I read the story of Sam Mihara written by Bob Rodriguez and it sparked me to write about my grandfather's experience as a prisoner of war. His name was Henry J. Schmidt, born in …
I read the story of Sam Mihara written by Bob Rodriguez and it sparked me to write about my grandfather's experience as a prisoner of war. His name was Henry J. Schmidt, born in Lovell. His nephew Pat became the editor of the Lovell Chronicle.
Henry became a POW from Wake Island after the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor.
“In 1939 the U.S. Navy began construction of an air and submarine base; this was half completed when Wake was attacked and occupied by Japanese forces in December 1941. The Battle of Wake Island resulted in the capture of more than 1,600 U.S. troops by the Japanese,” as noted in Britannica online.
He too received a small amount of food, usually rotted and marked by infestations of insects or rodents if he received any at all. Thank God for the Red Cross food care packages but unfortunately most food stuffs were confiscated by the Japanese, even the Red Cross medical supplies, which left only sparing amounts of aspirin and iodine.
And of course the Americans were expected to work six 10-hour days for the Japanese cause despite starving. This was against the Geneva Convention but soldiers voiced their concerns to no avail as the onslaught continued. Many men starved to death, suffered beriberi and/or lack of niacin causing death. If this wasn’t enough, many men were beaten, shot and beheaded. A notorious Japanese man was called “Beast from the East” from his fellow guards.
There were two other camps for POW’s that were known to be of worse conditions than Wake Island. Two books I recommend are “Tears in the Darkness” by Micheal Norman and “Victory in Defeat” by Gregory Urwin.
Despite all these atrocities my grandfather established an agreement with one of the guards that if he and his other POW’s were treated better, Henry would help his son through college in the states. The guard agreed and the son’s name was Paul Kasa. What amazing care Henry had and he was a man of his word.