Our first Japanese camp commander was not so bad, as he got a little graft, but the second one was terror to all sick men and crippled. His orders were that all men would have to work and this included crippled men not flat on their backs and men partially sick.
Month after month this Japanese commander, named Matsumoto, tried to set up a work record in man hours. Sunday was not a work day when we had our first camp commander, which enabled us to wash clothes and get a little rest. But now Matsumoto, with great reluctance, let the prisoners off only once every month, since his only concern was to hang up a new record in working hours.
His orders to the camp guards were to search the prisoners thoroughly when returning from work so no contraband would be brought into camp. As the food ration was not sufficient and was always the same, day after day, something had to be brought in, such as eggs, sugar, milk powder and also salt, which the enemy furnished very little of. Whenever something was found on a prisoner, the guard would immediately slap and kick the man and in the commotion, the duty officer would appear and question the man as to where and why he had obtained the food. After slapping and much shouting, the accused man was escorted to the guard room to be more thoroughly kicked and beaten.
Sometimes the man had to stand on his knees on wet rocks for many hours at a time. The Japanese guards were always very brutal and gave the prisoners a very bad time.
No smoking was allowed in bunk spaces and any man caught smoking there was always beaten. Any time a Japanese officer went into a room, all prisoners were forced to bow in acknowledgement of his salute. The enemy was very zealous in regards to saluting.
All civilians in manufacturing convecne were obliged to salute all shop foremen and Japanese officers.
Many times some of the prisoners would ride to work in Japanese street-cars and they would be packed in like sardines. After leaving the street-cars and walking to their work, the prisoners would be able to observe what the civilian Japanese was buying in the way of food and plenty of food was available in 1942, but of course, it was all rationed.
Year after year, we were able to judge how the war was faring by watching the food rations of the Japanese people. Another way to judge the war was by observing the Japanese soldiers' rations and the amount of cigarettes they received.
Black markets were established in Osaka in late 1942 and many articles could be obtained, if one had the price. Sugar was something that was never plentiful in Japan and high prices were paid for this luxury. Among amusing things witnessed in Japan were the charcoal and wood-block burning trucks and cars. The drivers of the rice trucks would light a huge straw bag and shove it under the motor of the truck until they thought the engine was warm enough. Then they would start it up with clouds of smoke pouring out of the boiler of the truck. From a distance, it would look like a house was afire, but on closer examination it was only some Japanese starting his truck.
The Japanese drivers would cut in the charcoal burner, using a little gasoline to start their trucks, and after the burner heated up he was able to carry very large loads. Plenty of tires were available, as nearly all the Japanese warehouses were stocked with crude rubber from Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Aluminum was also very easy to get, as the enemy, at the beginning of the war, had huge stockpiles on hand.
During the latter part of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, the Japanese merchant ships lying in Osaka Bay totaled 102, from 150 to 20,000 tons. There was a square funnel French ship close to 20,000 tons which tied up to the great Sumitomo Docks and shuttled back and forth from Osaka and Yokohama. It was a beautiful ship, but too big for the Japanese to operate.
A very large German Merchant Man used to come into Osaka harbor to unload cargo, but prisoners were not allowed to go aboard her. About two hundred P.O.W.'s unloaded Japanese ships every day and their cargos consisted of iron ore, bauxite, cotton, rice, soy beans, salt, wire, steel rails, machinery and a host of other things. Sometimes the Japanese Honchos (foremen), would give the P.O.W.'s a contract to unload so many tons of pig iron or bauxite, and sometimes the P.O.W.'s came out ahead.
The cargo the prisoners hated worse to work on, was lamp black, in paper cartons. Everybody would get black and as soap was scarce the men would put up a beef about it. Finally, the Stevedoring Company put out a few small bars of soap, mostly made up of fish oils which lathered badly, not to mention the unpleasant odor.
Over 25,000 Chinese were engaged in stevedoring in Japan, and about 5,000 of them were working on ships in Osaka harbor. Some of them were prisoners, but others were volunteers. Japanese style --- volunteer, or else!! Nearly all the coal ships were unloaded by them, but the treatment they received was a disgrace!
In the bitter cold of Osaka, these poor Chinese were forced to work in their thin summer clothes and straw sandals.
Many times these Chinese would slip bread and cigarettes to American prisoners and tell them what news they had heard from friends coming in on ships from Shanghai, China. Many of the crew men of Chinese ships told prisoners that they were forced to work for the enemy in order to live, as there wasn't enough work in China for everybody.
The crew of the Chinese ships, under puppet government, consisted of the Captain, who was a Japanese officer, and three or four ratings to handle the field guns which were aboard the ships sailing from Japan to China. Most of the P.O.W.'s who went out to ships in Osaka harbor worked fervently to break into the cargos, as sometimes many articles were cached in the overhead beams, storerooms and galley which would be easy to loot. This was necessary only because not enough food was issued and also to outwit the enemy in their desire to keep plenty of food aboard their ships.
One day a band of American prisoners went aboard a small ship and in the course of the day removed the door to a storeroom and loaded up with canned foods and other choice items. They accomplished this by taking the pins out of the hinges and the door off. After removing all the food they wanted, the pins were replaced and the door put back into place. When the cook came to get some stores for the evening meal he went through the usual routine of unlocking the large lock and swinging the door open. After going into the storeroom and getting one look at the shelves, he let out a swill. Thinking perhaps the crew had helped themselves, and being only a lowly Japanese cook he kept silent at the time.
The next day a new band of American prisoners went aboard the same ship and, they too removed the pins out of the door and proceeded to take all the food stores, except a few items. On the same day in the afternoon the same lowly Japanese cook came down to the storeroom, unlocked the door and saw what had happened. This time he went squalling to the head cook, who rushed below and inspected the nearly bare storeroom. He then slapped and kicked the lowly cook and locked the storeroom again. He inspected the hinges and found them all right but he got a new lock anyway. He also detailed one of the ship's mess men to watch the storeroom every day until the ship was unloaded.
Among the cargos the prisoners hated to see that the Japanese ships brought into Osaka harbor, was bauxite, which is made into aluminum. We knew that airplanes would be made from the finished product and hoped that American subs would sink most of the Japanese ships which brought this cargo. Quite a number of 10,000 ton Japanese ships would reach Osaka from Java loaded with sugar, but this sugar was not fit for human consumption. It was for making alcohol for fuels. Any Japanese workman or American prisoner who would attempt to smuggle or eat any of the sugar would be beaten or reported to the Japanese Honcho, (foreman). He would report Japanese civilians to the dreaded Kempeitai, (secret police), and Americans to the Japanese camp officer, who, in turn, would order punishment.
Although the Japanese bosses made every attempt to keep prisoners from looting sugar while working on sugar ships, hundreds of pounds would be smuggled into camp. The sugar would be sold by the klim can, which was a round tin can that formerly contained powdered milk. The price of sugar inside the prison camp was one klim can for eight or ten packages of Japanese cigarettes. This price was as of 1942 and as cigarette issues became less in 1943 the price dropped down to six packages until 1945, when the price was three packages for about one pound of sugar. Cigarettes were of better value than money, and many items could be obtained by trading cigarettes. Some men traded part of their food for cigarettes and were weakened by doing this but the tobacco was their kind and they would rather smoke than eat.