Mitsubishi WWII POW Hanawa Camp
This site is about a few hundred men - 503 Allied World War II POWs and over 50 Commonwealth POWs , brought in to work at Mitsubishi-operated Osarizawa copper mine during the period of 1944 to 1945 when they were finally liberated.
Osarizawa Mine - Past and Present
In the small town of Kazuno in Akita prefecture of Japan is a tourist attraction - Mine land Osarizawa, Japan's biggest gallery for shooting games. Built on a 800-meter abandoned shaft, it is a fantasyland where visitors shoot down aliens with laser guns which riding elecric carts. For those interested in history, there is a museum covering the history of mines. [Jinjapan]
Discovered in 708, Osarizawa mine first started out as a gold-producing one and became a copper mine from mid 17th century. It was one of the biggest copper mines in Japan. By 1930s it was well-connected by 2 train lines and the copper mine thrived becoming the major economic activity center for the area. At its boom period it produced over a million tons of copper each year. However, copper got depleted and world copper prices collapsed soon afterwards and that led to its closure in 1978. Osarizawa had about 800 km of shafts out of which a 800m shaft was developed into Mine Land Osarizawa theme park.[IMHC]
The city of Kazuno, meaning deer's horns in Japanese, is surrounded by the Oyu mountains. The valley is called the Hanawa valley. Yoneshiro, Kosaka and Oyu rivers converge here resulting in cultivation of its famous rice. It lies in the north-east corner of Akita Prefecture.
During the World War Two, however, there was no Kazuno city in existence. There were two towns and 6 villages in palce Kazuno lies now. In 1956, towns of Hanawa, Towada and Osarizawa, and the village of Hachimantai were created and in 1972 they were merged to created the city of Kazuno.
Kazuno area is known for its pristine cold climate. Winters can be quite cold. In recent years the annual snowfall has been 480cm or 190 inch. [All information in this section is from Kazuno City website]
The following former Allied POWs have written about their harsh life at Mitsubishi's Hanawa camp. James T. Murphy has written extensive about his experience. A few have testified before the House and the senate. Chares R. Jackson has written a book containing essays about his life as a POW. [Am working on a few other people's account now.] Links to these names will take you to pages containing short excerpts of their accounts and links to major sources of those, if applicable.
"... and meals consisting of grasshoppers caught and cooked by the POWs or a handful of rice peppered with boll weevils."
George Ed Cobb
"I try not to remember anything. I want it to be a four-year blank."
A. D. Dickson
"I was not in shape to work because of the pain, but I had to eat, so I climbed the mountain and worked all day."
"This time, when he fell in the snow, he was left lying there for twelve hours while the other prisoners worked."
Authur W. Jones
"Jones tried to forget the pain by thinking of better things. His mind traveled, but eventually came back to the plaque of the Fourth Marines."
Gail Jack Kelley
"Russ Kelley said his Dad regained his weight after returning at 67 pounds and most of his health, but feels the beriberi contributed to his dad's heart condition."
Maurice Mo Mazer
"Today I suffer numerous health problems directly attributed to the time I spent as a slave laborer [at Mitsubishi Mining]. "
James T Murphy
"In order to fill the daily work quota, the healthy POWs were having to carry the weak POWs up to the mine."
Grayford C. Payne
"I hadn't been a prisoner for fifteen minutes before they bayoneted a fifteen-year-old Filipino kid right next to me."
Robert E. Peterson
"The POWs often did work that the Japanese considered too dangerous for the Japanese workers to do."
Robert J. Stewart
"The hospital he was in was known among the POWs as a place where the Japanese performed experiments on American POWs."
Daniel N. Stoudt
"There were no supports in the mine so cave-ins were common. When on happened, the other POWs had to dig out the man who had been buried."
Also the following Hanawa Sendai Number 6 POWs were quoted in Unjust Enrichment (Chapter 9 - Mitsubishi: Empire of Exploitation) linked on left. Names and quotes follow.
"The mine was cold and damp and had icicles hanging from the ceiling." Calvit also remembered the time ammonia leaked from pipes in the company's refrigeration plant into the vat of soup -- which was served to the POWs anyway.
"At times I thought I was going to freeze to death."
"We weren't even expected to live, Today I'm totally disabled thanks to the Japs and especially Mitsubishi. It was a terrible three and a half years. I can't describe it fully and I know most people can't imagine it."
Mitsubishi's Role in Hanawa Camp
Historian Linda Goetz Holmes, has a book, Unjust Enrichment and a chapter of that - Mitsubishi - Empire of Exploitation is reprinted here with her permission. Follow the top link on the left-top to read this fascinating chapter of Mitsubishi's complicity in the whole affair and it contains link to her home page.
Here is an excerpt from that chapter:
"The Osarizawa Copper Mine at Hanawa has been in continuous operation for 1300 years; and some of the 503 Americans forced to work there for Mitsubishi during the war claimed mining methods were as primitive in the 1940s as they were centuries earlier. The company's POW camp at Hanawa, in the mountains of northern Honshu, was designated as Sendai POW Camp #5. Americans destined for Hanawa were among 1035 prisoners crammed aboard the Noto Maru, built, owned and operated by Mitsubishi, which arrived in Japan from Manila in September 1944. [The company also used its merchant ship Haru (Haruna) Maru, which the POW nicknamed the "Horror Maru", to bring 1100 POW Japan for work in its Hosokura mine and elsewhere, a few weeks later.]
Am working on the complete list of POWs available from NARA. Personal accounts are important and if you have something to add here please contact us. Will use our Japanese language skills (limited) and Japan contacts to present a more research-oriented page that will look at the whys and not just what. Contributions and feedbacks are always most welcome. Thanks and hope you like this site.
Note: The top image on the right, Mineland Osarizawa in Japanese language, has first 6 characters (minelando) in Katakana, last three characters (Osarizawa) in Kanji with their pronounciations in Hiragana at top.
City of Kazuno Website - History of Osarizawa - For the historic Osarizawa mine picture thumbnail and much of location information.
Akita Prefecture's Homepage - For the map showing location of Akita
IMHC: International Mining History Congress 2002 - For the past of the mine.
Jinjapan - For the present of the mine.
Mineland Osarizawa Offical website - For Japanese sign.
James T. Murphy's site - For thumbnail picture of his.
Picture of Osarizawaite (top-left) from Alan Guisewite's webpage on The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.