American POW spent his time in Niigata
“It was so cold”
Mr. John Real (90), an American who had been held in a POW camp in the Higashi Ward of Niigata during WWII, visited the city for the first time since the end of the war. After touring the Niigata West Port where he used to unload coal, he said with deep reflection, “All the memory of working in the snow came back. I never thought I would have an opportunity to come back to Niigata.”
Mr. Real, a photo specialist for the US Army Air Corps, was captured in the Philippines by the Imperial Japanese Army and was held at Tokyo POW camp 5 in Niigata for two years from 1943 to the end of WWII.
He and six other former American POWs were invited through the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Japan/American POW Friendship Program. One day was set aside for a visit to a local city and he chose to come to Niigata.
Looking down the Niigata West Port from the Yamano-shita Minato Tower, Mr. Real emphasized, “I had never seen snow before (coming to Niigata), and living in cold weather as a POW was very difficult. “
But with a smile on his face, he also shared his recollection of what had happened when he first walked on the street of Niigata right after the war. “Civilian people asked me, ‘Would you like some omelet?’ I was so moved that there were kind people outside of the camp.”