking the walls from end to end. The barracks were single story structures. Instead of sleeping mats, the prisoners were provided with 4 blankets to sleep on and under. As the temperature was mild the prisoners were able to keep warm, although the buildings were not equipped
with heating facilities The lighting was entirely inadequate. Cold running water was available.

Overhead the wood studding and rafters were exposed. The sides were insulated with cellolex. Mosquitoes, fleas, lice and rats thoroughly infested the barracks

One barracks was assigned to American prisoners, and 2 to the British prisoners. The galley was apart of one of the British barracks along side of which had been built, by the prisoners, an air raid shelter primarily for the benefit of the Japanese personnel and secondarily for the prisoners. The British barracks were: of equal size. The interior appointments were the same in all 3 buildings. Latrines. 3 in number, were joined to all the barracks at one end by intervening wash racks. The prisoner bath house was located at the river side of the compound.

(b) Latrines; The latrines were of wood construction with cement floors and concrete lined pits underneath The primitive squat type with uncovered holes in the floor. At intervals the excreta was dipped out with large ladles by the prisoners and by them deposited on the garden. Inasmuch as the latrines were open, and were connected with the barracks by the wash racks, the stench in the barracks was constant and extremely foul. The latrines were breeding places for flies

(c) Bathing: A wood detached bathhouse was erected near the river side of the compound adjacent to the Nip bathhouse. It was equipped with 2 wood tubs 3 Vi x 3 Yi for the entire prisoner personnel (280 men). Hot water was provided and soap. One tub was used for soaping and washing the bodies. The other tub was used for rinsing after scrubbing. Water was changed no oftener than daily despite the fact that the water would be used over and over again.
The prisoners were allowed to bathe in the river running by the camp but the current was too swift for safe bathing. consequently the prisoners confined their washing to the tubs regardless of the dirty water-

(d) Mess Hall: The men ate their food in the barracks or on the job. therefore the mess hall may be termed the "galley", which was a small building. It was equipped with rice pots steam heated from one of the adjoining barracks.

(e) Food: The menu of food at this camp from day to day and every day was:

Breakfast: one teacup rice and small bowl of soup. plus 2 small pieces of sea weed
Lunch to take to work: one teacup rice and dried fish flakes.
Supper: Teacup rice and very small rice ball for workers plus some kind of weed picked off the mountain side.

Lunch was put up in the camp and given to the prisoners to take with them. Because of ever-present hunger, the lunch would be consumed before the noon hour, hence there would be no noonday meal-
Rice was the staple article of food and frequently because of foreign matter it was inedible. Worms, weevil and gravel were the three most troublesome ingredients. Fish were issued occasionally and, in a great majority of instances, they
were putrid and the supplemental grasshoppers were also on the tainted side. Stew made of foraged greens was issued in the evening.

The prisoners worked the camp garden with the promise that the garnered crop would go to them. However, the Japanese would have a change of mind, hence the crops would be diverted to their use.

British prisoners did the cooking. They are said to have prepared the food very pooriy, which fact, when considered in connection with inferior quality to start with. did not improve the amiability of the prisoners, particularly the American detail.
One prisoner, during the month of his imprisonment in this camp. dropped from 154 to 139 pounds. Fifteen pounds weight loss in 31 days tells a big story relating lo scant food. This same prisoner stales his case is no exception.

(f) Medical Facilities: There were two army doctors in the camp, namely Maj. Murray of the British Army and Maj. Lynch of the Canadian Army. It was the latter that looked after the medical needs of the American prisoners, Maj. Lynch protested strongly against: (1) the niggardly issue of Red Cross medicines and medical supplies; (2) the starvation food
issue, and (3) the judgment of the inexperienced Japanese civilian medical man in sending prisoners to work when, according to American principles, they should have been bed patients. Many of the prisoners alleged to be well enough would collapse before reaching the mines. However, this number of collapses would be exceeded after the prisoners got
into the mine and were at work. It is opportune to repeat the statement made elsewhere in this report, that collapse was an invitation to a beating and the withholding of the evening meal. Medical supplies & medicine were absolutely withheld in all such cases of gross cruelty.

The British and Canadian doctors were further hampered in their efforts to help the prisoners because Japanese supervision compelled Ihem to turn the sick prisoners over to the inexperienced Japanese civilian who knew not what to do and who was not inclined to be led by the qualified prisoner doctors,

These prisoners were compelled to turn over to the authorities in this camp all of the medical supplies they were allowed to bring with them upon transfer from China. Despite the fact that adequate Red Cross medicaments were in the camp the Japanese refused to replace the confiscated supply. The prisoners became afflicted with beriberi, dysentery and diarrhea. Other prisoners had contracted tuberculosis from working in the mines, and yet the remedies were hoarded by the Japanese,

This camp had no hospital. Small rooms, 2 in number, approximately 15' x 20'. located in the front end of both buildings, were used as dispensaries and the bedding of prisoners who were not ambulatory. Three Americans served as medical orderlies. In Aug. 1045 the Japanese destroyed all medical records in this camp.

(g) Supplies. (1) Red Cross: No Red Cross food nor medical parcels were released by the Japanese during the war- Upon surrender 24 Red Cross food parcels were issued for the benefit of all the prisoners. (2) Japanese Issue: The Japanese did not issue any clothing to the prisoners in this camp. Shoes were taken from prone sick prisoners and
issued to the workers, plus caps & belts. A limited supply of blankets were given out

(h) Mail: (1) Incoming: None. (2) Outgoing: None.

(I) Work: This project was mining coal in an old mine which had about "worn out" and had become too expensive to operate in peace times, but with prisoner labor the cost element was not an important consideration. No Attempt was made to replace rotting mine props or overhead beams and while no report is made of fatal accidents, many of the prisoners were badly hurt by falling rocks from overhead and cave-ins. The mine was about 1 mile from the camp, to and from which the prisoners walked. The mineshafl went down below the sea level. The mine was always wet and at times the prisoners worked In water. An added danger was the Japanese imposed task of removing by hand and pick the unexploded charges of dynamite. Fortunately, no one was hurt in doing this work.

The prisoners, who worked under a "task' system, were operating in 2 shifts; one from 6:30 a.m. to 6'30 p.m., and the other from 7:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Each eleventh day was named a "rest day" on which the prisoners did their washing and camp cleaning assignments. The rest time was short, but the eleventh day did bring a welcome change from the hard and monotonous mine work. The working hours for the two shifts were reversed after the "rest day". The camp officials were not particularly brutal, but the guards in the mine were. Frequent slappings were indulged in for inconsequential lapses,
and if the guard had a whim to cut off the prisoners, might ration, it was done.

There were only 2 officers in the camp, both medical men. They were not compelled to work in the mines or around the camp. Their professional duties kept them fairly busy, however, they volunteered to do some gardening-

Despite the protests of the prisoner medical officers, the Japanese had ruled that no more than 15 men could be released any one day on account of sickness. Some of the prisoners too weak to work, in the mine, but ambulatory, were compelled to dig ditches and air raid shelters.

0) Treatment: The statement has been made elsewhere in this report that the Japanese officials were not bent on subduing the men by the adoption of a sadistic program- One prisoner had slated that the treatment, in the camp proper. was generally better than in many of the camps. Only one torture "festival" was reported, but no one died as the result of it. The harsh treatment in this outfit was exercised very largely, if not altogether, in the mine.

(k) Pay: (1) Officers: Were paid Ihe same as Japanese officers of same rank. but deductions were made for board. No officer could retain an amount of money in excess of 50 yen. (2) Enlisted Men: The enlisted men were paid in merchandise something like the following: Mine workers 40 cigarettes each rest day; garden workers 30 cigarettes: camp
workers 20 and the sick 10 cigarettes. Occasionally an 8 oz. box of tea would be given
for each 4 men and a box of fish flakes for each 2 men.

(I) Recreation: None

(m) Religious Activities: None

(n) Morale: To use the expressive language of one of the prisoners. "Morale was always high. Something Americans can well be proud of."

MOVEMENTS: This camp was released 15 Sept. 1945, and the American prisoners. 130 in number without the loss of one man, were transported to the airport at Sappora for onward journey to the United Stales.

end of report

Conversation with North China Marine Ray Haberman 25 Nov 02

Was at Hakodate #2

Would leave camp at 5 am, walk 7 miles, about an hour and a half, then get breakfast rations.

Working with a partner in the mine. Partner said he was going to leave to go to the bathroom. A guard came along and wanted to know where the partner was. Ray told him. The partner didnt show up so the guard went looking. He found him sleeping in a little cave area in the shaft. The guard smacked Ray with his riding crop. Then he made all the POWs line up and hit Ray because he had not told the guard his partner was sleeping. (Ray did not know)

NCM Carpenter hit him lightly. The guard hit Carpenter with his riding crop. Carpenter had to hit Ray again. Again it was too light for the guard. The third time Carpenter hit Ray a good wallop, knocked Ray down. Each man had to hit Ray. If it was too light he had to do it again. Ray started to stagger and fall back on purpose, especially if the man had to hit him more than once. This made the guard happy. The last man knocked Ray out. He was taken out on a stretcher. He had been hit about 25 times and had a broken bone high on the left side of his head where everyone had hit him. His head was still bandaged a few days later when the war ended.

The barracks had been marked on the roof as a POW camp site. The first food drops came right on the sign on the barracks roof. Ray was standing in the door of the camp barracks when the two steel drums crashed through the roof and landed on NCM Warshafsky's bunk. Luckily Warshafsky was not in it at the time. The explosion left Ray blown out of the door and covered in powdered chocolate. The next drop was in an open field. The men were lined up at one end of the field. The food was dropped at the other end. Some containers ripped free of their chutes. Food hit the far end of the field and came shooting at the men. Ray and NCM Becker hit the ground. Grapefruit juice cans went screaming past their heads. One Wake Island corpsman was hit and killed.

According to the NCM John White book the Wake Islander was Darrell L. Beaver. Also killed was James V. Aulds, with Perry Boyer injured. Aulds and Boyer were captured with the Army on Corregidor. This event took place on 9 Sep 1945. He doesn't say if Boyer survived his wounds. These same facts were related to me by Robert Heer in a phone conversation on 17 Aug 2004. Heer had been with the 19th Bomb Group and was captured on Mindanao.

NCM Leslie Sedenberg recalls eating fried grasshoppers on the 4th of July 1945 on the way to Hakodate.  This is also mentioned in John White's book.  An example of the difficulty of organizing the facts as to who went to what camp was given to me by Leslie.  On the way to Hokkaido the entire group from Kiangwan was in Osaka during an air raid.  They were under a bridge with others including his friend NCM Fran Plog.  Leslie fell asleep.  When he woke up Fran Plog and others were gone.  At the time he talked to me in Feb 2003 Leslie did not know what camp Fran Plog was sent to after he lost track of him under that bridge.  It turns out Fran Plog continued on the trip to Hokkaido and ended up at a camp a few miles from Leslie's camp.  The stress and circumstances frequently led to a POW only being aware of what was immediately happening to him, and only that.  I think every one of the NCM I talked to apologized for not remembering more details about other North China Marines. Leslie remembers a few weeks before the war was over.  The POWs knew there were vitamins in a storeroom.  The windows of the barracks had bars and he thinks the door was locked at night.  Some of the POWs worked some floorboards loose from their barracks at night.  They snuck in to the storeroom and stole some of the vitamins.  His friend NCM Jake Schneider had a bad case of beri beri.  Leslie credits the stolen vitamins with saving Jake Schneider. Leslie remembers the food drops which caused the death of some POWs - just as told to me by Ray Haberman.  He remembers Navy TBMs coming in over the top of the mountains, flaps down, to drop food containers in a swampy area.  They thought the planes were through and went out to gather up the food.  Then another TBM came in. He worked the night shift in the mines of Hakodate #2.  He remembers being trucked to an airfield, he thought near Sapporo. They were to be flown out on C-46s or C-47s.  Leslie was originally in line to board one of them but it was mostly British POWs.  The British seemed to always have bad luck.  He stepped out of line and boarded another plane with Americans.  The plane with the British on board had mechanical problems and had to land on a beach.  His plane made it to Tokyo.  Parts and a mechanic were flown to the beach and the British POWs made it in that night.  At Tokyo he boarded a hospital ship next to the USS Missouri.  They were sent to Guam. From there he elected to return to the states by hospital ship instead of a B-29.  He wanted to gain weight.  He weighed 99 pounds when he arrived in Tokyo.

NCM George Hirschkamp boarded on of the C-47s, but his plane had to turn back.  They commandeered a train and took it to a seaport where they boarded a British destroyer which took them to Tokyo Bay.  On the way the crew of the destroyer kept watch for mines and blew them up by shooting at them.  They spent a few days in Tokyo and then took a US ship to Guam.  From there he flew to Hawaii. George was a radio operator.  When the Japanese guards left the camp George was in the guard's quarters trying to operate their radio to contact US forces.  There was a knock at the gate.  It was an American pilot with a car.  He was lost.  He stayed for a while and promised to send planes with food.  A few days later three planes flew over with food drops. About a month before I talked with George (3 Feb 2003) he had been in a barber shop.  The man in the barber's chair had been a POW in Mukden.  It turned out they had gone over to China on the same ship in 1940. George may have been at Utashinai but left from Akabira when rescued.

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POW Camps Holding North China Marines