Searching for information about a POW of the Japanese
Beginning your search ---
a. First look carefully through family papers for items that may reveal pertinent facts or clues. Items to look for include letters the person sent home from the time he arrived overseas up to the time of the surrender. Make note of where he was and the military unit to which he was assigned. If you cannot find the actual unit designation, maybe you can at least learn the type of organization (Infantry, Air Corps, Coast Artillery, Field Artillery, Marines, Engineers, etc.) or the type of weapons his unit had (tanks, bomber aircraft, pursuit aircraft, artillery, type of ship, etc.). Details like this may enable others to help you learn the person's unit designation.
b. Next, search family papers for cards or letters that may have been sent home after he became a POW. These may reveal the names or numbers of POW camps. You may also find other valuable information.
c. Then, search family papers for correspondence from the War Department or Navy Department that gave notification about the status of the person (Missing in Action, Prisoner of War, Presumed Dead or Deceased). Look also for official correspondence relating to the award of medals or decorations. Citations that accompany the award normally give dates, places and events that are important to know. One of the most important items is the person's serial number - that is the unique identifier of each serviceman.
NOTE: Be sure to safeguard any items found in connection with the first
three paragraphs above so that they do not deteriorate or become lost. These
will be very valuable to future generations of your family. Make digital copies
for your use in research and save the originals in acid-proof containers.
Search the internet for facts or clues. Use the list of "Internet Sites" on
this web site to get started.
a. A good place to start is with the "National Archives (NARA) Access to the Archival Database (AAD)" site. BEFORE you click on the link to the web site, click on the "NARA Information" link and read it. When you locate the correct page for the person, be sure to record his Service Number since this is a unique identifier and it is very important for communications with any government agency. If you do not understand some of the entries, click on the underlined titles to see explanations. If you still have problems, make a list of exactly what the web site shows so you can ask other people for help. See Footnote #1 (below) for information about the source of data in the NARA Database of World War II Prisoners of War.
b. If the person died during World War II, use the link for the "American Battle Monuments Commission" site to find information about burial or listing on the "Tablets of the Missing". For most people the military unit is shown.
c. When you have determined POW camps the person was in (or may have been in), go to Roger Mansellís "Center for Research, Allied POWs under the Japanese" web site to learn more about these camps or to see rosters that confirm the person was there. NOTE: Roger Mansell's site has many links to very valuable information including rosters for many POW camps. Roger passed away on October 25, 2010, but before his death he made provisions for Wes Injerd to continue this site. Be sure to check out this site carefully. Also, it is updated frequently so you should return often.
d. Also, check Wes Injerdís "Prisoners of War Camp #1 Fukuoka , Japan" web site. Do not let the web site title fool you, Wes shows information about all of the POW camps in Japan. Just like Rogerís site, check out all parts of Wes Injerd's site and return often.
e. When you have learned which Hellship(s) the person was on, look at the "Hellship Information and Photographs" page of this web site (link on the main page) for information, photographs and paintings of that Hellship.
f. Explore other web sites listed in the "Internet Sites" page of this web site.
Use the "List of Books and other publications" on this web site to find books you may want to read for a better understanding of life in the POW camps and on the Hellships (a general term for Japanese ships that carried POWs). If your library does not have a book you want, ask the librarian to obtain it for you via interlibrary loan. Sometimes you can find great bargains on used books on BookFinder.com or Amazon.com. It is certainly worth the time to check.
a. National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) - You can use information on the
NPRC web site (address is in the list of "Internet Sites") to request a copy of
a personís personal records or his awards and decorations from the NPRC. Donít
be surprised if you learn that the personís records were lost in a fire. See
Footnote #2 (below) for information about the 1973 fire at the NPRC that
destroyed many records.
b. Department of the Army (DA) (Previous to 1948 the name was "War Department") - If you are having trouble verifying details about a person who died in captivity, you may want to obtain a copy of that personís Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). Those records are maintained by DA and they contain copies of documents used to determine the date, place and cause of death. See Footnote #3 (below) for information about requesting an IDPF. See Footnote #4 (below) for a somewhat long-winded explanation of how my fatherís IDPF helped me.
When you are ready for more in-depth study, consider visiting some of the
"Research Facilities" listed on this web site. Most of them have internet sites
that can be viewed to see their holdings and organize your efforts in advance of
a visit. For those facilities that are on a military reservation, check before
you go to be sure that you take car insurance, car registration, personal ID
cards and other items that may be needed for entry.
Share the information you find:
In addition to documenting the information you find and passing it on to your
family members, make efforts to share information with others that have a
relative that was in similar circumstances with your relative. Sometimes when
you share you learn more in the process Ė it is a two-way street. The
Japanese-pow Listserv has been established to facilitate such efforts. See the
link in the "Search Aids" heading of this web site for information about this
listserv. Sharing information with others is an excellent way to improve your
understanding as well as helping other persons.
When I was learning to fly an airplane, my instructor kept repeating the three rules for flying an airplane Ė (1) fly the airplane, (2) fly the airplane & (3) fly the airplane Ė do not let anything stop you from your most important duty. I think a similar set of rules applies here (1) document, (2) document & (3) document. It would be terrible to lose valuable information by failing to record it properly for posterity. Be sure to document all of the facts you learn and record them in such a manner that future generations of your family can benefit from your work. Much of what you learn will not be available to them in school. If it is not researched and documented now, the information could be lost forever.
Good luck in your search and remember that nothing really worth while comes to you without considerable effort on your part. Search diligently and the rewards to you and your family members will be fully worth the effort.