|FM Gemba with American former POWs of Japan|
POW# Not known to “special prisoners”
Member of American Ex-Prisoners of War
>Douglas Northam, 93, lives in Reno, Nevada. Born in Morris County, Texas, he grew up in nearby Naples, Texas. After graduating from high school in 1937, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and in 1940 in the U.S. Navy. He was transferred to China in February of 1941 and assigned to the USS Oahu (PR-6), a Yangtze River Patrol boat ported in Shanghai. The USS Oahu, never designed for open sea operations, was sent to Manila Bay in November 1941, arriving two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The gunboat operated in and around Manila Bay and Cavite Navy Yard on inshore patrol and in support of U.S.-Filipino forces on Bataan until after its fall April 8, 1942 and then continued to operate about the island fortress of Corregidor until sunk by enemy gunfire May 5th. Northam was then assigned to an artillery group on Corregidor, which was surrendered on May 7th when Corregidor fell. As a POW of Japan he was sent to Bilibid POW Camp in Manila and then moved to Cabanatuan 1 and 2. In November 1942, he was sent to Japan aboard Mitsubishi’s Hellship the Nagato Maru. He worked for Nippon Express as a slave stevedore in the freight yards in and around the city of Osaka at Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka (Osaka 2-D UMEDA). In March 1945, after his POW camp was firebombed, he was transferred to Osaka POW Camp 5-B TSURUGA were he was a slave stevedore again for Nippon Express and Tsuruga Transportation Company. After the war, Northam utilized the GI Bill to study geology at the University of California, Berkley. He joined Shell Oil Company in 1951 as a laboratory technician and retired 1977 as research technician. He has been married to Hazel for 64 years. In retirement he was a volunteer at a local elementary school and the VA Hospital. His hobbies include gardening, horse racing, and cooking.
Member of DAV, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, American Ex-Prisoners of War, AMVETS
>John Leroy Mims, 90, lives in Aberdeen, North Carolina. Born in Ashburn, Georgia, he grew up in Florida and enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1938, but was discharged a year later after it was discovered that he was underage. Still hungry and jobless, he re-enlisted February 15, 1941 and was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion of the famous 31st Infantry Regiment sometimes referred to as the “American Foreign Legion.” In April 1941, he was sent to the Philippines aboard the USAT Republic and stationed at Cuartel de España in Manila. He fought in the Battle for Bataan and as a POW forced on the Bataan Death March. During the war, his Filipino fiancée Juanita worked as a secretary for a Japanese general and bravely aided the resistance by sending shortwave radio messages to Allied forces in the Pacific. As a POW, the Japanese repeatedly beat and tortured Mims . Although they were able to break his body, they could never come close to breaking his spirit. During his captivity, the Japanese broke his back, neck and both of his legs and shattered many of the bones in his face. The beatings briefly left him a paraplegic on two separate occasions and he retains a limp. Mims lost over 120 pounds as a POW dropping from 190 pounds to 67 pounds. Of the 1,600 soldiers in the 31st Infantry Regiment who surrendered, less than half survived Japanese captivity. In September 1944, he was sent to Japan on board Mitsubishi’s Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Hellship Sekiho Maru (Canadian Inventor [the Mati Mati Maru or slow slow ship]). Mims became a slave laborer mining coal for Ube Kosan’s Sanyo Muen Kogyo Sho (Ube Industries’ Sanyo Smokeless Coal Work, which is still known today as Ube Industries Ltd.) at Hiroshima #6B - Omine (Sanyo) POW Camp in Omine-machi, Yamaguchi Prefecture. After the war, Mims remained in the Army for the next 27 years, attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class. He returned to Japan from 1952-54 to be in charge of the Tokyo Quartermaster Depot. He retired in 1963 and involved himself in real estate, construction, and mining. He and Juanita were married 59 years until her death in 2004. They are parents of three biological and 22 adopted children. He remarried in 2009 to another beautiful Filipina, Nena Sabal. His hobbies include reading and recounting his history story as a POW of Japan, especially on how he survived the infamous Bataan Death March. The Veteran’s History Project of the U.S. Library of Congress holds a recording of his oral history.
Member of DAV, VFW, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and National Order of the Trench Rats, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor
>John Real, 90, lives in Ventura, California. A California native he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1940. He was sent to the Philippines in April 1941 and assigned to aerial reconnaissance at Clark Field with the 2nd Observation Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group, V Bomber Command, 20th Air Force. Real and his unit manned an observation tower on top of Mt. Mariveles, Bataan during Japan’s invasion of the Philippines where he tracked Japanese ship movement around the Olongapo Navy Yard. He walked down the mountain to surrender on April 9, 1942 and was stripped of all his belongings before being forced on the Bataan Death March. At the start of the march, he and others were used as human shields by being forced to walk in front of seized American 155mm calibre field guns (Long Toms) that the Japanese were firing at Corregidor. He was a POW at both Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan 1. He avoided a certain death at O’Donnell by volunteering for a work detail on Bataan. In September 1943, he was sent to Moji, Japan aboard the Hellship Taga Maru (aka Coral Maru) via Formosa. At Tokyo 5-B POW Camp in Niigata he was a slave laborer unloading coal ships for Niigata Kairiku Unso, now part of the Rinko Corporation (however, POWs remember Rinko as their “employer”). After the war, Real received a BA in Business Administration from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a MA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he met his wife with whom he had three children and was married to for 49 years until she passed away in 2006. After graduation, he pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales with various companies, retiring with Berlex Labs, at the time a division of Schering AG. In retirement, he has been an active member of the Museum of Ventura County and the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu.
Member of DAV, VFW, American Legion, American Ex-Prisoners of War, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, AMVETS
>George R. Summers, 90, lives in Riverside, California. Born in the Philippines, he grew up in California where he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in February 1941. Activated in June 1941, his unit was sent to Guam, an American territory, in September 1941. Japan invaded the island on December 8, 1941 and he was taken prisoner upon the surrender of the island on the 10th--the first American territory to fall. Summers was on the first transport of Allied POWs to Japan, the Argentina Maru with 420 American POWs from Guam to Tadotsu on the north coast of Shikoku. After arriving in Japan on January 16, 1942, the POWs were transported to Zentsuji (Hiroshima Branch #1), a POW camp about eight kilometers from Tadotsu. He spent six months there clearing a mountainside to plant apple trees. He was then transferred to Tanagawa Osaka Area POW Command #4B Camp. At Tanagawa, he helped to manually tear down a mountainside building a breakwater for a primitive dry-dock and submarine base. This camp was noted for its severe malnutrition and extreme death rate. Six months later, he was sent to Umeda Bunsho Camp in Osaka (Osaka 2-D UMEDA), Japan where he worked for Nippon Express as a slave stevedore. He was transferred to a total of six POW camps due to American bombings. His last camp was the Nagoya 10-B Fushiki Camp, where he worked as a stevedore slave unloading soybeans from Korea for Fushiki Kairiku Unso until Japan’s surrender. After his release, he was hospitalized for six months at the Long Beach Naval Hospital. Like many veterans, he then shifted between various odd jobs and classes. In 1947, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine. From 1955 to 1968 he worked for General Telephone Company, which later became GTE and is today’s Verizon. After GTE, he served as a financial clerk for the City of Anaheim from 1968 to 1978. Married to Juanita Louise Summers since 1970, he has two children from his first marriage. In retirement, he has focused on real estate investment and his hobbies of collecting Koi fish and exotic birds.
Member of DAV, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Military Order of the Purple Heart