Just when you think you have learned or read the worst story or stories about the POWs and the illnesses they suffered, bashings they endured, the deaths, the stench and fifth they lay amongst, the months and years of hoping ……
Omuta Camp 17
The mine was ruled by Mitsui, the camp was ruled by IJA and finally there was the American mafia to deal with. They all used brutality beyond our comprehension.
The Australian POWs had to quickly learn that honesty and the spirit of comradeship which existed in Singapore and on the railway did not exist here. Thieving, cheating and racketeering was the way of life. Wet clothes could never be hung to dry out unless you watched over them. The same for food and utensils in the mess hall.
The American mafia was in fact a group known as the Democrats run by Lt. Edward Little of the US Navy who ran the Mess Hall and Sgt Bennett who was in charge of Camp Duties.
Starving men traded anything and illegal food trading took up much of camp routine.
Corporal Billy Alvin Ayers, 4th Material Squadron 1942 Bombardment Group, US Army Air Corps wrote in his Affidavit:
“Bennett and Little made every effort to win favour of the Japanese prison authorities”
“The two Americans would report minor infractions of Omuta’s fierce rules to the Japanese, causing POWs to suffer severe discipline by the Japanese.”
This was quite probably the real home of ‘King Rat”.
Lt. Little was court-marshalled after the war, however this seems of little compensation for the misery for which he and his thug mates were responsible.
The above information has been gathered from several sources including:
‘No Time for Geishas’ by G.P Adams, Corgi, London 1973
‘On Paths of Ash’ by Robert Holman edited by Peter Thomson, Pier 9, Murdoch Books P/L, NSW 2009.
‘Slaves of the Son of Heaven’ by Roy Whitecross, Kangaroo Press, 2000.