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Atom Bomb Two - Kokura

Discussion in 'Atomic Bombs In the Pacific' started by FighterPilot, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

    Aug 22, 2008
    Likes Received:
    About fifteen years ago I worked with several Bataan Death March survivors to prepare their stories to post on Prodigy boards.
    Prodigy was very good in working with us, but had very tight political correctness quidelines that chocked us all. Thiw is one of them by Otto Whittington a member of the 31st Infantry on the Philippine Islands, 1940 to 1944.



    Millard E. Hileman


    Just a note to explain a little of the back-ground regarding
    the article "Primary Target - Kokura". It was in the notes
    that was sent to me by Otto Whittington. Although he did
    not write the article, (which was written in 1985) it was
    about the period of time that he spent there. His added
    comments were that - "Again, I had nine lives, thanks to a
    cloudy day"..... If I remember correctly, George Idlett,
    had mentioned something similar to this, in one of his early
    posts about his luck and a cloudy day, etc.,

    The copy that I am working from, is one that has been
    xeroxed many times, and shrunk extremely small. With the
    "Blind in one eye, and Can't see out of the other" problems
    that I have, there have been some typo's, commissions, and
    ommisions. Just pick u'm and choose them, I did it. I
    blame it all on that new fangled spell checker that Pat sent
    me, (heck, in this day and age, you know it can't be my
    FAULT). In spite of all the mistakes, hope that you can
    read and enjoy.

    Chapter 1

    On August 6th, 1945, a lonely B-29 lazily approached
    the city of Hiroshima, unchallenged by an impotent
    Japanese air force and almost unnoticed by the inhabitants
    of the city. The bomb bay opened, and a tiny speck
    separated from the silver belly of the monster. As the
    speck increased to the size of an orange, a parachute
    opened. It descended to an altitude of 1,500 feet and
    then it was as if a giant flash bulb had gone off. A
    blinding flash, ranging from a flue-white to a deep orange
    color, had in an instant released all of the fantastic
    forces of an earthquake, hurricane, and flood combined in
    one terrible package.

    In that instant, a city of 350,000 had been sixty
    percent destroyed. 30,000 people had completely
    disappeared, thousands lay mutilated and hopelessly
    wounded. The exact toll would never be known. With that
    blinding flash, the nuclear age had descended on mankind.
    On that day, a city died, with the hope that civilization
    might live.

    Three days later an even more powerful bomb was dropped
    on the city of Nagasaki, on Kyushu Island. the result:
    30,000 lives lost, and the complete destruction of 18,000
    buildings. It could have been much worse. This second
    effort was hampered by adverse weather conditions. In
    desperation, Nagasaki had been chosen as the alternate
    target, and even then the target was missed by five miles.
    Amidst all this death and destruction, the people of
    Kokura went about their business in the same peaceful,
    quiet manner that had been their custom even before the
    start of the World War. Kokura, a beautiful, quiet ,
    residential city of about 150,000 people lay nestled in
    the low, rolling coastal hills on the northern part of
    Kyushu Island. In distance, it lay about sixty airline
    miles south of Hiroshima, and about the same distance
    north of Nagasaki.

    For some 1,200 American and Dutch prisoners of war, in
    the prison camp located on the outskirts of Kokura, the
    morning of August 9th, 1945, was just about like any other
    morning during the past year. It was 5 am, and already
    the Japanese guards were running through the barracks,
    chattering and waving bamboo sticks, waking the men as
    they had almost every morning since that hot august day a
    little over a year ago. That was the day the Japanese
    freighter, "Nishi Maru", had quietly slipped into Moji and
    disgorged her human cargo of 1,500 American prisoners of
    war who had made the trip up from Manila as "Guests" of
    the suns of Nippon.

    On that day, all aboard were quickly unloaded, forced
    to wait for three hours in the hot sun, and then were
    divided into two groups. The first group was marched to
    the railroad depot, where they boarded cars for parts
    unknown. The second group, of which I happened to be an
    unwilling member, was left "sweating it out" under the
    relentless rays of the hot August sun for another two hours.

    Chapter 2

    Finally, we were herded from the port area and ordered to
    board several waiting street cars. Once under way, we
    were informed by a not unfriendly guard that we were to
    get off at a town called Kokura. About an hour, and
    eighteen miles later, the noise, smelly cars ground to
    a stop, and we were pushed from the doorway. We were
    quickly lined up, and the never ending ritual of roll
    call took place. Roll calls had always been extremely
    interesting, and Americans believed them to be a gimmick
    invented by the Japanese to instigate legalized confusion
    among the POW's.

    The first order of business after lining up was to count off.
    The counting, of course, to be done in Japanese. As no man
    ever stood in the same place twice, his number was never the
    same. One slip in counting gave the guard in charge the right
    to punish the offender, by any means that his Oriental mind
    could devise at the moment, such as a knee to the groin, the
    butt of a rifle to the Adam's Apple, a resounding thumb under
    the nose, by snapping his finger off his thumb, and numerous
    other childish pranks, originated only to humiliate an American
    male by someone half his size. We always stayed very much
    alert during the counting off ceremony.

    We were immediately marched to a stockade, complete with
    barbed wire and guard towers. As we were approaching this
    structure, two large gates swung open, and we had our first
    look at "Camp #3", which was to be our home until the war's
    end. The trip from Moji to Kokura had followed the coastline,
    and while the crowded cars had somewhat hampered our view,
    we were thrilled by the natural beauty of the landscape. All
    along the coast of Kyushu, the land rose from the sea in gentle
    contours, unmarked by freeways and outdoor advertising, and
    remains as green as the hills of Erin. As the streetcars
    entered the outskirts of Kokura, we noticed that it was mostly
    residential, and very delightfully situated among the low
    terraced hills that are so characteristic of Kyushu Island.

    Like most Japanese cities in 1944, the war had not actually
    reached Kokura. Isolated air raids had taken place in some
    areas, more for psychological reasons than anything else,
    such as Doolittle's Raid on Tokyo in 1942. As yet the
    Americans had not been able to position themselves in such
    a way that they could offer a concentrated barrage on the
    heart of Japanese heavy industry. Yawata, a sister city of
    Kokura, and an industrial giant of 250,000 people had been
    victimized by such an attack only two months previous.
    However, little damage had been done, either materially or
    psychologically, and business went on as usual. The Japanese
    were refusing to believe that the Holy Empire would be violated.
    Yawata was the heart of Japanese heavy industry on Kyushu, and
    the home of the tremendous government-owned Yawata Steel Works,
    Sugar and Oil refineries, chemical works, paper and flour mills,
    glass factories and various types of metal industries completed
    the massive industrial complex.

    Chapter 3

    But for a low range of coastal hills, the two cities
    might have been one. They were separated geographically
    by only a few miles, but by the standards of culture,
    atmosphere and the daily humdrum tensions of industry,
    they were separated by centuries. The Yawata Steel Works
    would be our source of employment for the ensuing year.
    We would spend our working hours in Yawata, retreating at
    nightfall to the serene, pleasant atmosphere of Kokura and
    nineteenth century Japan. Each day we traveled to the
    mill area aboard a small work train that rattled along
    at about ten miles per hour. A short distance from
    Kokura, the train entered a tunnel approximately one
    half mile in length, and then emerged abruptly into
    the confines of the vast industrial arena.

    The morning of August 9th, 1945, dawned hot and humid.
    Even though the sky was free of clouds, the smell and feel
    of rain was in the air. As we ate our breakfast of
    rice and tea, guards circulated nervously among us,
    shouting and jabbing with sticks, and encouraging us
    to hurry. They had seemed unduly disturbed the last
    two days. This was somewhat puzzling and had caused
    us no end of anxiety. They appeared to be extremely
    emotional and an air raid alarm or the sound of
    approaching aircraft only increased the horror in their eyes.

    As we finished our breakfast and started lining up for
    work, everyone, somehow sensed that this day would be
    different, as if the strains and tensions that had been
    building up over the last three years would suddenly be
    released. While lining up, occasional glances were cast
    skyward, possibly with the hope of catching a glimpse of
    an American plane, but mostly in anticipation of clouds
    that would open up and cast blessed coolness in the form
    of rain on the tired, haggard figures that had once been
    men of a proud fighting force.

    The past year had been a lucky one for the men in "Camp
    No. 3". Even though things had been rough at times, our
    good fortunes had been appreciated. Mostly, we thought
    that it had been a lucky camp, just as Kokura had been a
    lucky city. No bombs had fallen in our immediate area,
    yet we had been under constant alert for three months.
    There had been a minimum of atrocities. Food had not been
    plentiful, but it had been enough to keep body and soul
    together. The work was hard and certainly not suited to
    our skills, the guards mean, and almost everyday someone
    was beaten up, but as of yet no one had been killed in
    camp or on the job. Yes, we had been very lucky. We had
    discussed it many times, wondering if we would always be
    lucky, even in the end. The End? What would be the End?
    What would it bring? The Japanese had been talking a lot
    about the possibility of an invasion by American troops.
    Then what? The Japanese guards had told us, "When the
    Americans come, you will die. You will be placed on the
    beaches to die by the shells of your own troops".

    Chapter 4

    "COUNT OFF"! The command had caught everyone unaware.
    Being preoccupied as we were with thoughts of weather,
    what the future had in store, and being thankful for our
    good fortunes of the previous year, we had forgotten to
    pre-count our positions. Strangely, however, the guards
    this morning seemed oblivious of our mistakes. The gates
    of the stockade swung open and the march to the waiting
    train began.

    As we sat in the cars waiting for the train to pull
    out, once again the mood of the group turned to thoughts
    of what this day would bring. Would it rain? Today it
    must rain. Why? We could not answer that question.
    Looking around, I could see the pained expressions of the
    tired, haggard faces, and an occasional pair of pale, thin
    lips moving in silent prayer. Perhaps thanking God in
    Heaven for the life He had given us, and asking His
    protection from whatever this thing was that we felt was
    about to happen.

    In a few minutes we were shocked back into reality by
    the grinding and squealing of the brakes. The train had
    emerged from the tunnel and was stopping at it's usual
    place in front of the offices of the Yomato Steel Works.
    Shortly, we would all line up for another roll call, and
    play Japanese Roulette, a term pinned on the never-ending
    ritual by some enterprising G.I. who had somehow been able
    to maintain a sense of humor even after years of
    intimidation by the Japanese. After we were all announced
    present and accounted for, we fell into our pre-determined
    groups to be taken by armed guards to our own part of the
    industrial area. Once again, things were normal.

    As we made the silent trek to our part of the mill, we
    looked forward to the 10:15 smoke break. We would then
    look at the clock and see that it was nearing 5:30 PM, and
    we would once again board the sputtering little train for
    the short trip back to Kokura, not realizing that for
    thousands of people on Kyushu that day, 5:30 would never
    come, but for every American POW who saw the sun rise on
    Kokura that morning, every one would live to see it set
    that night. The "Luck of Kokura" would once again
    envelope us in it's misty shroud, and protect us this day
    at least, from the birth of an age that would haunt and
    harass mankind for years, until he at last either learned
    how to live with it or would completely obliterate himself
    from the face of the earth. As we made this silent trek,
    a B-29 was already airborne, carrying a single bomb,

    Chapter 5

    But once again Kokura was destined to remain untouched,
    just as it had in the past, from the horrors of attack by
    enemy aircraft, even though it had already been determined
    by a select group of men, that on this day in August, it
    was to be mutilated and ravaged as no city on earth had
    ever been before, by a weapon so horrible that even men
    tested by years of war would issue the order with tongue
    in cheek, wondering if their duties as soldiers, required
    this kind of responsibility.

    By 8:30, clouds had already began to roll in from
    Tsushima Strait, and we all breathed a little easier. We
    were in a deadly, unexplainable grip of the unknown, but
    as the sky darkened, tensions eased. There was no
    hurrahing, no emotional demonstration of elation. After
    all, we had hoped, we had prayed, and we had faith. We
    were just inwardly and quietly happy, for some reason we
    had all known that this was the way that it had to be. At
    this moment an unscheduled plan of fantastic circumstances
    was beginning to unfold, and through ignorance, we were
    not to question the events that were about to follow.

    Just three minutes before our usual mid-morning smoke
    break, the first bomb crashed into the area with a
    shattering force. If there had been any warning, no one
    had heard it amidst the clattering of the air hammers and
    the scream of high speed equipment, even the noise of
    approaching aircraft had gone unnoticed. As the first
    explosion rocked the area, all the hammers stopped.
    Switches were cut, stopping all the equipment. In the
    silence that followed, we could hear the drone of heavy
    bombers. How many or how high, it was impossible to tell.
    One of the guards, a heavy bearded fellow, with tears in
    his eyes and fear on his face, remarked that they were
    B-29's. With that he broke down completely, threw away his
    rifle, and with tears streaming down both cheeks, headed
    for the water front in utter panic. He had heard about
    Hiroshima, we had not. I have wondered many times what
    our reactions would have been, had we been as up to date on
    the news as he was.

    It was only a matter of minutes until the whole area
    was complete chaos. Guards, civilian workers, both men
    and women, were running in every direction. We dropped
    our tools and headed for the open, with only one thought
    in mind, the nearest shelter. The clouds by then, were so
    low that it was impossible to sight any aircraft, but the
    boom of heavy demolition bombs could be heard in the
    distance. At that moment there was a tremendous roar of
    low-flying planes directly overhead, and a screaming
    shower of incendiary bombs began to hit everywhere,
    spewing their deadly streams of white phosphorus in all

    We noticed one thing with great delight, the Japanese
    were in utter panic, something that we had never seen
    before. We started to form into groups, with the hope
    that organization would be an aid in finding some kind of
    shelter. Non-commissioned officers who could not remember
    the last time they had issued an order were taking over.
    It was soon determined that the only adequate shelter
    available would be the tunnel, and as quickly as possible
    we all moved in that direction.

    Chapter 6

    It was then that a strange quiet descended over the whole
    arena of destruction. The last plane had gone, and the rain
    came down. Gently at first, but rain never the less, and the
    clouds seemed to press in from every direction. Visibility
    decreased by the minute. Wasn't this the way we had wanted
    it? But then, hadn't the damage already been done? No one
    knew how many had died in the few short minutes the raid had
    lasted. Had our hopes, faith, and our prayers been in vain?

    The rain continued, and at least for the moment no planes
    were in the air. One thing was certain, fire was everywhere,
    and the acrid smell of phosphorus, fumes from gasoline and oil,
    burning buildings, and even the smell of burning flesh filled
    the air. We soon ascertained that every American was accounted
    for. Miraculous? Yes, but then this was to be a day of miracles.
    Once inside the tunnel, confusion again predominated as close
    friends tried to locate one another. Shortly, a feeling of
    restfulness began to creep throughout the whole group, and
    everyone began to work toward the far end of the tunnel. One
    by one, two by two, and finally a mass exodus of haggard
    Americans began to emerge from the Kokura end of the tunnel.

    In Kokura, as always, there was no war, no ugly smells
    or burning buildings. Only the peaceful green countryside
    greeted our smoke and horror-filled eyes. There was a
    feeling of freedom in each of us as we trudged down the
    tracks, a feeling of being released from fear and uncertainty.
    In it's place was security and freedom. Freedom from war and
    all it's horrors. Kokura was truly another world, a haven of
    peace and tranquility. Our war had just ended. The fears and
    anxieties of the last hour were gone, and the last act of the
    miracle was already beginning to unfold as we heard overhead the
    drone of a single airplane.

    We were not worried, one plane could not harm us, and anyway we
    were now safe within the city of Kokura. The roar of the motors
    died out, and once again all was quiet. Moments later we once
    again heard the roar of motors, and once again they passed and
    all was quiet. No one spoke, for fear, I suppose, of what could
    and might happen. Then the plane made a third approach, and once
    again it faded into the distance. It did not return again. We
    listened, bewildered. The miracle was now complete.

    Somewhere above, someone said, "Kokura's socked in, try Nagasaki".
    Moments later, this plane approached Nagasaki. Here too was a
    cloud cover, but not as dense as the cloud cover over Kokura.
    A break in the clouds was sighted, and in desperation, the Hell
    of atomic energy was unleashed over this unsuspecting city, sixty
    miles south of Kokura. The "Bomb" had been destined for Kokura,
    but inclement weather had made it impossible to deliver. It had
    rained on Kokura that day. The weather had fooled the experts,
    the same experts who were to say that this mission was nothing but
    trouble from the start.


    I was at the same camp as Millard Hillman, Fukuoka Camp #3,
    at the outskirts of Kokura on the Suo Sea. This was about equal
    distance between Hiroshima on the southern tip of Honshu and
    Nagasaki on the western coast of Kyushu. We all have differant
    ways of viewing events. The dropping of the two bombs was
    the greatest humanitarian acts of the war. The United States,
    to avoid taking as many civilian lives as possible, dropped
    leaflets ore than a week before the first bomb on Hiroshima
    advising all civilians to evacuate ten circled targets as they
    would be totally devastated. Of course the type of bomb was not
    mentioned. To avoid panic on the part of the civilians, special
    police gathered up all leaflets. Thus most civilians were
    killed because of the acts of their own officials. Kokura was
    circled as target No. 2 because of the large electric
    generating plant near our camp, supplying power to one of the
    largest steel processing plants in the world at Yawata.

    The two bombs brought the Japanese war dogs to the realization
    that total destruction of Japan was imminent. For many
    months the military had been training women and children
    from age of twelve up to fight invaders with bamboo spears.
    They were prepared to fight to the death to protect their
    homeland if invaded. We were advised that at signs of off-
    shore naval bombardment or low level air attacks indicating
    imminent invasion, we would be executed. We agreed among
    ourselves that when we saw signs of possible invasion, we would
    swing our shovels, crow-bars, or any tools handy and try
    to fight our way toward the beach. We didn't expect to make
    it, but you always try.

    The two bombs killed many civilians, but nothing like the
    thousands perhaps millions, who would have died in the
    bloodiest battle in history in the invasion of Japan
    proper. American soldiers would have the tasks of killing
    fanatic women and children who fought to protect their
    homeland with only bamboo spears. Also, all POW's would have
    been executed. The plane from Tinian (this from a speech
    made by the pilot at Ft. Worth, Texas, after the war) made a
    circle over us but could not drop because of the overcast skies.
    Orders were to drop where the target could be observed. The
    bomb was dropped with a parachute to detonate a few hundred
    feet above the earth for maximum heat effect. Also, to allow the
    plane to get clear from the intense radiation. We wondered why a
    single plane - when we were used to squadrons of 20 or more
    B-29's. I explained it was probably carrying leaflets or
    "chafe" to screw up Japanese radar. We later learned that
    it continued on to Nagasaki 60 air miles away but it was
    socked in. We heard it return and again pass overhead above
    the clouds. According to the pilot he advised the bombardier
    to select a third target to have enough fuel to return to
    base. The bombardier told the pilot he saw clouds breaking
    as they approached Nagasaki for the second time. I learned to
    never complain about cloudy weather, if that day was a sunny
    day over Kokura I would be a cinder on the landscape of

    My work detail at the Yawata Steel Mills was (Di Ni
    Sako" (known as Number Two Hot Steel Gang). The work we did
    in limestone furance room and cleaning gas chambers covered
    in hot red glowing soot. Only another POW squatting in a
    small three foot doorway, spraying us with a hose kept us from
    burning alive. This made Hell look like a church pinic.

    Otto Whittington
    texson66 likes this.

    JPEMBRY recruit

    Aug 29, 2010
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    I was fascinated to read this account of life in Fukuoka Camp #3 in Kokura. My father [SIZE=-1] Jewell Creston [/SIZE][SIZE=-1]Embry,[/SIZE][SIZE=-1] MOMM1C, S/N 2872045,[/SIZE] United States Navy was part of the crew of the USS Grenadier. The Grenadier was damaged by a depth bomb dropped by a plane in the Straits of Malaka off the coast of Indonesia and the crew was forced to scuttle the boat to keep it from falling into the hands of the Japs.He was held with some of his crew mates in Fukuoka Camp #3 along with other US and Allied POW's. His recanting of life in the camp and the events leading up to the end of the war were very similar to those told by Otto Whittington.

    I was very interested to learn some of the details that I was not aware of and appreciate this posting keeping the memories of these brave men alive. I am not sure how many of these man still survive but would be very interested in learning if there are any still with us who might have known my Father.

    Warm regards,
    Joel Embry
  3. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

    Nov 15, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for finding and bumping this one.
  4. tmccoy

    tmccoy recruit

    Dec 25, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Joel... My father, Charles H "Skeeter" or "Tim" McCoy, is the last surviving crew member of the USS Grenadier SS-210. He is 86 years of age and enjoys good health. At the time of his retirement in 1965, he was the Security Officer at Sub Base Pearl Harbor. I will ask him about your father and there experiences.
  5. firewilson

    firewilson Member

    Feb 4, 2011
    Likes Received:
    thank you . excellent writing about your experience. i wish you would write an entire book about it. i want to know what happened next, and how you were saved and what happened to you afterwards. and before this . loved reading it fast, i am going back to re read it slowly.

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