Intermission (5) – POW in Japan

Japanese_atrocities_imperial_war_museum_K9924-640x444

Can you imagine what it must be like to be marched out to face a firing squad, say goodbye to your closest friend who is standing next to you and then have the squad shoulder their rifles and march away having not fired a shot?  What are the odds on that happening during a war situation?  The mind boggles at the odds of this happening but this did happen to Charles Rodaway who served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during World War II.

POW camps in Japan

POW camps in Japan

He joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was posted to Shanghai in 1934.  He undertook guard duties in Shanghai before  being transferred to Singapore in 1938.  At the fall of Singapore in 1942, he was captured by the Japanese and put to work as a labourer in the Kawasaki shipyards, near Tokyo.  In 1944, he and a friend attempted to escape but were captured and sentenced to death by firing squad for the escape attempt.

 In an interview, he said, “I said to my pal, ‘This is it’.  Instead of a volley of bullets, the officer in charge, ordered the firing squad to shoulder arms and marched them away.

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Charles Rodaway

He and eight other POW’s were sentenced to 15 years incarceration at Sakai Prison in Osaka.  In a 2005 interview, he told of the horrendous conditions in the prison, “There was no heat or fan; no water, a wooden pail for a toilet, one light hung from the ceiling, a small barred window at the rear of the cell. Clothing was one thin shirt, one thin trousers, no shoes or socks, no jacket or kimono. No wooden box, only the floor to sit on. Only one thin blanket for cover. Bathing was usually allowed once a month; no soap, no washcloth or towel, no clean clothing.”

Charles was released from the prison, a week after the Japanese surrender, when it was liberated by Allied Forces in August 1945.  His family were stunned when he reappeared in Blackpool.  They had waited at the train station for him, and when he did not appear they were convinced that he had died.

Narmuni  POW Camp, Osaka, Japan

Narmuni POW Camp, Osaka, Japan

In 1948, he emigrated to Canada but made many trips back to his hometown until he became too old to travel.  On the 12th March, he celebrates his 100thbirthday.  His wife, Sheila, said “It’s quite an accomplishment, especially considering the inhumane conditions during his time in Japan prisons. He’s absolutely amazed he’s lived so long, and feels wonderful, excitedly looking forward to his birthday although he can’t quite believe it! He credits truthfulness and honesty as the key.”

An amateur historian, Tony Rodaway, who is no relation to Charles is credited with bringing this story to the attention of the world.  Most soldiers, on their return from war, do not talk about their experiences as it is often much too painful.  In Charles’s case he must give thanks every day that the firing squad was called away.

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Military Humor –

low-tech-gifts-john-atkinson

Traveling light !

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Farewell Salutes –

Kenneth Austin – Vancouver, CAN; RC Air Force – WWII

Robert Berly Jr. – Charlotte, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 pilot, POW

Hector Cafferata Jr. – Caldwell, NJ; USMC, Korea, F/2/7/1st Division, Medal of Honor

Barry Davies – UK; British Special Air Services, GSG9 hostage rescue (1977)

Dudley Evans – Greenville, MS; US Army, Korea, Cpl., POW, KIA

John Howard Sr. – AL; US Army, Korea, POW/ Vietnam, 1st Sgt.

Morell Jones – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Army # 443211, WWII, 26 Battalion

Frederich Mayer – brn: Freiburg, GER; US Army/OSS, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, POW

Edmond Rachal – Marco, LA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 823rd Tank Destroyer Batt., POW/ US Air Force, TSgt. (Ret.)

James Sorenson – Superior, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart, POW

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 21, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 131 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on The Linden Chronicles: The Wolf's Moon/The River and commented:
    An amazing tribute to a WWII POW turning 100 years old! ooh rah!

    Like

  2. Amazing! Can you just imagine making it through each day? Courageous is an understatement!

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  3. That is one of those unique remarkable miracle moments in war.
    In my readings I have come across similar small moments, that actually can only be classified as miracles.
    A great post gp.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world and commented:
    Great story, thank you for posting it.

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  5. I like war stories with happy endings.

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  6. As always, I am reminded of the human ability to endure, GP. I guess if you could make it through that, the next 80 years would be easy. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, they pulled this firing squad stunt on many occasions as well, of course, of doing it for real most of the time. Although so many Far East POWs died young after the war, or committed suicide, I am amazed at the longevity of those who made it through the first 10 to 20 years. It is as if their bodies reacted to the incarceration by becoming extra tough in some crucial factor.

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  8. Happy he wa&s not kiled so the styory has an happy end

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  9. This shouldn’t be forgotten. My kids have no idea how awful war can be. Thanks for preserving these stories and giving a forum to your commenters.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thany you auch liebe Grüße uns ein schönes Weekend eine Umarmung Gislinde

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  11. What an extraordinary story. I can’t imagine the turmoil of that experience

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  12. I like those lo-tech gifts. 😀

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  13. A truly heart-warming story, GP! It also causes one to think about the reason why the officer sent the firing squad away. Was he perhaps aware that executing Charles would have been in violation of the Geneva convention? A war crime? Or was there enough humanity left in the officer to ignore the order?

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  14. A heart warming story (At least the endingwas). Thanks, GP

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  15. What a story! Pretty amazing that he wasn’t killed right away or died in the camp. He was a lucky one.

    Speaking of POW camps, did you see this post? https://hackaday.com/2016/04/21/hacking-when-it-counts-pow-canteen-radios/

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  16. I’m so glad it worked out the way it did, but it must hav been horrible. I can’t imagine.

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  17. WOW! What an experience.

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  18. Ref your ever-narrowing discussion (above) with Lord Bear — my understanding is that ‘they’ regarded Singapore as impregnable?

    Why on earth waste much needed resources on further reinforcing the impregnable?
    It’s not as if the blasted ‘primitives’ could come down from the north, is it? Through all that jungle—move a whole attacking force? Ridiculous idea~!*

    We steamed over the wrecks of Repulse and Prince of Wales every time when in the area (To show/pay respects, and to “deter looters”), and it’s just impossible to imagine, so peaceful now.

    * Apparently the Japanese didn’t think so … but what do a bunch of half-blind rice munchers know, hmmmm?

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  19. Sadly I didn’t get the link but a year or two back I watched a vid of an Islamic mob charging through a Brit war cemetery in the Mid East, egged along by their mullahs (or whatever you call those gentleman), smashing gravestones, markers, statues. (It’s amazing how easy it is to rip those regimented headstones out of the ground.)

    Sure, it’s their country.
    WW2 is now ancient history and the Brit Empire isn’t …
    I just love those guys!

    A very good reason to bring the ‘remains’ home—if it can ever be politically acceptable; I dare say they’d charge a significant amount for each one? Handling fees, licence fees, and whatever else?

    Gratitude that they’re not speaking German now? “Hey … it wasn’t our war—you were just the intruding empire-builder here, using our lovely peaceful lands as your arena~!”

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    • I can’t understand disrupting any cemetery and you would think the imams who consider themselves holy men would also adhere to that – but frankly, I have long lost the capability to understand the Middle East.

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      • I think anyone not in the club would fail to understand them, so we’re not alone there. And good-thinking nice folks like Angela Merkel are all for importing them into Europe, oodles of, and make it soon please?

        Stop the world: it’s time I got off and walk …

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        • I think Merkel is making a huge mistake and travesty against her own people, but that’s only my opinion.

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          • I’m considered a nutter by some—but when you look at it rationally it always leads to conclude that she is an ambitious woman (or frightened?) and someone is pulling the strings she dances to.

            In NZ I think the same of our Prime Minister, John Key; so who is pulling two apparently widely separated sets of strings?
            (You can think on this as much as you wish—but if you ask anyone, you too will be branded ‘Conspiracy Theorist’.
            I don’t mind the label myself, I wear it as a medal … but where do all these wars keep coming from, hmmmm?)

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  20. This old gentleman has done unbelievably well to survive his time of incarceration with the Japanese, the most savage of captors.

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  21. Reblogged this on I Married An Angel and commented:
    We must never forget!

    Please visit GP Cox over at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/intermission-5-pow-in-japan/ for the original article reblogged below.

    Like

  22. GP,

    Reading this post brought back many tragic memories and prompted me to reply with a heavy heart. As you know, I once had a dear friend who was the 2nd longest held POW in the Pacific theater of war. He was captured prior to the invasion of the Philippines while in transport from the doomed USS Houston to temporary medical facilities onshore. He endured captivity in several POW camps in the Philippines both before and after being forced to participate in the Bataan Death March, then was transported on one of the infamous Hell Ships to Japan where he survived 3 1/2 years of torture and forced labor in the coal mines of a Japanese POW camp known as ” Fukuoka POW Camp #1″. This man probably witnessed, and was a victim of more Japanese war atrocities in more locations than any other single POW in the Pacific.

    Unlike most War Veterans who rarely if ever speak about their experiences, Bill often told me many horrific details of his life as a POW, several of which involved accounts of firing squads and cruel “close calls” much like what is described by Charles Rodaway in this post. It seems this was a fairly routine occurrence and the Japs took great pleasure in torturing the POW’s with the belief that they were about to be killed while kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs. Bill himself experienced this horrific form of sadistic torture on several occasions. (He was often singled out because of his sheer hatred and deliberate defiance of the Japs) On many occasions he told me of how the Japs would often spontaneously gather a random group of POWS from the camp, tie their hands behind their backs, then march them out on the same long dikes they had been forced to dig outside the perimeter of the camp. As they marched to what they assumed was their deaths, the Jap guards would taunt them by saying things like; “you die now dog”, beat them mercilessly with the butt of a rifle and poke and stab them with bayonets as they struggled to keep up a quick forced pace. Some died along the way and were rolled into the ditch right where they fell.

    These dikes were apparently quite large and long and were built solely for the purpose of providing a dumping place for both the debris produced by mining operations, and the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of bodies of the POW’s who either died of starvation and disease, or were murdered by their sadistic captors. He told me that initially there had been an open pit very near the camp that was used as a dump for the remains of the prisoners who died, but it was soon completely filled and became a festering heap of unbearable stench and disease that was so horrible that the Japs began forcing the POW’s to load the bodies one by one into wooden wheelbarrows and transport them far from the camp to be unceremoniously dumped into the trenches on either side of the dike. Some 35 years later as Bill recalled this horrific experience, his nostrils flared as if he could still smell the sickening stench. He became visibly ill.

    Bill was forced to march along these dikes on numerous occasions as were many others, often the group was comprised of those who were either too sick or too injured to continue working in the mines, and those who were considered to be trouble-makers or otherwise difficult prisoners. Although constantly plagued with disease and injuries, Bill was most definitely of the second category. Right up to the day the camp was finally liberated in 1945.

    Often, Jap Officers would accompany these torture squads, they were the executioners who would murder the unlucky prisoners with a pistol shot to the back of their head, and sometimes death would come from a severing blow from a Japanese Military issued sword. Bill described how these officers would walk behind long rows of kneeling prisoners with pistol in hand as they screamed insults and humiliations at them, he said they were forbidden to raise their bowed heads and anyone who did was immediately killed, often by being beaten to death rather than shot. This was intended to discourage others from raising their own heads when forced to their knees alongside the ditch. He also told me that he saw some men deliberately raise their heads in defiance knowing it would mean certain death. “They were my heroes” he said with a wry grin on his face.

    He described how these sadistic Jap Officers would pace up and down behind the prisoners and randomly stop to fire a lethal shot into the back of their heads, or worse, sometimes only fire over their heads and then roar in laughter as the terrified prisoner collapsed and urinated on himself in utter fear and confusion. More than once, Bill himself experienced this cruel “joke”, and more than once, he was splattered with the brain matter from the powerless victim kneeling beside him. Bill told me that he often cried and even screamed profanities at his captors during these horrific torture sessions, (for which he was beaten savagely) but he took great pride in the fact that he never once gave them the satisfaction of seeing him piss himself. He was by far the bravest man I ever knew.

    I will never forget Marine PFC W. H. “Bill” Sublett. And I will never forget the great price of freedom paid for by the blood and sacrifice of all those brave men who served beside him. I am also unafraid and unashamed to say; I will never forget nor forgive, the sadistic, organized and deliberate war crimes and atrocities committed by the Japanese military. Bill would have wanted it this way.

    This one is for you Bill!

    .

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  23. I agree that words seem so inadequate for all that they went through. Can’t imagine facing a firing squad and so glad that they walked away. Glad that he and some others came home!!

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  24. Love stories with a good end

    Liked by 1 person

  25. It’s nice to hear that at least out of the many mistreated prisoners, at least one managed to not only endure all that pain, but also still manage to live a strong life after it all ended. Such a shame that so many others could not.

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  26. Looks like he’s lived on borrowed time most of his life, and made good use of it.

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  27. I hope Charles enjoyed his birthday. How remarkable that after those terrible experiences he’s lived for so long.

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  28. Imagine the terror that would ensue if our society were suddenly thrust into captivity? How many would survive? How many would even have the chance to survive based on how pampered we are now? Obviously I’m not talking about our military. They will be among the few who could take it. Scary!

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    • A very true statement. The kind of strength we hear about in this era comes from within, they were raised with it. The pampered society we have today simply tries to appear tough. (Again – military excluded from these remarks).

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Love the ‘low tech’ devices. During Hour of Code in December, we call it ‘unplugged’. I may borrow this image. Umm, is it borrowable-public domain?

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  30. “He credits truthfulness and honesty as the key.” This is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing

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  31. Amazing. He endured so much inhumane treatment and conditions but does not seem to hold any bitterness. What was his faith?

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Very good story GP with a happy ending. All I can think about is the ones that ended sadly.

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  33. The old fellow is proof that life sometimes paints arcane peculiarities and harshness in the same brushstroke. Glad to know Rodaway is a centenarian.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Another engaging example of endurance. So, was there a book or film about him? Any idea why he was spared after the squad marched away? I’m glad he was able to appreciate life afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I thought about what I might say in response to this post. But my words would somehow seem hollow and inadequate. The experiences of so many of these brave souls, both men and women defy my belief and understanding of what it is like to experience genuine fear, and to have the courage, as they all did, to carry on. On so many occasions, you manage to make me think what is important in life GP. When I am having a bad day, I can read extraordinary stories like this and realize that my day isn’t quite as bad as I think it is. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget II and commented:
    Another amazing veteran story

    Liked by 2 people

  37. The British troops who fought died or survived the war in the Pacific are by and large the forgotten men and women. Their numbers were many.
    Obviously Churchill’s insistence of the war in Europe taking precedence has exacerbated the lack of recognition for these troops, by just about everybody involved in the pacific theatre of war.
    Thank you for bringing some recognition to one amazing man, who suffered much and survived to tell his tale,

    Liked by 3 people

    • My pleasure, Beari. I heard and read about Churchill’s neglect of these troops as they fought and later in their tribute. I fail to understand his reasoning, (outside of his fear of German invasion of England).

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      • The threat of German invasion was very real for Churchill and justifiably a priority. He liked Mountbatten though and there are monuments to Slim and his men around London. I think part of what happened isn’t really about Churchill but how hard it was for POWs to tell their story and for their nations to hear them. I’m glad their stories are told though. We need to remember what they endured for us and we need to Honour them.

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        • I’m afraid I beg to differ on one point. Churchill abandoned the men at Singapore, plain and simple.

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          • Are you referring to Arcadia? Or just that Churchill should have pushed for a withdrawal before it was too late? I’ve heard a lot of different arguments about what Churchill could have done and should have done? It’s safe to say he prioritised Europe and in 1942 had very limited resources to spare. Different decisions could’ve saved a lot of lives and a lot of suffering. The Fall of Singapore was an absolute disaster. Leaders get judged by such things. While ordinary men endure being a POW because of such decisions. I’ve also heard some counter claims to certain long held facts about this period in history. I don’t know if I would say the same thing but don’t be afraid to differ GP, this is your site and you’ve done a lot more research on the subject. On this matter, I defer to you. 🙂

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            • I refer to Churchill telling the men that a fleet was on its way and 2 vessels showed up. How he turned around and told them farewell. He was receiving a massive amount of Lend Lease from FDR that even Congress didn’t about. I’ve read his books and his memory just doesn’t jive with the events or what he was quoted as saying at the time. So all in all, as far as the Pacific and CBI are concerned – Churchill did not exist.

              Liked by 2 people

  38. Amazing that he lived to 100 years of age, given the privations and suffering he had endured.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. That’s an amazing story. Did he ever know why the firing squad left? Perhaps they’d only meant to inflict psychological damage. It seems they failed.

    Like

  40. The kind of story that makes the heart leap with joy.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Thank you, the Corps deserves it.

    Like

  1. Pingback: Intermission (5) – POW in Japan | First Night History

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  3. Pingback: Intermission (5) – POW in Japan – I Married An Angel

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