The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

JUNE  2005

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






A White Slave In Omuta

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

As I crawl along on my hands and knees in the semi darkness, I wonder how I could possibly be in this situation. I have a small rubber band around my forehead that holds a small battery powered flashlight. My whole body shivers with the extreme cold. For I am completely naked, except for a G-string. The cold water on the floor varies in depth from ankle deep to waist deep. And cold water constantly drips from the ceiling. I am almost 2000 ft below the surface of the ground. Who am I?

I am U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Harold Feiner and this terrifying place is the Miike Coal Mine in Omuta, Japan. This is located on the Southern part of Japan called Kyushu. This coal mine is the largest in Japan and the owner is Baron Takanaya Mitsui. He has a vast shipping, mining and heavy industry empire. The Mitsui family is the most powerful Dynasty in Japan, outside the Imperial Palace.

Baron Mitsui had studied in the United States and graduated from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1915. Two years later, he opened up the huge mining complex built by American engineers.

Now it is August 1943 and sergeant Harold Feiner is a prisoner of war white slave laborer for Baron Mitsui. Harold had already been through one of the most

Cecil Owen

horrifying and brutal experiences of World War ll. He had barely survived the savage sixty-five mile Bataan Death March. Nine days of forced marching on empty stomachs and very little water or rest. Stragglers were either shot, bayoneted or beheaded without mercy. The survivors were herded into the POW Camp at Cabanatuan on the Philippine island of Luzon. The Japanese guards there would taunt them, "if you don't do exactly as told you will be sent to Omuta."

Sergeant Feiner could not believe that another place was worse than the present. An old Chinese proverb: Things are never so bad; that it cannot get worse. The Mitsui Shipping Co used a fleet of its own to transport the POWs to Japan. They were called "Hell Ships" because conditions onboard were so bad. When Harold and 500 other survivors arrived, the proverb certainly proved true. Some of his friends later said they would have died in the jungle had they known what was in store for them. The Omuta site was designated as Fukuoka Camp No.17.

Flimsy wooded barracks had been built on company property for the POWs. At night they were guarded by regular Japanese soldiers. But every morning civilian foreman would escort them to work in the mine.

There was one small coal stove in the center of each building. It could only be used one hour per night even on the coldest nights. Soon the barracks were crawling with fleas, lice and rats. The men slept on thin mats on the bare floor. They were separated from one another by a flimsy curtain, seven in a section. Any prisoner who touched the curtain was severely beaten, either by the Japanese soldier or a Japanese

Japanese Companies Known To Have Used American Prisoners Between 1942 and 1945
Source: Official Japanese Government list of companies using POW forced labor in WWll.

Asano Dockyard
Electric Chemical Company
Fujinagata Shipbuilding, Kobe
Furukawa Mining, Omine Machi
Hitachi Shipbuilding
Hokkai Electric Chemical
Hokkaido Coal (Sorachi Mining Co.)
Imperial Special Copper Works, Noetsu
Ishihara Industries, Narumi
Kajima Coal, Ohnoura
Kawaminami Shipbuilding, Yahata
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kobe
Kinkaseki Copper Mine, Formosa
Kobe Stevedore, Kobe
Kumagai Enggr. Co.
Manshu Leather, Mukden, Manchuria
Manshu Machinery, Mukden
Manshu Tent
Meiji Mining
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Mitsubishi Mining Co,
Mitsubishi Chemical
Mitsui Industries
Mitsui Mining
Moji Transportation Association
Namura Shipyards

Nigata Iron & Steel
Nigata Transport, Kawasaki
Nippon Express
Nippon Ko-Kan (Japan Iron Co.)
Nippon Metallurgy
Nippon Mining
Nippon Soda
Nippon Steel Pipe
Nippon Vehicles
Nisshin Mill
Nisshin Oil
Nittetsu Mining
Ohsaka Shipbuilding
Radio Tokyo (government operated)
Shinetsu Chemicals
Showa Electrical Engineering
Showa Electrode (Showa Denko)
Sorachi Mining Co.
Sumitomo Mining
Taihoku Locomotive Works, Taiwan
Tobashima Construction Co.
Tokyo-Shibaura Electric
Tsuruga Stevedore, Osaka
Tsurumi Shipbuilding
Yawata Iron Works, Ohasi
Yodogawa Steel

Mitsui boss. The civilian Mitsui employees seemed to delight in severely beating the "white slaves." They used lead pipes, lengths of 2x4's and sometimes a knotted rope. Several prisoners lost their eyesight because the rope was whipped around their heads and then jerked. And of course,  if a prisoner was injured, he received a beating because he couldn't work.

The Mitsui Miike coal mine was a

very hazardous and frightening place to work. Back in 1923 an earth quake caused some of the deep mine tunnels and shafts to be sealed up. They were declared to be unsafe. Cave-ins and gas explosions could happen anywhere in the vast mine and everyone knew that. However, in 2943 these unsafe tunnels were opened again. For there were plenty of white slave POWs to labor them. Baron Mitsui declared, if some of these white U.S. POW slave are killed it does not matter at all, for we can always obtain plenty more of them.

Part of Harold's job was "pulling pillars," the most dangerous work in the mine. When a tunnel is all worked out, just a thin pillar of coal holds up the ceiling. As we left the tunnel, he said, we had to pull the pillar down behind us. Of course this would cause the ceiling to collapse behind us. If a prisoner did not move fast enough he was permanently buried down in the coal mine. It is hard to say what caused the most POW deaths,  the severe beating, the severe cold or the malnutrition. Many of them just starved to death.

The minimum calorie requirements, a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins is 2,800 calories a day. This is for a young man age 20 to 25 years old doing only moderate labor. The work hours varied depending on the whim of a particular boss. Mostly it was 12 to 14 hours per day, seven days a week. But sometimes, if behind with their production, it would be working around the clock.

The diet at Fukuoka Mitsui Camp No. 17 was 80 percent rice and 20 percent filler. This amounted to 597 calories for mine slaves, 469 calories for barracks confinement and 341 calories for men too sick to work. However, by 1944-2945 it had dropped to 60 percent rice and 40 percent filler. (The filler was mostly a turnip and water).  While at most camps there was a warehouse stuffed with Red Cross food packages. If a Red Cross inspector went to a camp, some of this food was stacked high upon the table in front of the POWs. But as soon as he left, the food was taken away, not a bite was allowed. Little wonder that the survivors weighed between 80 and 90 lbs. when the war was over.

Japan had 127 of these white slave labor camps. And Baron Takanaya Mitsui's company was not an isolated case of using white slave POW labor. It was the largest and Mitsubishi was second, but there was fifty more! This is according to the Japanese government Official Prisoner of War Bureau. General Hideki, minister of war was the most powerful man in Japan. He issued a field service guide concerning white POWs: To live as a POW is to live without honor and a life without honor is a worthless existence. Prisoners therefore are worthless, expendable,  not deserving any consideration. So a white POW became a  Japanese "Thing" with a Japanese number.

The POWs had to sign payroll sheets, showing they were paid for their work. Supposedly this was the pay scale: 25 sen for an officer, 14 sen for a sergeant, and 10 sen for a private. The rate of exchange was 345 sen for 1 U.S. dollar. So the average POW doing forced labor was supposedly making around 3 cents a day. But almost all of them never received any money.

Whenever a POW died, he was cremated and his ashes scattered. No wonder there are around 60,000 U.S. servicemen from WW ll. that are still "Missing in Action"! When it seemed likely that we would invade Japan, even more chilling orders were given for our POWs. The final disposition: "Execute them all by mass bombing, poisonous gas, drowning, decapitation, just dispose of them as the situation dictates. In any case, it is our aim to not allow the escape of a single one, so annihilate them all, and do not leave any traces." These orders came directly from High Command, General Hideki Tojo, minister of war.

When General Douglas MacArthur, allied commander, dictated the Japanese surrender terms, he insisted that none of the POWs were to be harmed at all. So when Emperor Hirohito declared over the radio that Japan was surrendering, the announcement concerning the POWs had to be included. (This was August 15, 1945). Great Britain, China and Russia wanted Emperor Hirohita to stand trial for the war crimes. But General "Mac" declined, and allowed him to stay in office until, he died many years later.

Most U.S. Servicemen have always believed this was a big mistake. Hirohito should have been hanged from a light pole in downtown Tokyo square. This would have shown the Japanese people that he was not Divine! For they worshipped Hirohito as a god, as "The Imperial So of Heaven of Great Japan."

What kind of treatment do you think Adolf Hitler would have received if he had been captured alive?  What is even more amazing than the case of the emperor... not even one of the families who headed the 52 Japanese companies has ever been arrested. They are just as guilty of war crimes as any of the Japanese Military who were hanged.

Today many of these companies, such as Mitsui, Nippon Steel, Kawasaki, and Mitsubishi, make millions of dollars in the United States. It is sad to realize that they started making their fortunes in WWll... by using thousands of our POWs as White Slave Laborers!!!