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November 12, 2010

Reflections and Lessons
The Glory of Victory
by Bob Wolfersberger

From Defeat and slavery to victory and freedom: I and about 199 other American POW’s, were living and working in the leather tannery which was a satellite camp on the opposite side of the city from the main Mukden camp. One mid-afternoon in August of 1945 we were told to quit work and return to our living quarters which adjoined the tannery. We marched from the tannery without being searched, which was very unusual! We were then told that we were returning to the main camp and that we were to take our possessions with us. I can’t remember exactly which hand I carried them in. At that instance, I and, I’m sure, most other POW’s were wondering if the war was over. Did America lose? Did Japan declare a cease-fire? Was this “our” end? Since we POWs were “disposable,” were we all “going” together? The mind can depict all kinds of sequences at a time like we were in! So we were not to talk or signal to anyone along the way as we rode, standing up, in a Japanese stake-bed army truck. When we arrived, we were told that the war was over and that we dropped the atom bomb. This sounded to me like the “Adam” bomb, and I marveled at the man, “Adam,” who made a super bomb that ended the war!!! Then the roller coaster of emotions and feelings began! The experience of transformation from defeated soldiers and confined slaves to free men was indescribable. Even though we were still at that moment and behind brick walls, unable to go anywhere, we were “free.” We were unbound from enemy persecution and free to gather in groups to talk and just fellowship with one another in an environment different than moments before. One will never fully appreciate his freedom until it is taken or severely limited. Japanese Surrender POW camp On August 14, 1945 at 10 AM, a lone American B-24 appeared near the POW camp and dropped five American military men who parachuted into a field adjacent to the camp. As the Japanese camp guards surrounded them, the paratroopers presented them with a written directive signed by the Emperor of Japan. This communiqué instructed the Japanese commander to surrender the camp and all the prisoners of war. The Emperor’s directive was immediately delivered to the camp commander. At approximately 12 noon, August 14 1945, the Japanese Emperor, for the first time ever, addressed the Japanese people by radio. He informed those in Japan, Korea, Manchuria and elsewhere that he was surrendering to the Allied powers immediately followed the broadcast. The camp at Mukden had approximately twelve hundred prisoners, fifteen of which were general officers. General Wainwright and General Wavell, who had been the British commander in Singapore when it surrendered to the Japanese, were imprisoned in a satellite camp that was a short distance from the main camp in Mukden.

We left off with Bob Wolfersberger last week headed for Bataan to fight the Japanese who were sure to invade, and that after 4 months of fighting they had to surrender totally out of everything half starved basically at the “end of the trail” as depicted of the native American on his worn out horse. That’s what their plight reminds me of. They were loaded on ships at Manila first stop Pusan Korea, then 3 days 4 nights to Manchuria China. Bob was below deck when he saw 2 torpedoes coming their way, luckily the Japanese captain was able to dodge them. They ended up at a prison camp named Mukden. Once they were bombed by American B-29’s the factories nearby but unintentionally a crazy bomb hit their camp and killed several and wounded many. The prisoners cheered the attackers, It gave them great hope that America was still in the war. The Stories by Bob the last two weeks were from a book of his good friend and fellow POW – The Biography of John S. Koot written by John S. Fluder and Patrica Shaffer. John was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his bravery at Battan. Bob had met John at his first POW camp, Camp O’Donald and found out they had gone to the same high school in Windber, Pennsylvania. They became good friends after the war and kept in touch at reunions.