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Japanese Emissaries at the Pre-Surrender Conference in Manila on 19 August 1945

by Nov 10, 2019

Prisoner of war camp: Army-administered Omori Camp, also known as Tokyo Base Camp #1 or Tokyo Main Camp, was constructed on a man-made island that was built by prison labor from Shinagawa Camp. It was completed in the summer of 1943. Life in the camp is portrayed in the book Unbroken, and in the 2014 film by that name.

Among directives presented to Japanese emissaries at the pre-surrender conference in Manila on 19 August 1945, was Document #1, which required furnishing of all available information pertaining to "prisoner of war and civilian internment camps and places of detention, wherever located, within Japan and Japanese controlled areas."

In turn, Japanese emissaries agreed to return prisoners of war and internees immediately, and asked to be notified as soon as possible where and when the Allied Nations ships for prisoners' repatriation would be available at specified ports. The repatriation process would be facilitated with assistance of the Swedish Legations and the International Red Cross.

SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) General Order Number 1 further directed the following specifics:

β€œ(1) The safety and well-being of all United Nations Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees will be scrupulously preserved, to include the administrative and supply services essential to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing and medical care until such responsibility is undertaken by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.

(2) Each camp or other place of detention of United Nations Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees together with its equipment, stores, records, arms, and ammunition, will be delivered immediately to the command of the senior officer or designated representative of the Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees.

(3) As directed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees will be transported to places of safety where they can be accepted by Allied authorities.

(4) The Japanese Imperial General Headquarters will furnish to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, without delay after receipt of this order, complete lists of all United Nations Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees, including their locations.”

Best estimates at the time, indicated that there were approximately 36,000 (Allied) personnel of various categories located in approximately 140 camps in Japan. It was anticipated that β€œin most instances personnel will be in extremely poor physical condition requiring increased diet, comforts and medical care. Poor housing and sanitary conditions will require immediate large-scale transfers to best available facilities to be peremptorily commandeered. Complete re-clothing will be imperative. Records in general will be incomplete for both survivors and deceased.”

Within a few hours after the first reconnaissance party of Americans arrived at Atsugi airfield to initiate the pre-surrender requirements, the first Allied prisoners of war became free men. Three weeks later virtually all those held as prisoners on the Japanese mainland had been evacuated and were on the way back to their homes. Many of those, as had been anticipated were in poor physical condition requiring immediate attention. Others, like those shown below, were far more physically able.

Released Allied Prisoners of War prepare to depart Omori Camp, 30 August 1945.