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September 18, 2009

Chico Enterprise Record
November 5, 1945
Myers Father, Son Saga In Japanese Prison Camp Not Soothing Bedtime Story
by Gene Davis
The Myers Father and Son saga covering 44 months in Japanese prisons of war does not sound like a soothing bedtime story. Yet Charles Myers, 49, and his son Leroy, 25, have related only some of the milder details of their imprisonment “because there aren’t enough printable words to describe the real horrors of Japanese sadism.” Myers and his son left Chico in March 1941 for Wake Island where they were to be employed as contractors for the Pacific Naval Air Base. On December 22, 1941 they became prisoners of war along with approximately 1100 other civilian contractors and 500 Marines garrisoned on Wake Island. During their entire internment the Chicans were classified as prisoners of war instead of civilian internees. The Japanese insisted upon this because the Chicans, along with the other Wake Island contractors, had taken up arms against the Nips during the battle for Wake. October 16, 1945 is the date they like to remember best, because on that day they sailed into San Francisco harbor and found their family eagerly awaiting them at the dock. Their homecoming wasn’t without heartbreak. Upon their return the Chicans learned for the first time of the death of Mrs. Charles Myers. Mrs. Myers died in Chico September 2, 1944 without knowing the fate of her husband and son. The Wake Island contractors were not registered as prisoners of war until October 1943. In December 1943 the Red Cross notified the Myers family here that Charles and Leroy had been interned. All mail to and from them was at least one full year in transit. They received their first letters from home in October 1944. The last mail delivered to them before their release was written in Chico in April 1944. The meager messages they were allowed to send from the camps did not reach here until after Mrs. Myers had died. American heroism was never greater than at Wake Island. Charles Myers proudly describes the destruction 1600 contractors and Marines inflicted upon an overwhelming Japanese force. “A few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese planes attacked Wake Island and found us wholly unprepared. The Japanese came in at about 1200 feet elevation. They just appeared all of the sudden from behind a rainsquall and they machine gunned and bombed everything in sight. Those first two days of the air attack we lost more men than during the entire 14 day battle which followed. There were no fortifications on the island and our only guns were a very few batteries of 1917 models. In spite of this the Japanese themselves admit we killed over 5000 of them and sunk seven Japanese boats including one submarine. We could keep no accurate account of the Japanese planes we destroyed but we sent a number of them away smoking. Before the Japanese finally took the island they were forced to move in a good sized navy.”According to Myers, more than 1300 Americans were taken alive on Wake. The contractors were segregated from the Marines and the Chicans, along with 350 other skilled workers, were kept on the island for nine months. During this period they worked 12 hours a day repairing the damage to the airfield and other installations. Japanese mechanics supervised the work and checked carefully to prevent sabotage attempts. The Nips only shipped six new cars and five or six gas fuel trucks to the island. All their other equipment was captured American machinery which they repaired. Myers explained the Japanese seemed to have skilled men for all types of repair work but no one able to operate the American made equipment. Although the captured Americans had little opportunity to sabotage, they did manage to slow up their work so that the Wake Island airfield was never resurfaced for use by the Japanese. (to be continue)

Stu’s Notes: National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 1984. By the President of the United States of America, Ronald Regan. “We accept and remember our obligation to these missing servicemen. Until the POW/MIA issue is resolved, it will remain a matter of the highest national priority. On July 20, 1984 the POW/MIA flag will fly over the White House, the Departments of State and Defense, and the Veterans Administration a a symbol of our unswerving commitment to achieve the fullest possible accounting for the servicemen and civilians”…The date was changed in 2003 by President Bush to the third Friday in Sept.

Tonight, at 7PM, we hope to see a big crowd at the steps of the Veterans Memorial Hall, on Montgomery Street in Oroville when we hold a candle light service in honor of POW/MIA recognition Day The stories about our POW/MIA are still to be found, for many years into the future new information and remains of our 1,000’s of MIA’s will be uncovered. That’s why what we do here in Oroville tonight is so important. Let’s not ever forget them.