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Chapter 15: POW - Fukuoka Camp #27 - Tagawa, Japan

Fukuoka POW Camp #27 was located at the site of Mitsui coal mines near Tagawa, Fukuoka, Japan ... about a 100 miles from Nagasaki, Japan. It was established in May 1945. All POW's were used as slave labor in road and camp construction as well as coal mining.

Dad was transferred, along with 80 or so other American POW's, from Osaka Camp #3 to Fukuoka Camp #27 in mid-1945. British and Australian POW's were also brought in from other camps.

Richard A. Beam - USS Biloxi Interview with Tommy English - 20 Sep 1945 - All Rights Reserved

Treatment was better here, but the food was under par. We received no meat whatsoever and received fish only once in 2 months, the total length of time that I spent here.

POW's were unaware that the war with Japan would soon end:

  • On August 6, 1945 the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima
  • On August 9, 1945 the Atom Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki
  • On August 15, 1945 the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, announced the surrender of Japan

Richard A. Beam - USS Biloxi Interview with Tommy English - 20 Sep 1945 - All Rights Reserved

I was working on a garden detail planting sweet potatoes. At noon I sent a man over on a road detail to get a light on a cigarette. When he returned, he said that the Japanese work leaders had left and one of them was crying as he walked away.

In about 15 minutes, 6 guards came out and reinforced the 2 guards who were with the road detail. It was then about 3:30 in the afternoon.

At about 4 O'clock, the Japanese work leader took us into camp where we learned that the sick men who were making baskets had been told to go to the barracks and to rest (they were told this at about 2 O'clock).

I asked one of the Nip guards, "Sensou Shuusoku?" (is the war ended?). He replied he didn't know.

I then went to the barracks and here we all discussed what we had seen and we found that all the men had noticed that the guards had become very lax in the performance of their duties. They would hardly return our salutes and their heads seemed to be hanging low.

Later the guard whom I had asked if the war had ended came looking for me. He took me to the guard shack. I then was taken by the Corporal of the Guard to an office where an interpreter asked me who had told me. I told him that I did not understand. He pondered a moment, then asked whether I had felt it. My mind told me that he was admitting that the war was ended, so I told him "Yes I feel it." I knew it was the end of the war. He went into the inner office and talked to another Jap then he came out and told me that I could go back to my barracks. I immediately did so and spread the word around of my experience.

We had moments before when we thought the war had ended, yet we knew that this time, it was the real thing.

Later in the evening we were told to get our clothing and equipment together so that we could move in the morning. We were issued Red Cross food which had been in a storeroom since our arrival in camp. That night we were so excited that I don't think any of the 400 men slept.

Tagawa, Japan
Photo Courtesy Kiushu University Museum

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