The Forgotten Men of Guam
Edited by Linda Goertz Holmes
All the American POWs of Guam
were transported to Japan and many were then sent to work for Japanese
industries. They endured three and a half years of brutal slave labor, constant
beatings, starvation, and diseases.
follows these POWs to where they were sent- POW camps in Japan, Zentsuji,
Hirohata, Tanagawa, Osaka, and Rokuroshi. Drawing on diaries, interviews
with survivors and archival records, he vividly tells their day-to-day struggle
as POWs of the Japanese.
“At Tanagawa, there was nothing," said six-foot-tall Pfc. Herb Humphrey of the
Insular Patrol on Guam. “This was the worst time of my POW existence. We were
using picks and shovels to tear down a mountain for a Jap submarine base. We
would load small ore cars with rock and dirt, push the cars out over the water,
and dump them. Rain, snow, it didn’t matter—it was back and forth, hour after
hour, day after day, month after month, and with damn little to eat. Within the
first few days, we were all sick with dysentery, but that never stopped the Japs
from forcing us to work. Constant and savage beatings were normal, everyday
But Roger also mentions some POWs' remarkable human capacity to have compassion for Japanese civilians who they knew were also suffering. He wrote beautifully about one episode that took place right after the end of the war.
The Japanese rightly assumed that the mistreated prisoners would seek revenge against their captors. Any large-scale revenge killings became impossible, however, as the culpable staff and guards had fled from every camp within two days of the surrender.
But a unique phenomenon occurred in almost every camp. A universal feeling prevailed-- not forgiveness, but a sense of sorrow for the average Japanese. As one POW remarked, “We all felt a bit of sorrow for the average schmuck. They’d been led to believe all this nonsense about Japanese superiority and that we were nothing more than animals. It was pitiful to see them now. Exhausted, powerless, hungry, and absolutely terrified of the future.
In Zentsuji during the war, when the POWs were transported in open stake-body trucks to work sites near the Sakaide train yards, they passed beneath an overpass. For the last year of the war, a Japanese woman was frequently seen rushing from her home to the overpass in order to rain dirt and small rocks down upon the defenseless men. “Probably a Jap mother who lost her son,” remarked one of the POWs. With equanimity the men simply accepted the woman’s hostile action and merely ducked whenever she appeared.
After Japan had surrendered but before the men left the prison camp, two prisoners, fluent in Japanese, paid a visit to the home of the infamous woman. Opening the door, she bowed deeply, expecting a severe retribution for her actions. Telling her to stand erect, they presented a large box of food and clothing. "We were not your enemy," they told her. Japan had been physically devastated, its people on the verge of starvation, and there was fear in the hearts of every native. Acts like this gave the prisoners a release from the hatred they felt in their bones– a hatred that had kept them alive since capture. In every camp the guards, civilian honchos, and local laborers who had aided the prisoners were sought out for a measure of reward. (Chapter 25:Operation RAMP)
Three prominent people praise the book
I first met Roger in 2001 and
we soon became friends. He was often the first person to share his
thoughts with me whenever I updated my website, US-Japan Dialogue on POWs. He always encouraged me,
up the good work!”
Roger wrote the following in his acknowledgement in this book:
I have had a charmed life. Never had to carry a gun in anger. Never had my own home or family attacked in a war. I hope through my work to have repaid a small part of the debt I owe to all who paid the price for my freedom, and to have honored them by doing my best to disseminate some of their stories.
He passed away one month later.
was a tough act to follow when it comes to the scope of his research. But we can
all be inspired by his dedication to remembering and disseminating the stories
of POWs of the Japanese and try our best to carry on his mission.
* More information on Captured and its author Roger Mansell can be found here. Try to watch his video message on the importance of sharing research.