Sketch by Jack Chalker

Fusan - Korea

Fusan - Korea

There had been, in fact, a political motive behind this movement of the British and Australian prisoners to Fusan. It appears that the Japanese wished to emphasise their superiority to the Koreans, who were also subject to the Japanese, and that parading one thousand captured white soldiers through the streets of Fusan would serve to achieve that aim. The Japanese also deliberately starved and ill-treated the prisoners to make themselves appear even greater conquerors. 32

The Japanese officer commanding the Korean army, General Itagaki, whose idea this was, had written to his superiors in March of 1942 in the following terms:

It is our purpose by interning American and British prisoners of war in Korea to make Koreans realize positively the true might of our empire as well as to contribute to psychological propaganda work for stamping out any ideas of the worship of Europe and America which the greater part of Korea still retains deep down. 33

This plan was subsequently approved by the Japanese Premier, Tojo.

On Thursday 24th August, Dick and the rest of the men were taken off the ship and lined up in fours. Before they left the ship several of the men were interviewed by Japanese journalists and photographed. They were then marched past the massed crowds of Japanese and Korean inhabitants of the town. All of the local inhabitants were dressed in the best clothes, not out of any respect for the men who marched before them, but in honour of the annual festivities that accompanied the Autumn Equinox. That parade at Fusan was later described as follows:

At about 9 am one thousand British and Australian prisoners of war arrived at Fusan in Southern Korea from Singapore after a journey of five weeks in the Japanese transport Fukai Maru. As they disembarked the prisoners were sprayed with disinfectant, photographed by Japanese pressmen and then mustered on the wharf for inspection of kit by the Kempei Tai. During this inspection watches, wedding and signet rings and personal photographs were taken by the Kempei Tai and never returned to their owners.

After the search, all the prisoners, including those who were sick, were made to fall in, in column of fours, and were marched round the streets of Fusan between the marshalled Korean inhabitants of the city, with a Japanese officer at the head of the column on horseback and Japanese guards on either side. The march went on all day under a hot sun with only two halts in the playgrounds of two schools where the children were allowed to come close up to the prisoners to jeer and spit at them.

The march ended about 5 p.m. at the railway station where each prisoner was given a small oblong fibre box containing cold boiled rice, a piece of dried fish and a few pieces of pickled cucumber. They were allowed to eat this on the platform, as it was the first meal they had eaten since 8 am. Before entering the train each man was given another similar box of food to last the next twenty-four hours which was to be spent on the train from Fusan to Seoul.

 

Appendix

32 At least that was the opinion of Lord Russell, but both Dick’s and Alex Johnstone’s diary would seem to contradict this, the men were given regular meals, albeit not what they were used to, but not markedly different from what their own Japanese soldiers received.

33 General Itagaki quoted in ‘The Knights of Bushido’ by Lord Russell of Liverpool.

 

Next Chapter

Jinsen Camp - Korea

 

 

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