Mitsubishi, Mitsui ... and World War II Slave Labor

Joseph Cassin

Excerpts from article by Pamela Coyle of Times Picayune on Joseph Cassin's experience at Mitsui Camp number 17. [Source http://www.hermanmathis-slavelabor.com/news/Feb212000.htm ]


Joseph Cassin is hiding behind a mound of vegetation when the armed Japanese guard finds him and tells him he has to go back. "But the war is over," Cassin says. The guard shakes his head. "That," he says, "was a mistake."

For years, Cassin would wake from that dream screaming and short of breath. To go back would have meant re-entering a hellhole of a Japanese coal mine where he and thousands of other American prisoners of war labored for almost three years during World War II.

That was a living nightmare, grueling labor on little food and for no pay, in conditions so dire that men broke their own bones or paid fellow soldiers in cigarettes to do it, just to get out of work for a spell.

...

Obstacles are nothing new to survivors such as Cassin. He lived for almost three years in barracks at Camp 17, considered one of the worst POW camps in Japan, with a single blanket and a thin straw mattress. The scant rations consisted mostly of rice and a tiny piece of fish a few times a week. Each day, Cassin and the others marched three miles to the coal mine, worked at least 10 hours and marched three miles back.

...

"You can get used to a lot of things," he said. Even rice. As a child growing up in Massachusetts, Cassin recalls hating rice and, when he dared to complain, the scolding he got from his mother. "Someday you might be thankful for rice," she warned.


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(Last Updated: January 31, 2004.)

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"That was a living nightmare, grueling labor on little food and for no pay, in conditions so dire that men broke their own bones or paid fellow soldiers in cigarettes to do it, just to get out of work for a spell."

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