8/20/2006

Jack Edwards - Hellhole of Kinkaseki (金瓜石)

Englishman Jack Edwards who survived 3.5 years of internment at a prisoner of war camp located in Kinkaseki, Taiwan (金瓜石) passed away on August 13, 2006.
In his book, Banzai You Bastards, Mr. Edwards described conditions at the Kinkaseki(金瓜石) camp and mine, where prisoners slaved at depths Taiwanese miners refused to go, and where they were maimed and killed in droves. According to his account, POWs were marched out at 7:00 each morning to the brow of the mountain overlooking the Taiwan Strait. They then ascended 831 steps to the entrance of the mine. From there, they went down from an altitude of 800 feet to below sea level. Picking and scraping to the light of weak carbine lamps attached to cardboard hats, POWs worked 12-hour days for stretches of 10 days at a time. Temperatures inside hovered around 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius). In some chutes, air quality was so bad (the mines were not ventilated) that POWs could only work five to six minutes before passing out.
"We would try to finish five baskets of ore each. By the time you reached the fifth basket your head would be drumming as you gasped for breath, sweat streaming from your body. You then flung down your chunkel and your basket and staggered to the ladder to be replaced by your two mates. With your heart pounding, your one thought was to get at the wat that fill the drain along the bogie rail. Here you sat, scooping up this filthy, sulfurous water and pouring it over your trunk as the steam rose from your body. You used the filthy sweat rag, now dyed yellow by constant immersion in the acid impregnated water, to wipe your face (Edwards 95-6)."

Japanese and Taiwanese guards separated the prisoners into teams of four. Each day, the guards pushed for the production of twenty-four bogeys (trolleys around three shopping carts deep) of good copper-ore. Determining the quality of the copper-ore was left to the discretion of a Taiwanese checker. Any team missing this quota would be lined up and beaten with the handle of a sledgehammer. Even worse, if imaginable, slackers were put on half-rations.

As provided for in Article 50 of the Geneva Conventions (those which Japan ratified in 1926) "POWs may be compelled to do only such work as is included in the following classes.... Industries connected with the production or the extraction of raw materials, and manufacturing industries, with the exception of metallurgical." In the extraction of copper, the inmates of Kinkaseki (金瓜石) specifically engaged in the "metallurgical." Furthermore, for the three years POWs worked the mines, medical attention was not permitted inside the premises once. Without exception, POWs were barred from departing before 6:00pm, even in cases of illness, injury of death.

It seems that multinational corporations such as Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Nippon Steel and Sumitomo in Japan, Ford, General Electric and Boeing in the United States or Volkswagen in Germany profited from WWII. At Kinkesaki, the main culprit was (besides the Japanese government and military) Nippon Kogyo Copper Mine Company, later purchased by one of Japan's largest mineral firms, the Japan Energy Corporation. Japan Energy's company profile is vague today on the details of the transaction. Although the date appears to be sometime in the mid-eighties, the company has yet to compensate anyone. Following the Second World War up until his passing on August 13, 2006, Jack Edwards fought for compensation and to expose these slave-traders.
Patrick Cowsill

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