Recommendations Concerning
Searching for information about a POW of the Japanese

Beginning your search ---

At home:

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.

On the internet:

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.

In publications:

Use the "References" page 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.

Request Records from Government Agencies:

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.

Visit research facilities:

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.

Document:

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.

 

Footnotes:

1. Information in the NARA AAD Database of World War II Prisoners of War came from a set of IBM "Punch Cards" that were created soon after the end of World War II. During World War II, information was received by the War Department from the International Committee of the Red Cross and put into monthly reports. Data from those reports for each POW was coded and recorded on one of these 80-column cards where each column contains one character. For example, the first data item, "Serial Number", is contained in columns 1 through 8 of the 80 columns. Those cards were much later transferred to the National Archives and have now been digitized into the NARA AAD Database of World War II Prisoners of War. NARA is maintaining the data just as it appeared on the punched cards and will not make any revisions to this historical data Ė even when errors are obvious.

2. There was an enormous fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO on July 12, 1973. Visit this web site to see a picture of the fire and statistics on records that were lost -
http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/fire-1973.html.

3. As of February 2011, Individual Deceased Personnel Files are maintained by the U. S. Army Human Resources Command. To request a copy of the IDPF of a person that died while he was a POW, go to their web site: https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/media/foia-requests.htm  Below the information you will see the address, telephone number and e-mail address.

  4. I spent six years trying to get the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to correct my fatherís military unit as shown on the Tablets of the Missing in the Manila American Cemetery. ABMC told me in their first correspondence that they would make the correction if Department of the Army (DA) instructed them to make the change. After several exchanges of letters in which I provided documents showing that my father was Executive Officer of the 61st FA Regt. (PA) on Mindanao Island and not on Luzon, DA finally sent me a copy of my fatherís IDPF to show why his unit was shown as "23rd FA Regt. (PS)". Then I was able to see evidence of the extreme efforts by the War Department (predecessor of Department of the Army) to determine exactly where, how and when each POW died. In spite of those efforts, errors were made Ė and this is understandable. When POWs were liberated they were interrogated (or "interviewed" or "de-briefed") to gain information about POWs that did not survive and to get information for war crimes trials. I believe that most of these interrogations took place in the Philippines as the former POWs were being processed for return to the USA. Information from those interviews was compiled and compared to determine the fate of many POWs that did not survive. When those interviews were pertinent to the case of a deceased POW, copies of the documents were placed in that personís IDPF
    In the case of my father, the first notification of his death was a telegram Mother received on August 31, 1945 stating that Dad had died on January 28, 1945 of acute colitis while a Japanese prisoner of war. Next we received a War Department letter dated 4 September 1945 confirming the telegram and adding the fact that he was being transported to Japan by ship when he died. Then we received a War Department letter dated 6 December 1945 stating "A report has now been received that your husband died on 25 January 1945 instead of 28 January 1945." When I finally saw my fatherís IDPF, I realized that it shows shows the results of many interrogations of POWs soon after they were liberated. The misinformation stating that my father had been in the 23rd FA Regt. (PS) came from an interview with a former POW who was commenting on another John Lewis. The IDPF included several affidavits by POWs that had been on the Brazil Maru. Unfortunately, those interviews did not show my fatherís military unit. The consensus of those IDPF documents was what caused the War Department to change my father's date of death from January 28, 1945 to January 25, 1945.
    I tell you all of this so you will understand that the War Department worked very diligently after the conclusion of World War II to get accurate information to families of deceased POWs. The job certainly was not easy since they had no cooperation from the Japanese and they had to work through a very confusing situation. At the same time, they were trying to get liberated POWs healthy and back home as soon as possible. We should all appreciate the diligent work done by the War Department and we should understand that existing records do contain some errors - an unavoidable situation. I am happy to say that my fatherís inscription on the Tablets of the Missing in the Manila American Cemetery now correctly reads "61st FA Regt. (PA)" and the ABMC database of World War II Prisoners of War has been corrected likewise.