Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Remembering the Oryoku Maru

Oryoku Maru sinking off Subic Bay
Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 20 (Tuesday, January 30, 2018)] [
Extensions of Remarks] [Page E120]

Mr. BOST. Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to pause to remember the American POWs who arrived in Japan 73 years ago today. These heroes were survivors of the infamous "death cruise" of the Oryoku Maru. The men were prisoners since the American territory fell to the Japanese in the spring of 1942. Of the over 1,600 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and civilians who left Manila on December 13, 1944, barely 400 arrived at the port of Moji, Japan on January 30, 1945. "Hell Ship"' is simply the only way to describe the vessels and conditions the POWs endured. These men were packed in dark holds of freighters, usually with coal or animal waste. They were given little water, food, or fresh air. Sanitation was non-existent. Men driven insane were quickly and brutally quieted. I became familiar with this story by assisting my constituent, Ms. Jan Thompson, who is the daughter of a survivor of the Oryoku Maru journey and is the President of American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society. Her father, Robert E. Thompson, was a Navy Pharmacist's Mate who had been assigned to a submarine tender in Manila Bay, the USS Canopus. He was surrendered on Corregidor. It has been my honor to help preserve the memory of the American POWs of Japan and of their experience aboard the Hell Ships to Japan. The 400-plus men who died during the stop at Takao Harbor, Formosa are currently buried in 20 graves marked simply as "Unknowns" at Hawaii's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Soon there will be a memorial plaque on the Memorial Walk at this Cemetery to these men who died aboard the Enoura Maru in Formosa on January 9, 1945, which was one of the Hell Ships that took part in the Oryoku Maru journey.

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