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Prisoner of War Camp #1
Fukuoka, Japan

An Insight into Life and Death
at a POW Camp in War-time Japan

Wes Injerd

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Pacific Roster for Americans in Asian camps
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Civilian Internment Camps in Japan

In Memory of a Hero

Peter Hansen

On March 21, 1945, Peter W. Hansen, an American, died in a city on the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan, a city called Fukuoka. He died amongst a grove of pine trees alongside a river at a prisoner of war camp known as Fukuoka Camp No. 1.

The official cause of his death was recorded as "acute enteritis," though the real cause was all too familiar with his fellow POWs -- being forced to do calisthenics while extremely weak and sick, and being denied the medicines to treat his illness.

Hansen was captured on Wake Island where he was working for the Morrison-Knudsen Company building an airfield. He was a civilian, which makes his death even more senseless, for he never was directly in battle against the Japanese. He was just a worker on a Pacific island and taken captive only weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

For three and a half years Hansen suffered at the hands of his captors. He was involved in construction projects for the Japanese: for the war effort, against his will, and against the Geneva Convention. His body, gradually weakened through beatings, forced exercise, bitter cold, poor diet and debilitating disease, could no longer take it, and he succumbed, like many others before him, and many others after him.

He never got to see his dear wife again, nor were his three children ever to see their beloved father again. His body was cremated in a small town just next to the airfield, now Fukuoka International Airport, which he helped build. His ashes are interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, Section 82, Grave 1B-1D. Gerard Moran has written an excellent piece on Mary-Anne Stickney's search for her father, Peter Hansen. You can read The Hansen Story here. For an excellent book on the background of those who worked with Hansen, read Building for War - The Epic Saga of the Civilian Contractors and Marines of Wake Island in WWII by Bonita Gilbert (2012).

And there are other heroes... many others.

The date to remember is May 5th. On that day in 1945 a B-29 crashed in Taketa, Oita. Six of the airmen captured from that plane were dissected alive at a university lab in Fukuoka in the days following that crash. Their story is here as well. It is a story that has brought this city a notoriety from which it no doubt would like to distance itself.

This webpage is dedicated to the memory of heroes like Peter Hansen and those airmen who had to go through more than we could ever imagine. Some never really knew World War II, for they were captured from the start. Yet they did not give up, but endured to the last breath.

The POW story, however, is a complex one -- there is no way to relate the whole story. These pages tell of only a minute piece of the whole. I hope that I can in some small way contribute to a better understanding of what went on at a Japanese prisoner of war camp, namely Fukuoka POW Camp #1, and help others find out what happened to their husbands, their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers who were at one time interned here.

When you go home,
Tell them of us and say:
"For your tomorrow, We gave our today"
-- Inscription at Kohima Memorial, Burma, 1944

"The men and women who suffered through the atrocious conditions of internment deserve our utmost gratitude and respect. Their fortitude serves as an example of placing the ideals of freedom and self-government above one's own interests. Many thousands gave their lives as the ultimate sacrifice, both on the battlefield and in the deadly prison camps of the Pacific and Europe." -- U.S. President George W. Bush, 2001

This book is for the generations who have not experienced a world war (and God willing, never will), and for future generations and researchers who may want to learn about the price to be paid for freedom.

There may be value in their knowing that death marches, the living hell of sealed boxcars, the stench of death, the green hell of jungle, the mental rot of a jail, and the unspeakable holds of rusty transport ships can happen -- and that people survived them. There may be value in knowing how men, women, and children can endure even the most desperate conditions and, in their will to retain their humanity, triumph over appalling adversity.

There may be value in knowing how men and women gave up their lives for their "brothers and sisters." How they helped each other to live. How where there had been darkness, there had come forces of light -- where despair, hope -- where fear, faith -- where hate, love.

From the Introduction of Van Waterford's
Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II

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Nov. 11 - Veterans Day - A Time to Remember

All EX-POWs have one common goal to pass along to future generations, REMEMBER THEM. Remember the men who died in battle, remember the men who marched days upon days with no food or water, remember the men who were beaten when they worked and killed when they did not. Remember the men who had to wait to die in the Zero Ward, remember the men who lost their lives at sea after their hellship was sunk, and remember the men who survived their 3-year ordeal.

All prisoners of the Japanese will tell you, We can forgive, but we can't forget.

Source: http://www.chinamarines.com/docs/lib.htm

Read this moving article in entirety at the above source. Entitled Liberation, this article will help give you a better idea, indeed, a better feeling of what it was like to be a POW who has suffered, endured, survived, and had his first taste of freedom after years of internment. Certainly we have not even begun to appreciate the sacrifices these veterans, veterans of a different kind of war, had to make.

They fought, not on the front lines, but behind enemy lines... not with weapons, but with a strong will to survive... not against an enemy at a distance, but with one face to face, daily under attack... without any way of defending themselves... without any option of retreat... without proper food, rest or medication.

And they are still fighting today, against both physical and mental scars, the haunting memories that will never go away until death takes it from them.

We owe a lot to these veterans of a different kind of war who gave a lot for their country, for their families, for us. Let us then, who enjoy the benefits of their sacrifices, do our best to honor all veterans and do what we can to show our appreciation for what they have done.

Let us make this Veterans Day 2002 a day of special remembrance and appreciation.

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 12, 2004

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, 2004

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Americans look to our veterans as examples of honor and patriotism. These loyal citizens have risked capture, imprisonment, and their lives to protect our homeland and advance freedom abroad. As we observe National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we honor brave Americans who have demonstrated extraordinary courage in the face of hardship and terror.

Today, nine out of ten former prisoners of war are veterans of World War II. These Americans helped to liberate millions and defeat tyranny around the world, and survived unspeakable horrors for the cause of freedom. From enduring hard labor in German and Japanese POW camps to the torturous Bataan Death March, these proud patriots showed strength of character and incredible resolve in captivity. Their devotion to duty and love of country stand as a measure of service few others will attain.

America will never forget these quiet heroes and all of our former prisoners of war who suffered adversity in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq, and other conflicts. Our Nation is grateful to our former prisoners of war for their sacrifice to help protect the democratic ideals that make our country strong. Because of the dedication of these men and women in uniform, people in our own country and in lands far away can live in freedom. These citizens inspire us, and we will always remember their service for liberty's blessings.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 9, 2004, as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day. I call upon all Americans to join me in remembering all former American prisoners of war who suffered the hardships of enemy captivity. I also call upon Federal, State, and local government officials and private organizations to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-eighth.


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