Pvt. Forest Elsworth Richeson was born on March 7, 1917, in Cambridge,
Ohio, to Lewis V. Richeson and Libbie Lightfoot-Richeson. His father passed away when he was an infant.
It is known he had three sisters. As a child, his mother and him lived with her parents at 327 West Main
Street in Barnesville, Ohio. He left school after the seventh grade.
On January 21, 1941, at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, Forest was inducted into the U.S.
Army. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for basic training and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
which had been an Ohio National Guard tank company from Port Clinton. What specialized training he received
at Ft. Knox is not known.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in
maneuvers. During the maneuvers the battalion, which was part of the Red Army, broke through the Blue
Army's defensive line. The battalion was about to overrun the Blue Army's Headquarters when the
maneuvers were cancelled. The Blue Army was under the command of General George S. Patton.
After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. None
of the men had any idea why they were being sent to the fort. It was on the side of a hill that the members
of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Those men 29 years old or
older were allowed to resign from federal service and replacements came from the 753rd Tank Battalion. Within
hours. the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for "Philippines, Luzon, Manila."
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of
an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen
Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.
He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came
upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese
occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron
continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when
another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck -
which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was
difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military
presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San
Francisco and were ferried. on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the
battalion's medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many
tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine
guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and
had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from
the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the
U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke
the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Dateline. On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.
The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the
smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas,
coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at
night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into
harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7
later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who
drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure
that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that
they had to love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from
their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them,
with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard
against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank
remained with their tank at all times. The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were
informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. The tankers returned to the perimeter of Clark
Airfield. Forest had been assigned KP duty that day and remained in the battalion's bivouac when the
Japanese began bombing.
"That's the reason so many fellows were killed. They were in the mess hall eating."
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes
landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north. The
tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were
Japanese. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks. They were than
sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen
Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached
Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge
they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of
river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully
crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from
Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held
the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December
were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River
was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
At Cabu, C Company's tanks were hidden in brush. The Japanese troops passed
the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry
was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut
through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on
their sirens and opened up on the Japanese. They then fell back to Cabanatuan.
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese
troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of
World War II against enemy tanks.
After the battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found
the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the
equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, the commanding officer of C Company sent out reconnaissance patrols
north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the
Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross
the river, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the
bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks
began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the
northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the
southeast of the bridge. Lt. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third
platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag
2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and
was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very
excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had
told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the
Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove
the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was
Kennady's platoon held it's fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and
then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through
buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had
knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
The tankers withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank
Group. When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown. Finding a crossing the
tankers made it to the south side of the river. Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans
took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested
rice. This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.
The tanks were spaced about 100 yards apart. The Japanese crossing the river knew
that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were
in front of them. The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire.
Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire. They then used
their .37 mm guns. The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one
The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was
having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were
and attacked. Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns.
After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until
all the troops were across. The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the
Japanese up for a few days. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.
In addition to serving as a rear guard, the tankers burnt everything that was being left
behind. They burnt warehouses, banks, and businesses that would help the Japanese.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on
Bataan on a small peninsula. The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land
reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known
as the Battle of the Points.
The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton A.
Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He requested the tanks from
the Provisional Tank Group.
On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the
Japanese had landed troops. The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M. He did a quick reconnaissance of the
area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of
the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. The progress was slow but steady until a
Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew. It turned out
that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the time. The decision
was made to resume the attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front
line. They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire. As they moved forward,
members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks. The troops made progress all day long along the left side
of the line. The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so they
would not get hung up on them. The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver. Coordinating
the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made by to bring in a radio car so that the tanks
and infantry could talk with each other.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived. The tanks were
assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order. Each
tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders. This was done so that
the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could be ordered to where they
were needed. The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
The attack resumed the next morning the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to the
cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that the tanks were
released to returned to the 192nd.
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who
had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace
a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except
the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut
in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry,
Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this
from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully
withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while
hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being
near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a
It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since
approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.
In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be
massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order
, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy
within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat
vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as
The morning of the April 9, 1942, at 6:45 the tankers received the order
and destroyed their tanks. When the Japanese made contact with them, they were ordered to Mariveles
where they started the death march.
From Mariveles, the members of C Company made their way north along the east coast of
Bataan. The first five miles of the march the were more difficult since the march was uphill. The
POWs also were denied food and received little water. Those who attempted to get water from the artesian
wells that flowed across the road were often killed. It is known that on the march Merle helped to carry a
member of D Company so that the man would not be killed.
When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull-pin. In one corner, was a
trench that was used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface was alive with maggots. The Japanese allowed the
POWs to sit in the sun for hours.
At some point, the POWs were organized into detachments of 100 men, marched to the train
station at San Fernando, and packed into small wooden
used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as forty or eights. This was because each car
could hold forty men or eight horses. Since the detachments were made up of 100 men, the Japanese packed
100 POWs into each car. The POWs who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.
The POWs walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training
base that was pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese
confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs
and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next
several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to
eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the
next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation
improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when
it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp
and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing
since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the
POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American
doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he
was told never to write another letter. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies
to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical
supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the
Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to
the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried
in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground
under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed
in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a
list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to
work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate
among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something,
so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard
where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been
the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was known as Camp Panagaian.
The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan
and taken part in the death march where held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was
closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor
surrender were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were
sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only entered
if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled
the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were
tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW
successfully escaped from the camp.
In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule. If one
man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were
beaten. Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. It is not known if
any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120
POWs in them. The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting. Many
quickly became ill. The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived
together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
The POWs were sent out on work details one was to cut wood for the POW kitchens.
The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day on
any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a
shed each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit
them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little
English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs
Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was
"Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used
when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of
them. "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be
trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason. He liked to hit the POWs
with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Any
prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Each morning, after arriving
at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them
on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite
punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a
guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given,
medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant
"wet rice." During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no
fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread.
The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the
Japanese when they counted barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there to die. The Japanese put a
fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building. There were two
rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building. The sickest POWs were put on the lower
platform which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves. Most of those who entered the
The POWs had the job of burying the dead. To do this, they worked in teams of four
men. Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves
containing 15 to 20 bodies.
Forest was sent to the new camp after it opened, but it is not known if he was sent
to the camp when it opened or after he came back from the work detail. While in the camp he worked on the
farm where the POWs grew food for the Japanese. He told of how he was beaten when he was caught with a beat
he had stolen from the farm. He also told of how one of his friends, who had an infection in his jaw, was
hit in the jaw with the butt of a rifle. He watched as friends died from around him from dysentery,
brutality, and utter hopelessness.
On this detail the POWs worked at Pier 7 as stevedores and lived in the Custom
House. The housing was inadequate, poorly lighted and ventilated. The toilets were outside and filthy
as were the so called shower facilities. The camp kitchen was over 200 yards away and out in the open. There was
no medical facilities so the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison for medical treatment until medical officers joined
the detail. The work was hard and at times required the POWs to work 24 hours a day. The POWs
committed acts of sabotage as they worked and stole food as often as possible. Speaking of how he survived
in the camps, he said
, "I guess I kept alive because I like rice so well. I still do. When my wife tells me we
are going to have Spanish rice for dinner I nearly drool."
Forest stated that not all the Japanese were bad and that one commanding officer of a camp
actually showed compassion for the POWs.
"He was human. He saw that we had plenty to eat. He provided baskets, volleyballs, and let
us organize a softball team. You see he had lived in America. he understood American ways.
But I wasn't there for long."
On July 17, 1944, the detail was ended and most of the POWs were sent to Japan on the
Nissyo Maru. Forest was a member of the small detachment of POWs who remained behind at the Port
Area. He later was sent to Bilibid Prison and selected to be sent to Japan on the
The POWs were boarded onto the
Noto Maru on August 25, and packed into one hold. The ship sailed, as part of a four ship convoy,
on the 27th but dropped anchor off Bataan. On its trip to Formosa depth charges were dropped since
American submarines were believed to be in the area of the ships. The ships arrived at Takao, Formosa, on
August 30th. The convoy sailed again on August 31 and arrived at Moji, Japan, September 4.
During the trip to Japan, the POWs were packed into the ship's hold so tightly
that they could not use the the half barrel that was suppose to be the toilet. The floor of the hold was
covered in human waste since most of the men were suffering from dysentery. The smell got so bad that the
Japanese covered the hatch of the hold. The POWs received water twice a day and were fed once a
As the ship made its way to Japan men died of sickness and starvation. With
each death, there was more room in the ship's hold. The bodies of the dead were hosted out of the
hold by ropes and dumped in the sea. The suction of the ship's propellers pulled the bodies into
them and resulted in the bodies being cut up. The Japanese finally decided that the only
way to deal with the smell coming from the hold was to bring the POWs on deck and wash them down with
seawater. They also washed down the floor of the hold at the same time.
Once at Moji, the POWs were broken into two groups. Forest's group of
POWs were marched to the train station and taken by train to the camps along the line. Forest's POW
detachment was taken to
Sendai Camp #6,
which was also known as Hanawa, where 500 POWs worked in the copper mine owned by Mitsubishi and under
company supervision. The camp was approximately 200 feet wide by 350 feet long and had a 12 foot high
wooden fence around it and was located at 4,000 feet. The POWs were housed in wooden barracks, with 30
foot ceilings, and two tiers of bunks, against each long wall, with straw matting and a mattress stuffed with
straw for sleeping. They also had a 4" by 4" by 8" block of wood for a pillow.
The floors of the barracks were packed dirt with a center aisle. There were covered
walkways, without sides, that connected the barracks. To heat the barracks, there was a small potbelly
stove. If they were lucky, the Japanese gave them enough wood for an hour's heat. The
POWs - who worked in the foundry - stole coal knowing that if they were caught they would be beaten.
The barracks were not insulated and the heavy snow - which was as deep as 10 feet - served as insulation.
Other buildings in the camp were two buildings that served as a hospital for the
POWs and a "L" shaped building that was the kitchen and POW bath. The latrines were three low
buildings, and there was one building that served as the camp office. The POWs spent several days
setting up the camp.
In the camp, 500 POWs worked in the copper mine owned by Mitsubishi Mining Company
and worked under company supervision. The POWs woke up at 5 A.M. and ate breakfast which was small bowl
of rice, barley or millet and a watery soup. Meals for the POWs were brought to the barracks, in
buckets, and the POWs ate at tables in the barracks. After breakfast, at 5:30, roll call was taken and
the POWs and the POWs left the camp. They arrived at the mine at 7 A.M., had a half hour lunch, and
worked until 5:00 P.M. before returning to camp, usually after dark, and had supper. Afterwards, they
went to bed.
The clothing issued to the POWs was a combination of Japanese clothing, made of thin
cloth and shoes, and captured American clothing. For the winter the POWs were issued a uniform made of
burlap and long socks. Those who needed shoes were issued Japanese canvas shoes with webbing between
two toes. They also received grass shoe covers so they could get through the snow.
Work details were set up for POWs who were machinists, electricians,
mechanics. Those who did not have these skills were assigned to working at a foundry or mining.
The POWs worked in a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi. Each day, the POWs were marched up the side of a
mountain to the top and then down into the mine. To their amazement, their guards always seemed to be
waiting for them. It turned out there was a tunnel into the mine which the guards used so they did not
have to climb the mountain.
Each detail had a "honcho" who was employed by Mitsubishi and supervised
the POWs. They carried a large stick which they used on the POWs when they felt they were not working
hard enough. The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine, the
POWs were divided among drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst job.
The work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner was furnished a carbide headlamp
as his only lighting.
A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the
quota. The number of carloads mined by the men were never enough. The POWs were beaten for not
working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl
through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor
and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt.
There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the
open burning carbide headlamps.
Each detail had a "honcho" who was employed by Mitsubishi and supervised
the POWs. They carried a large stick which they used on the POWs when they felt they were not working
hard enough. The mine had been abandoned because it had become to expensive to extract the copper, but
Mitsubishi believed it could make it profitable with the slave labor provided by the POWs.
To get to work, the POWs had to often walk through two feet of snow and climb up the
side of a mountain and descend 472 steps into the mine. The POWs noticed that the guards never seemed
to be winded when they arrived at the mine. They later learned that the Japanese had cut a ground level
entrance to the mine which the guards used to enter it.
The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine,
the POWs were divided among drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst
job. The work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner was furnished a carbide
headlamp as his only lighting. A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the
quota. The number of carloads mined by the men were never enough. The POWs were beaten for not working
hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get
to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding.
Lighting was poor and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins.
Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was no gas detecting equipment and there was
always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
Mitsubishi expected the Japanese Army to supply a certain number of POWs to work in
the mine each day so men too sick to work were sent to work. The sick had to be carried between two
healthier POWs to the mine. Since the Japanese found that the sick were too ill to work, the company
came up with work for them to do in the camp like making nails or rope. If a POW still could not work,
his rations were cut in half.
While working in the mine from November 1944 until August 15, 1945, the POWs were
abused by the civilian foreman, Hichiro Tsuchiya, who was known to the POWs as "Patches."
Tsuchiya used any excuse to abuse the POWs. He was known to hit the POWs for no reason in their faces
and to also use a wooden club or pick axe handle. He also used a sledge hammer to hit the POWs on their
heads. His parents received a postcard from him in January 1945.
In the camp, the Japanese withheld the Red Cross packages from the POWs and took the
canned meats, canned fruit, canned milk, and cheese for themselves. Blankets and clothing intended for
the POWs were used by the guards. If a POW violated a rule, the grain ration, for all the POWs, was
reduced by 20 percent. At one point, 49 POWs were lined up - because one POW had broken a rule - and
beaten with leather belts.
When the Japanese surrendered, the camp commandant announced to the the POWs that he
was turning over the camp to the American officers. An American Naval plane flew over the camp.
The pilot dropped a note to the POWs and told them to paint one stripe on the roof of a barrack if they
needed medicine, two stripes if they needed food, and three stripes if they needed clothing. The POWs
painted one stripe on one barrack, two stripes on another barrack, and three stripes on a third
When the plane returned. he dropped another note saying that there was no way for
him to drop everything, so B -29s would have to drop the supplies. The POWs had no idea what the pilot
was talking about. When the B-29s appeared over the camp, the POWs had never seen anything so large in
the sky. The POWs received so much food and clothing that they shared it with the Japanese civilians
who had been kind to them.
One day, a jeep with American soldiers appeared and the soldiers told
the former POWs to sit tight until the railroad line had been repaired. After it was repaired, the
prisoners took the train and then an LST to Yokohama. After a few days, they were returned to the
Philippines for more medical treatment. Forest was boarded on the Dutch ship,
S.S. Klipfontein, on October 9, and returned to the United States at Seattle on October 28,
1945. From there, he was taken to Madigan Hospital Center at Ft. Lewis, Washington, for additional
Forest married Lois Marie Firestone on April 16, 1946, and was discharged from the
Army on May 8, 1946. He and his wife resided in the Dayton, Ohio, area and became parents to a son and
two daughters. They divorced on March 3, 1952, and Forest married Evelyn Mae Jones. The couple
resided in Dayton, and he became the father of a son and daughter. He worked at National Refrigeration
and then Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a clerk.
When asked what kept the POWs alive in the camps he said that they thought of
home, food, wives, and jobs. The POWs dreamed of these things and it kept many of them sane while driving
Forest E. Richeson passed away in Dayton, Ohio, on September 14, 1975. He was
buried at Dayton National Cemetery in Section 17, Row 9, Grave 11, on September 17, 1975.