Sketch by Jack Chalker

Freedom

Freedom

We reached September 1945 and the tension seem to be easing. We were able to see many aircraft going over on bombing raids. Then our orders began to relax, we had an extra day off and then another, we were just told “no work today” with no excuse given. Then “no work, get plenty rest”. Then days later our own officer gave us the message, the War was over, much to our relief.

It was back on 15th August that the Emperor addressed the Japanese nation, playing a recorded speech on the Termination of the War and the formal surrender occurred on September 2nd 1945, finally bringing to an end six years of world war, when representatives from the Empire of Japan signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri, President Harry S Truman declared September 2nd to be the official V-J Day.

By now the Japanese Guardroom was empty, the gates were open but nobody ran out, where too? We had to wait for transport to leave the camp, which took approximately two weeks. Trucks arrived and took us to Osaka, then we had a train journey to a small fishing village to be met by American troops from a ship lying out in the bay, they took us aboard by landing craft. On the deck we were ordered to drop everything, clothes, the lot, to be met with a hose pipe! And then into a hot shower. We were issued with new US issue clothes and now we felt free.

We were restricted to the amount of food we had to eat but I will say it was good it was great to be free. I’m not sure how far we sailed but we finished up in Tokyo and were transferred to a hospital ship.

Then came the numerous health checks and reports to give to officers regarding our treatment and names concerned. Those clean white sheets didn't last long more is the pity. From there we were transferred onto an American carrier with the lower decks being empty save for camp beds and we had grub in full supply. Our group was split up into small parties, my party of twelve joined an army transport ship taking US troops back home.

Our next stop was an army camp in Manila, the Philippines, more medicals and questions. Everything was free at the camp shop, cigarettes, chocolates and cans of beer. While there, on the 26th September, we attended an open air concert with the guest artist Gracie Fields. Japanese POWs were employed here keeping the camp clean and tidy.

We were ready to move on after two weeks, we left Manila and after a three week journey by ship we arrived in San Francisco. After disembarking we were met by women volunteers handing out a goodie bag containing soap, toothbrush, razor and toiletries and of course cigarettes as required.

We were transported across ‘Frisco’ Bay to Angel Island, Fort McDowell, this being next to the Alcatraz Prison. Angel Island sits in the middle of Frisco Bay and in 1850 it was declared as a military reserve then in 1905 an Immigration Centre. During World War 2, the barracks were used to house German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war. Fort McDowell was used as a port of embarkation during both world wars, with more than 300,000 soldiers passing thorough on the way to the Pacific during World War II. In December 1945 alone, 23,632 returning soldiers processed on their way home.

Time was getting a bit monotonous but one day we managed to get a lift on a ferry to San Francisco city. What was this? Meeting real people, cars everywhere. The Police were helpful by stopping the traffic for us to cross the road and we found our way to the Services canteen. We had nothing to pay for that afternoon. A civilian took us back to the pier to get a lift back to the Island. We later learned that we had broken camp rules by crossing over to San Francisco. We had cigarettes and chocolate all free for the asking. We were also issued with fresh clothes which included an army greatcoat.

 

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Homeward  Bound

 

 

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