William Bell's Story

Camp Suwa and Armistice

My last camp was called Camp Suwa which was up in the hills about 150 miles south of Tokyo. We were taken there by train. The camp commandant was a man named Yamanaka. We referred to the Japanese guards as Foomen. Some of the boys were working in iron mines about 1 1/2miles from the camp up a mountainside. This was a new camp under construction when we arrived there. I was made to work mostly on fatigues. There was a large bathing trough about twenty-five feet long which was used by the Japanese guards to bath in. After they were finished taking their baths we were allowed to clean ourselves in their dirty water.

Even though for most people the war ended in May on V-E Day (Victory in Europe), World War II was very much alive for those of us who were still being held by the Japanese and eager for any news of the war efforts. It was here, on August 6th, 1945, that I saw the large flash of the Atomic bomb dropped by the Enola Gay on Hiroshima! If it weren't for the use of the Atomic bomb, as horrible as it was, I would not have survived Japanese captivity. Consequently, I would not be here today to write these memoirs!

Eventually all Japanese guards fled the camps and we took over things. We started to clear the nearby roads, and I remember at one point going through an area affected by the A bomb that was completely ashes everywhere. When the first American planes came overhead the prisoners were absolutely elated. It was like a giant party with everybody yelling and dancing. We painted flags and giant Red Crosses on the roofs of the huts to let them know we were POW's. The allies began dropping crates of food and other supplies to us. Some crates came crashing to the ground and spilled their contents all over. Unfortunately, some actually hit prisoners below and I know of two that were killed. When the allied troops arrived they immediately placed us on weight gain diets.

On September 6th, 1945, my family finally received a telegram stating, "WILLIAM BELL IS NOW SAFE IN ALLIED HANDS IN YOKOHAMA. HEALTH - GOOD." As previously stated, whenever a letter from one of us was received back home a notation would be entered into the files of any prisoners that were mentioned in it. Mother received word about me in a letter from Lionel Speller stating that "Fred Fagg, Borge Agerback and I were safe and well". Also on September 6th, I was allowed to send a cablegram from Camp Suwa, Yokohama, to mother stating, "HAVE BEEN RESCUED BY AMERICANS. HEALTH GOOD. HOME SOON, LOVE WILLIAM."