The following three part series is a letter written by Stewart T. Faulkner in October 25, 1973 to Patrick. A member of On-The-Roof Gang (Class #22), Faulkner received training as an intercept operator (Katakana) from April to August 1939. Following his training in Washington DC, Faulkner served on the Guam using the skills he learned leading up to WWII. He was one of eight intercept operators captured by the Japanese on December 8, 1941 and held as a POW for the entire war. List below are those who were captured in Guam.
Name/Rank OTRG Class # POW Location
Donald W. Barnum, CRM 10 Osaka area
Edward J. Dullard, RM2 22 Osaka area
Robert R. Ellis, RM1 22 Zentsuji
Stuart T. Faulkner, RM2 22 Hirohata
Harold E. Joslin, RM2 23 Zentsuji
Donald L. McCune, RM2 * Hirohata
Rexford G. Parr, RM2 23 Osaka area
Markle T. Smith, RM1 13 Osaka area
San Diego, California
October 25, 1973
I know that I have met you on at least one occasion, but I am sure that you could pass me on the street and I would not recognize you – you have undoubtedly grown as the years have passed. I will try to answer your questions, but I request your indulgence – the typewriter is a small portable which travels across the desk as I type; the keys are much too close together and, although it has all the letters, it has not learned to spell as well as some. It is necessary to accomplish this during the evenings as I work during the day. I hope it is timely enough to be of some benefit to you. Rather than try to answer your questions in numbered sequence, I will ramble along with one eye on your questions and one on the typewriter. The result, I hope will touch on all questions even though not in the exact order asked.
In Guam, WWII commence at almost precisely 7:00 AM on 8 December 1941 when nine Japanese aircraft conducted an air raid on Apra Harbor. On the morning of the third day they landed Japanese troops, in force and captured the island. There was resistance but hardly enough – the average American would not believe how inadequate our preparedness for such an attack.
I, with approximately 400 other POWs and over 100 civilian internees, departed Guam on 10 February. We were put in the hold of the Argentina Maru, a beautiful ship with a teardrop shaped bride which normally carried passengers between Japan and South America. It was loaded with diplomatic personnel and other Japanese nationals headed back to their homeland for the duration of the war. As I remember the ship was about 16,000 tons and capable of steady cruising at 16 knots although her top speed was in the 20’s. We in steerage could tell that she zigzagged all during the daylight hours and steamed straight only during the darkness. We were fed twice daily at about 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Our breakfast consisted of two slices of bread. Our dinner was a small bowl of rice, hot tea, and I believe a piece of fish on occasion. It was not in their interest to keep us in good physical shape for the trip. I might mention it was almost agreed to attempt a takeover of the ship and take her to Honolulu during our trip northward. The fact that we have four Navy nurses, one Navy wife and a newborn baby was one reason our senior officer refused to permit the attempt. The fact that we did not have good knowledge of the configuration of the ship may have had much to do with the decision. As an enlisted man I did not have firsthand knowledge of the decision making.
About mid-morning of the fifth day we arrived in the Inland Sea. We were herded on deck where we remained most of the day. It was extremely cold and the wind served to increase the chill factor – I had never been so cold in all my life. We had nothing to eat that morning and it was to become dark before we were given frozen bread to munch on. We finally departed the ship about 4:00 PM. As we were loading into a strange looking junk-type boat it almost capsized. We were taken ashore to a little town in the island of Kyushu. There we waited for transportation, munched on the aforementioned bread and shivered. Sometime later trucks arrived and we headed for Zentsuji to a couple of old, two storied, barracks which had served to house German POWs during WWI. Upon arrival I noted it was snowing lightly which, for this Californian, was the first time I had snow fall on me. A lot of “firsts” were occurring these days for me.
Zentsuji was the first camp for we early arrivals. A few days, perhaps within the month, a few Australians arrived. I don’t believe there was more than five to eight. They were a jolly lot, rough and vulgar, but with high spirits and we got along with them famously.
During the initial 9 to 12 months, a Japanese General headed up the organization of the Central Army to take charge of all POWs. When it was obvious that the war was not
a Japanese piece-of-cake; about the time of the Coral Sea battle when the U.S. Navy began to fight in earnest, the Japanese dissolved the POW organization and put us under the operational forces, so to speak, and our treatment changed dramatically. Our guards were from two groups. The internal guard force which stood watches inside our barracks and accompanied us to and from work each day were of the Home Guard and were all veterans who had fought in the battles in China. The “external” guard force stood watches at the gates, around the compound and were men who had been wounded early in WWII and were given a tour back home before returning to battle in the Pacific. At least that is how I understood it. A Warrant Officer who we called “Singapore Sam” had been wounded during the battle for that British “stronghold” is a good example. He departed for the front after spending several months in the guard force.
Zentsuji generated into an officer’s camp as time rolled on. During the early months we enlisted men were required to work in land reclamation on the side of a mountain. We worked every other day through the spring of 1942. I remember clearly being on the mountain the day that Doolittle and friends attacked Tokyo. Sirens sounded and as we looked down on the town we wondered what was taking place. Late that afternoon while marching through town back to the barracks we witnessed a frightened population and I experienced a strange feeling that something of great importance had occurred somewhere in Japan that day. I also clearly remember that day that the four nurses, the Navy wife and baby, and a man who had been captured at a diplomatic post in Tsingtao departed for Tokyo to board the MS Gripsholm to return to the United States with Ambassador Grew.
Sometime late in May or early June, 180 of us were transferred to Osaka. We were housed under the grandstand of a stadium. No officers were included in this move. None of the Australians were included either.
It was obvious that we were transferred to Osaka so we could be utilized to help unload ships returning from Burma and other areas where the Japanese helped themselves to rice needed back home. We half believe that unloading such foodstuffs was not “war” materials and therefore did not object too strenuously to being made to perform such work. Although we were, almost to the man, losing weight we could not honestly say we were being unduly mistreated. We were certainly being underfed; constantly under guard and afforded no opportunity for any type of recreation, we certainly were not being physically mistreated by those who guarded us. This situation remained static until September of 1942 when we were put under a different Army command. On this occasion we were mustered and informed of the change. We were told in no uncertain terms that the “party was over.” It just so happened that this occurred a short time after a couple of Japanese setbacks at sea in battles with the U.S. Navy