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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

POW Camp At Yokohama Baseball Stadium

I'm not going to look at every single Japanese WW2 POW (prisoner-of-war) camp - just as I'm not going to examine every single Japanese internment camp in the U.S. or Canada or wherever... one description is enough of each for us all to 'get the point', right?

Now, having said that, why am I doing a second review of another Japanese POW 'camp'? Just because I found the actual site to be interesting.

The camp was known as the Yokohama Branch Camp (aka Tokyo 3-B), and is, if you look at the photo above, formerly the Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama Park in Yokohama-shi in Kanagawa-ken.

Originally called the Yokohama POW camp when it opened on September 12, 1942, it was renamed as the Tokyo POW camp No. 2-B a couple of weeks later on September 25, 1942.

It was renamed, yet again, as Tokyo No. 3-B on August 1, 1943.

This camp was the internment center for POW used by the Japanese to house some slave labor, working as stevedores (on the docks and nearby railroads), as well as performing work at an electric motor camp.

Above is a hand-drawn map, incorrectly designating the camp as No. 3-D. It was and IS known as No. 3-B.

Although you can't tell from the drawing, but can from the photograph above, the baseball stadium is enclosed. The POW barracks were placed under the stands - and you can see there was a large area just for POW officers.

It is know that seven POWs died while at No. 3-B... but I can't tell you how or why.

The camp was closed (not liberated) on May 1, 1944, when the Japanese moved the POWs to Nisshin Oil Branch Camp, Yokohama Fireproof Brick Dispatched Camp and Yokohama Ship Loading Dispatched Camp.

The forced labor, however, continued, with the POWs used to perform manual labor for the Yokohama Ship Loading Company.

When the war was officially over, the United States Military opened up Camp No. 3-B to utilize it as a motor pool.

So... what do we know about the baseball stadium? I'm a baseball fan, as well as a not-quite rookie when it comes to WWII... so this is a singular topic of interest to me.

I suppose that somewhere - maybe in a real book - there is a plethora of information out there, but I'm not privy to it at this juncture.

Everything below, was found HERE, at

God help us all, but the when the actual sporting facility was constructed in 1876, it was not for baseball, but rather as a cricket pitch for gaijin (foreigners) - to which we can all assume that means the Brits.

It's funny… I think a three-hour baseball game is too long - but damn… cricket? How many days is that thing going on for?

What was the original name of the cricket field? I'm not sure. I think it might have simply been known as Yokohama Park.

Back in the 1870s, this area of Yokohama was part of the Western extraterritorial zone.

The Western extraterri-what now?

Apparently, because Japan was either being bullied or really thought it was a great idea, it decided in 1858 to essentially provide a 'most favored nation' title and extend extraterritoriality via treaties to: the U.S., U.K., France, Netherlands, and Russia.

What is extraterritoriality? Well… basically within these zones, those people of foreign country origin were exempt from local Japanese law - but were still under jurisdiction of consular courts via their own country. So it wasn't complete lawlessness.

Basically, if such a thing existed today, the Toyota executive from the U.S., Julie Hamp, would have not been guilty of smuggling illegal narcotics into the country - but she did and she is. Read full story HERE.

Japan soon wised up, and by 1899, the extraterritoriality courtesy extended to the above countries (and the German Empire) were all eliminated - though treaties for further business and commerce were agreed upon for all.

That's Not Cricket!
By 1896, the popularity of baseball had hit Japan, and on May 23, the Yokohama Park became the site of the first ever international game as the Japanese Ichiko team of First High School of Tokyo defeated the U.S. team from the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club, 29-4.

Really - 29-4? Serves the U.S. right for making up all that crap about Abner Doubleday inventing baseball… you know he didn't right? He may never even have played a baseball game in his life… OMG, is Cooperstown a sham? Maybe, though the majority of the players are probably cool. I'm just saying that the foundation of the origin of the game is based upon a lie… and like Pete Rose would say, "I'd bet $5,000 that's true."

Despite the extraterritorial zone being eliminated earlier, the park still belonged to foreign interests, but was given (or returned) to Japan in 1909.

At that time, Yokohama Park Stadium was built to house real baseball games.

In 1923, the Great Kanto earthquake caused the stadium to collapse, but it was rebuilt by 1929 - that was one bad mamma-jamma earthquake…it was a 7.9-er.

On November 18, 1934, a team of American MLB (Major League Baseball) All-Stars played a game at the stadium against the All-Nippon team, gaining a bit of revenge by trouncing the Japanese 21-4.

The American team consisted of:
Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmy Foxx, Rabbit McNair, Babe Ruth, Earl Averill, Bing Miller, Moe Berg, Frankie Hayes (he replaced Charlie - don't call him Chuck - Berry who developed appendicitis on route to Japan in Vancouver) and Harold Warstler. Pitchers: Lefty Gomez, Earl Whitehill, Joe Cascarella and Clint Brown. Lefty O'Doul was the coach and the great Connie Mack was sent along as an over-seer.

As for the Japanese team - that's worthy of a blog entry all its own - so tomorrow… those that hate baseball might still want to stick around because there's MURDER involved. Really.

The Japanese military took over the stadium (and grounds) in 1943... and you already know what happened there by reading the material above the baseball talk.

Oh… just for reference, Japan continued to play a professional baseball circuit right through the war - only pausing in 1945 when it became obvious it was losing the war. But… it was business as usual in 1946 - something I bet the U.S. occupying forces thought would help stabilize morale amongst the citizenry.

As mentioned, the U.S. military had taken over the stadium to use as a motor pool, but that didn't last very long at all.

Renaming the stadium Lou Gehrig Stadium (late of the New York Yankees), I'm sure, had he been alive, he would still have considered himself the luckiest man-nan-nan-nan on the face of this Earth-erth-erth-erth.

On August 17, 1948, the stadium was the site of the first night game between two professional teams. The Chunichi Dragons defeated the Yomiuri Giants (they are like the New York Yankees of Japan (hate'em!) 3-2.

Despite Japanese professional ball being played there, this stadium was still controlled by the U.S.

It wasn't until the U.S. officially surrendered its occupation of Japan in 1952, that control of the stadium was returned to the city of Yokohama.

Perhaps in honor of turning over a new leaf, the stadium was renamed to Yokohama Peace Park Baseball Field/Stadium in 1955, perhaps because the good people of Yokohama also hated the New York Yankees.

Baseball - mostly amateur - was played there until 1977. The stadium's upper deck had been closed off since 1970 due to structural weakness - old age.

Professionally... the Taiyo Whales wanted to moved from their stadium in nearby Kawasaki-shi, wanting to build a brand new stadium... its choice of construction site was right where the Yokohama Peace Stadium stood slowly crumbling.

In April of 1977, the stadium was torn down, and the new 30,000 seat Yokohama Stadium (see below) was built - currently home to the Yokohama Bay Stars professional baseball club.

Peace out,
Andrew Joseph

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