Japanese Invasion of China 1944: POWs
By Cindy Patten, SD 68, 2005 ALPHA Study Tour Participant
Reader 1: During World War 2 hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were forced to work in concentration camps and labor camps.
Reader 2: Most of us know that this happened in Germany and Poland.
Reader 3: But did you also know it happened in China and Japan?
Reader 4: After the Japanese invaded China in 1937, thousands of young men were removed from their homes and sent to labor camps.
Reader 5: We’d like to tell you the story of one man. This is Mr. Zhao’s testimony. He was a child laborer.
Reader 1: I was 14 years old when I was captured in 1944. The Japanese military cheated me! They told me I had to leave my village. There were 136 of us who were forced to leave.
Reader 2: I was put on a train for hours. Then I was put on a boat and shipped off to Japan. I didn’t have the chance to tell my family what was happening. I just disappeared from my village. They had no idea what happened to me.
Reader 3: It took 8 days to cross the Sea of Japan from China to Japan. We only traveled at night so that the boat wouldn’t be spotted by the Allies, otherwise it would have only taken 4 days.
Reader 4: Then we were put on another train to travel to Tokyo.
Readers 1-5: Finally we arrived at the labor camp.
Readers 1-2: We were starving. We were given half a pound of moldy rice and rice husks to eat every day. That is less than one quarter of what a working laborer needs to maintain their health and weight. Sometimes we ate rotten fish, or garbage, or rats to survive.
Readers 1-3: It was cold and we had only rags to wear. We had frostbite on our feet.
Readers 1-4: Our job was to move boulders by hand and to push trolleys full of rocks on the railway. We worked for 10-13 hours every day!
Reader 5: If you were too weak or sick to work, you weren’t fed and there was no one to take care of you.
Readers 1-5: It only took 20 days in these conditions for people to begin dying. The youngest boy died first.
Reader 1: I was allowed to write my parents one postcard each year, at Chinese New Year, to let them know I was still alive. I had to share my postcard with 2 other men because we all came from the same village.
Reader 2: None of my postcards ever reached my family. They thought I was dead.
Reader 3: Others in the labor camp tried to help me out when a Japanese military guard broke my leg. He hit me with a stick because he thought I wasn’t working fast enough. I was only 14! I wasn’t as strong as a man yet.
Reader 4: There was no doctor to see me, nothing I could take for the pain.
Reader 5: But my friends brought me food when they could, and that kept me alive.
Reader 1: I was lucky that I survived.
Readers 2-5: Nearly half of us died.
Reader 2: When the war was finally over, I returned home to China.
Reader 3: My family was so surprised and happy to see me. They thought I had died a long time ago because they never received my postcards.
Reader 4: Today my body is still crippled.
Reader 5: I still have nightmares sometimes.
Reader 1: But I went on to have a family of my own. I married a survivor from a nearby village.
Reader 2: Now I also have grandchildren. When they are old enough I will tell them this story, too.
Reader 3: There is lots of love and laughter in our home!
Reader 4: Don’t let this happen again!
Reader 5: You must remember my story.
Readers 1-4: Remember that we were only boys. We were cheated of life, family, and hope.
Readers 1-3: Remember that my wounds have never healed! I have had a hard life because I can’t move easily.
Readers 1-2: Remember that only half of us returned. The ones that didn’t, don’t even have gravestones to mark their lives and deaths.
Readers 1-5: Remember the heroes, remember the fallen.
Reader 1: Remember the survivors, too.
Readers 1-5: “Lest We Forget”