GLADIATOR REUNION GROUP
The Carl Edward "Ed" Creamer Story
1921 - 2012
Carl Edward "Ed" CREAMER, 91, passed away on August 23, 2012. Ed was born in Portis, Kansas on January 26, 1921. He served
in the U.S. Navy from 1940 to 1960 and was attached to VA-106 from 1958 to 1959 at Cecil Field, Florida. On June 3, 1942 while
attached to VP-41, Dutch Harbor, AK, Ed was part of a crew flying in a PBY-5A that was shot down over the Bering Sea. He was
rescued by a Japanese cruiser and spent the rest of the war as a POW. This is his story - In his own words.
1183: My days as a POW in a Japanese prison camp
Carl E. (Ed) Creamer
Charles L.V. Barlow
Robert M. Juarez
Hilton S. Elmore
Deming, New Mexico
Eight men survived the Batann Death March:
2nd Class Aero
1st Class Seaman
Staten Island, New York
Two Men Survived the Invasion of Kiska, Alaska:
Carl E. Creamer
3rd Class AOM
I Survived a Plane Crash in the Bering Sea, Alaska:
I reported for duty at Dutch Harbor, Alaska on May 28, 1942. Less than a month later, June 2nd, we were attacked by Japanese fighter planes. On the same day, I was aboard a Navy PBY aircraft on my way to another assignment, when we were attacked by the Japanese planes. The pilot made a crash landing in the Bering Sea. Soon I found myself in a life raft watching the plane sink in the water. After floating for about four hours I was picked up by a Japanese cruiser. In a few days I arrived in Japan and was taken to a prison camp named Ofuna.
The following three years were interesting but no less rough. They were made interesting by the American pilots routine bombing that kept us on our toes at all times. Their aim was so good that we were bombed out of five different camps. I became what might be called a "Traveling Prisoner of war".
On September 16, 1942, it was my turn to leave Ofuna. The group I was in included five Americans, two Englishmen and two Canadians. The Japanese took us to the Yokohama baseball stadium. That same day 200 Englishmen arrived from Hong Kong. Americans from Kiska, Alaska were also there. (Kiska was one of the two islands at the end of the Aleutian chain that was later invaded by the Japanese. The other was Attu). Americans who survived the Batann Death March also came. Eventually about 250 men called the ball stadium home. Not long after, five civilians from Wake came after the Japan captured that island. They were in very poor condition.
We worked in many different places while at the stadium. We worked as stevedores unloading salt from the barges while others worked in the Yokohama Shipyard. I preferred working in the peanut oil factory. We all soon learned how good peanut oil was on rice. The peanut oil that followed me back to our prison home after work was enjoyed by the other prisoners. It was one of the more healthy foods available to us. Eating peanuts all day helped me stay healthy. Five civilian prisoners had Beriberi and a lot of the peanut oil was used to help them. Overall, the stadium was not a bad place to be, if you could call a POW prison good.
In February 1943, the Japanese moved 38 men to Camp 5. I was among the 38 selected. In this group were 11 Americans and 27 Englishmen (their names are listed at the end of this story). Some of the Englishmen died during the next 2-1/2 years we were imprisoned. All of the Americans survived. It took us over an hour to walk to this new camp. When we arrived, we found that it was a Canadian camp. They had been captured at Singapore and brought to Japan to work in the shipyard. We got along well but during the winter months the snow was knee deep keeping us wet all the time.
The Japanese officer-in-charge was a baseball fan and always wanted to play ball, always yelling for the Americans to come out and play ball with him. During the baseball games, the guards didn't' bother us very much. When we had trouble with them, we would let the Japanese officer-in-charge know and he soon had them down on their knees.
There was much sickness during our stay here, most of it was pneumonia. About 104 Canadians died that year. During all the sickness the Canadians were unable to work, but our 38 men worked through it except for one American who contacted pneumonia. He later recovered and was back to work in a couple of weeks. I was the only American to come down with Yellow Jaundice along with three Canadians. Two of them died. The other Canadian and I were lucky; we lived to tell about it. Through all the sickness and bad weather we were subjected to at Camp 5, we still had our original 38 men.
In April 1944 we moved again after surviving almost two years in three different prison camps. The original 38 of us left Camp 5 for Camp 11 (known as the Shibawa Camp). It was built and maintained by the Shibawa Engineering Works. We still had about an hour to walk to work. In September 1944, 99 Javanese Dutch from the island of Java arrived and on October 2nd, we greeted 50 Australians, and two more Dutchmen. I do not remember where the Australians were when they were captured.
We started getting interpreters in the camp. They were sent back to Japan from America when the war began. Our first one had been a senior at UCLA and was one of their top wrestlers. He was cruel to us and we were glad when he left. Our next was a Mr. Tuda. He was an older man and a very good opera singer. He had lived in the states for many years and was to be married to a girl who was a senior at Ohio State. He was a very well educated person. I talked to him about his stay in Florida before being sent back to Japan. We got along very well during the rest of my time. We eventually established a friendship although under adverse conditions.
During my stay at Camp 11 the sergeant who was second in command chose me to be his cook and housekeeper. His name was Uno. I got along very well with him and ate all the time I was cooking, if I didn't get caught. I also helped out the men who needed more food when I could. I didn't have to walk every day to the plant and back so it helped me stay healthy. I thank Sgt. Uno not only for myself but also for the many men who did not know some of the things he did for them. He was not a saint, but things might have been worse had it not been for him.
Mr. Tuda once said to me, "Creamer, if you think you are watched, you should see how I am being followed. They also watch my mother's house where I stay, night and day". We became friends and talked a lot when we were not in crowded quarters. Tuda came in the mornings and the first thing he would say was "Creamer, let's go down to the restaurant for coffee and donuts". I sure do miss my morning coffee. This man saved me a lot of grief and helped me keep many of the prisoners out of trouble. During this time we met a young boy about 10 years old. He worked at the Shibawa Engineering Works. He said, "Yank when are we going back to the United States? These people here don't even speak English". He had been born in New York. I learned by meeting this boy the Japanese even detained people who were not prisoners and had no business being there.
On November 21, 1944 we received 564 Red Cross packages for 181 men. By this time we had lost 10 men. The 38 men we started out with were still alive. Later, we received one Red Cross Package for two men.
We had Christmas off and were issued a Red Cross package. You quickly realize how wonderful it is when you are in a place where things like that are not common day occurrences. I enjoyed that Christmas more than the other two.
It wasn't long before we started seeing planes. The American planes did bomb runs some distance from us and we were not affected. One night just before we dozed off, we heard a lone plan flying. It sounded as if it would fly right over our camp. Then we heard a bomb begin to scream. We dove under our blankets to keep glass from cutting us if the bomb didn't kill us. The bomb hit about 30 feet beyond our hut and blew out every window in that building. We all jumped up to see who was dead, but no one was hurt. One person had a few scratches. He was in the benjo (toilet) when the bomb hit and it blew him out through the door. We knew it was an American plane by the sound of its engine. We were beginning to see more and more planes as the days went by. We would be outside our barracks in the daytime and see American planes on bombing raids. Many time both day and night the Japanese guards would fix their bayonets and charge at us as if they were going to kill us. They might have, but we never waited long enough to find out. Often, we saw many of the allied planes shot down and a few men parachute out who were captured and became prisoners. We saw engines burn off planes and scream to the ground. We also saw a plan fly over us and take pictures. We could almost reach up and touch it.
One afternoon the sirens started their mournful sound to tell us of in-coming planes. About half a dozen fighter planes started strafing an anti aircraft gun site located a block from our camp. The slugs were whining all around us. We were in our small bomb shelter, which would not keep any bombs from blowing us up but did keep us from being hit by 50-caliber slugs. They kept strafing for about 20 minutes then left. I do not know whether they got rid of the gun or not. The Japanese were very mad at us after this attack. Bullets hitting concrete gives you an eerie feeling, in fact it scares the hell out of you. We found a few 50-caliber slugs in our compound after the raid was over. We had not been bombed up to now, but our peaceful living was coming to an end. We were destined to be traveling fast and far for the next few months.
That night everyone and everything was peaceful. We had no thought of being the bulls-eye for the burning of many acres of Tokyo and Yokohama. Around 11 p.m., the sirens sounded the alert. Alert means planes are in the area, or over Japan. The red alert had not sounded. We were supposed to get up, put on our clothes and be ready to fight fires or leave the area. Fighting fires with a mop and a bucket does not work, especially when planes are dropping tons of firebombs. The bombs were exploding north of us and seemed quite some distance. We felt we would not be bothered, so we didn't finish dressing and sat talking about it when we realized the Yanks were dropping bombs in a circle. It seemed we were about the center of that circle. They were dropping fire bombs. Crates of them broke up as they fell. When the bombs came out of the crates, they would scream on the way down. It scared the Japanese as bad as we POWs. You really want a foxhole to get in and cover up fast. About a mile from our camp was a tire factory. A load of bombs was dropped there to start a fire and every time it died down a little, another load was dropped to start the fire again.
By this time we had put on our clothes and were on the parade grounds with buckets and mops waiting to put out fires if the buildings started to burn. I never got a chance to use the fire equipment because the bombs began to drop all around us. As minutes went by, the noose was tightening. Our Japanese guards were starting to worry. They were bombing within a few blocks of the camp when the guards herded us out of the camp and down the road at a run. We did not even have time to get our clothes and left without blankets or anything. They headed us to a swamp about a half-mile away, the only place where bombs were not falling. When we were a block away, a planeload of bombs hit the camp right where we had been standing. It was raining by this time and we had no blankets or heavy clothes to keep us warm.
We huddled together and tried to keep warm. It was about midnight. The planes did not leave until 5:30 a.m. We settled down and slept a couple of hours, and when the sun came up, the Japanese had us on the march. We headed out around 8 a.m. We marched through the burned out area where every house and business was burned to the ground. We walked about one and a half hours and came to Camp 5, the Canadian camp, again. All day we were very careful what we did and how we acted. The Japanese were mad about the bombing raid; maybe hurt would be the right word. The Yanks had leveled Tokyo. Later on in the day, they finally got around to giving us something to eat.
We stayed at this camp a couple of weeks getting clothes and blankets replaced. Some of the men had been taken by truck to the old camp to pick up what could be used again. Not much was worth bringing back. All of our clothes and blankets were gone and all of the Red Cross packages had been burned.
In a couple of weeks, we were on the march again. Our new camp was deep in the heart of Shibawa Engineering Works and about three quarters of a mile from the front gate. Shibawa had put a fence around a building I will call the barracks. There was a building right on the canal for a bathhouse and toilet. Then about 20 or 30 feet from there was our barracks. On the south side of our building was the canal, which ran from Tokyo Bay to Yokohama shipyard. On the west side was part of the shipyard docking. On the east was Tokyo Bay. North, between all the buildings, was the exit out of the factory. So to leave the camp in case of an air raid, our only way out was three quarters of a mile north to the gate, one and a half miles west between gas tanks on the north and the truck factory, shipyard and other factories on the south. That brought us to an open area. To the north of us were 15 to 20 storage tanks. We were really surrounded.
The Japanese got us settled down and we started back to work doing what we had been doing before. This was around June 1945. The barracks were divided so the guards had the east half and we had the west. The American and English lived by the partition at the center of the building. Next the Javanese, then at the west end, the Australians. By this time we had lost many men through sickness and transfers. Most of our losses were the Javanese. We were down to 130 people from our original 191.
Life went on, working, sleeping and watching planes across the canal bombing the hell out of the peanut oil factory. We had not been bothered yet. We held many safety drills, all of them at night. The Japanese would rout us out of bed, muster us on the parade grounds then march us about two miles until we were completely out of the industrial area to an open space. Then we would muster to see that everyone made it there. We would be there for an hour or so then march back to the camp. We would get back to bed about 3 a.m. This happened three or four times.
On July 3rd, we had eaten, showered, and were waiting for lights out and talking about home and other things when an Englishman made a statement that later turned out to be true. He said, "We are gong to get the hell bombed out of us tomorrow." Conversations stopped and someone asked him why did he think that and he said, "Tomorrow is the 4th of July, Independence Day for you Yanks, and they will level this place."
Lights went out about 9 p.m., and I believe most of us were asleep. Around 11 p.m. the siren sounded the alert. When this happens, we were to put on our clothes and muster on the parade ground and be ready to leave the area. That was why we had all those safety drills. We had just started to put on our clothes when the siren changed to red alert, meaning the planes were coming in to bomb. We jumped under our blankets so the shattered glass would not cut us. We heard the first plane diving on us then heard them pull up, then the bomb screaming. We knew we were done. As it happened, the first bomb hit in the canal, the next in the compound, and the next two hit the buildings in the factory. The first plane hurt no one. We started putting our clothes on again. Most of the men were dressed by the time the second plane started its dive. We dove back under the blankets. We heard those bombs screaming and some yelled, "This is it, goodbye." That bomb hit the building right where the Australians were quartered. About a fourth of the west end of the building was blown apart.
Under this building was a reservoir about half full of water. I believe more people would have been killed except the space between the water and floor took part of the shock. As it was, at least 20 Australians were killed. Some of the Javanese Dutch were also killed. This had taken place in about 10 minutes with two planes bombing us. When the bomb hit the building all the prisoners who were able to walk or crawl headed for the only door left. As I hit that door with about 20 others, another plane was in a dive. Everyone yelled to hit the deck. All the people who were outside hit the deck as a bomb exploded in the compound. A piece of that bomb went over our heads and cut one man's leg off between the knee and thigh. That same piece of bomb fragment tore a hole in a small building about the size of a washtub.
When the plane had gone we jumped up and waited to see what was next, and then we took the wounded man inside. He did not live very long. We had an American doctor in our camp. He had been the doctor for General Douglas MacArthur the Philippines. He was a captain in the Army. He and some of the boys tried to do what they could for the wounded while the planes kept bombing. We were doing this in the dark, searching for people scattered all over the compound, in the water, under the roof and many other places. Some of the crew was marched out of the area and stayed until the planes had gone. The bombing continued until 5 a.m..
That raid lasted about six hours. Not all of these planes came over our camp. They were bombing about one and a half miles in width from east to west and about two miles north. Planes were bombing from the south using the canal as a landmark. We were fortunate not to have lost the entire POW camp. The Yanks were not bombing us, but the buildings about 100 yards beyond us. We just happened to be in the way. As the planes were coming in, we were trying to save as many men as we could. Each time a plane dived on us, we would hit the deck until the metal and dirt quit flying, and then go back to work. We had found 32 men and took them back to the barracks. By noon, 12 of these men were dead. So with the 20 Australians we last when the bomb hit, our total loss was 32 people. Australians and Javanese were the casualties.
When it was light outside, we counted the bomb holes inside our fenced in area and found 20 holes large enough to bury a one-and-a-half ton truck. That does not count the ones that hit the canal. About 25 or 30 runs had come in directly over out barracks that night. The Yanks lowered the boom on the shipyard, Shibawa, the truck company and a couple of other companies. North of us, many of the tanks had been destroyed. Also, around those tanks was a POW camp: 29 Americans were killed there during the raid. We did not learn there was a camp there until after the raid. Our 11 Americans, and a doctor we picked up along the way, were still alive.
We stayed in this camp about three or four days to account for all the prisoners. When all the dead were identified, the Japanese made us take them across the canal to the Yokohama side and cremate them. I did not make the trip. That was one job I could do without.
Now the traveling prisoner is ready for a new camp; always heading for a new camp site. If it wasn't for being a prisoner, I could have been on a camping trip. We didn't have to march this time. I believe Shibawa provided the trucks to take us to our new camp. It was quite a distance from Shibawa and in an area that had not been bombed. The site was a residential area surrounded by small hills on the south. A large cave was in one of the hills. The camp had two barracks, one on the north side for us and one on the south side for the guard quarters. It also had a cookhouse, bathhouse and toilet. There was a large parade ground between the two barracks. We were a long distance from any industrial area so we didn't have much to do. It was the first time in three years that we had that much time to ourselves.
One day, a Japanese told us about many people getting killed by two huge bombs. He said that American people were very bad to kill so many people. We finally got one of the Japanese newspapers and found that two atomic bombs had been dropped.
The Japanese did not mistreat us at this time, but we knew something was in the air. One morning we got up and went outside for exercise; the weather was overcast at about 1000 feet. It was as if a blanket had been thrown over us. There was no sunshine whatsoever. A little later we heard many aircraft overhead. We had no idea whose planes these were or why they were in the area. Since there was no bombing and we were not sure what to think. The next day was again overcast. We could not see the planes, but they were up there, really buzzing around. No bombs, no guns, and it was very disturbing not knowing what was going on. We were wondering if we were going to be blown out of another camp when the overcast lifted. We kept quiet and careful about our actions. Maybe that helped because this became our last camp.
About 11 a.m. were called out for muster. The Japanese were all in their dress uniforms and swords. Some of the guards were putting a table and tablecloth with a radio in the parade grounds. After muster we were marched to the cave. One guard stayed with us standing outside. While we were waiting to see what was going to happen, one of the Javanese Dutch said that the Japanese were getting ready to surrender. When the radio started blaring, all the Japanese came to attention. Every time something was said, they would salute and bow. Finally, the speech was over. We were told to come out of the cave. We went down to the parade ground to wait and hear what had been said over the radio. The officer-in-charge told us how good the Japanese had treated us during our stay and that now the war was over and we should be friends. Then he told us that all the guns had been removed from the camp. The weapons in camp would be swords and bayonets for our own safety.
That is when our doctor took over the camp. The Japanese gave us paint and brushes to paint PW on the roofs of our buildings to identify that we were prisoners of war and not to bomb us. While we were painting PW, we got the idea to send the pilots a message requesting coffee, sugar and cream. The next day our sign was answered. These items were already coming in by the time we got out of bed. There must have been a daylight launch from the carriers. The fighter pilots had put the items in the cockpit. Coming low and slow, they flipped the plane upside down and here came coffee for breakfast! This went on for almost two days. We finally had to mark out coffee, cream and sugar. The compound was getting full of these items, which had broken when hitting the ground, but we drank coffee all day and night. It sure was good!
Later torpedo bombers started coming in with sea bags stuffed with food, candy, newspapers, notes, clothes, smokes and whatever they could get their hands on. Each plane had four sea bags in the bomb bay. They just kept coming all day long. Then the big birds started dropping food and clothing on chutes. These landed all over the hills. For two days we hauled packages, parcels and boxes. We looked as though we were a supply depot. We had enough shoes to outfit an army. We stuffed ourselves. We made donuts and everything we could think of. We made pancakes with sugar syrup. For us, it was like Thanksgiving.
Then came the day we had waited for so many days and nights. We were going home or at least we were going out to the ships in Tokyo Bay. We all cleaned up with a shave and a shower, got our gear tied up that we were taking with us and mustered in the compound. We were waiting for the Japanese bus to pick us up and take us to the docks. The bus was late and while standing and waiting we talked about home and other things.
Soon a large plane marked with a red cross appeared overhead. This plane was flying toward the south, wiggling its wings in a salute, and kept on going. It was such a pretty sight to see our planes without worrying if one of the bombs would be yours. The pilot circled the plane back north of us and headed back south directly to our camp. No one had any idea what would happen in the next few minutes. Those 90 plus men standing and watching came about as close to losing their lives as we did when bombs dropped.
All at once the bomb bay doors opened and what looked like a house was a large platform with food and clothes. The plane was low and directly above us. The parachutes snatched boxes of canned goods and clothing off the platform. The chutes tore loose from the platform of canned goods, which had six or seven boxes each. We were stunned; no one could move. There was no place to run and hide. It was to late to try for the gate into the hills. All the Japanese were in their office when about six cases of canned peas went through the roof into the office where they were having tea. All of us were running around bumping into each other, dodging cartons of whatever came down. The Japanese officers came out of their building like scared rats, yelling and asking what was going on. They got out in the compound just in time to see the finish of the drop. Only one person was hurt. A Red Cross medical kit hit Javanese Dutch on the wrist and broke it. While all this was going on, one of our boys made the statement "Hell, the Yanks couldn't kill us all with bombs so they tried it with Red Cross supplies. We fooled them. We are still among the living!”
The bus finally arrived. We didn't pick up the material that was dropped. We did take the medical kit. The doctor wrapped up the injured man's broken arm. We arrived at the docks and what a sight to see! All those American ships anchored in Tokyo Bay. There were many landing craft at the docks. We were standing waiting for someone to tell us what to do when we heard a voice say "Get in the damn boats, what do you need a special invitation?" When I got in the barge I asked one of the sailors who that was doing the yelling. He said "Aw, that was only Bull Halsey." I said, "OK, let him yell." I was not about to say anything about my favorite sea going sailor.
On the hospital ship we encountered choppy waters. One time we would be looking at the deck and next we would be looking at the keel. It reminded us of being in the Bering Sea when the Japanese cruiser picked us up. Finally they lowered the stretchers down one at a time and we were finally aboard the ship, and started to change clothes. They wanted to burn ours because of the bugs. We stayed on the hospital ship overnight. We slept on the top deck out under the stars and with a full belly. This is where 12 Americans who had been through a lot of tough days and nights parted company.
MacArthur and Bull Halsey got into an argument about taking the prisoners out of the camps before the armistice was sighed on the battleship Missouri. Finally, Halsey told MacArthur to do as he damned well pleased with his Army and Air Force and the Navy would take care of everyone else. And that is just what happened. The next day I was sent with some of the others who were fit to travel.... ones who did not need hospitalization. We were taken to an airfield in Japan and put on a plane for the United States and home. The pilot asked if we would like to see Tokyo and Yokohama from the air. We agreed that we needed to see what was left of the area we had been bombed out of so many times. What a bare black looking place. Then we talked the pilot into flying over Mount Fuji.
I arrived at the naval hospital in Oakland, California on September 10th. I went to Seattle Naval Hospital next and stayed there until February 1946. I returned to duty as Seattle Naval Air Station. I met many of the men who had been with Squadron VP-41. I stayed in the Navy until I retired in 1960 then said goodbye. Twenty years was enough for me. Or so I thought. Many times since then I would have been very happy to go back.
I always assumed that the Canadians or English were the hardest people, but three years in confinement taught me the Americans were far superior.
Eleven Americans left the Stadium Camp in February 1943, and were together until August 1945 when we went our separate ways to return to our families.