Formosa, September 6th 1945

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Enigma1003, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    (Remembering Today) September 6th 1945, repatriation day for those POWs interned on Formosa.
    The previous day, the destroyers USS Kretchmer and USS Thomas J Gary had made their way through the minefield at Keelung harbour in northern Formosa (Taiwan).
    All the POWs had been bought from various camps on the island to a transit camp near Taipei, and the evacuation had commenced. The two destroyers had taken the men out into the bay where the aircraft carriers USS Block Island and USS Santee were at anchor awaiting them. It proved to be a hazardous task transferring the men who were in extremely weak condition, and the majority were near skeletons weighing less than 5 stone.
    On September 6th, two more destroyers joined the operation, USS Finch and USS Brister, and by midday all but 98 POWs had been safely loaded aboard their freedom ships. The 98 men plus medics were considered to ill to travel and were to follow on the New Zealand Hospital Ship Maunganui a few days later.
    Many of the crew are reported as being in tears at seeing the condition of the men with quotes such as
    “Geez, what have the bastards done to you”,
    All six ships then sailed for Manila, and the care the men received from the crews during the voyage is ingrained in their memories and history books.
    From Manila the journey home was varied, with many going Bombay-Suez, other going Hawaii-Vancouver-(train) New York, or Hawaii-San Francisco-(train) New York, and some via Australia or New Zealand.

    September 6th, a day the men will never forget. Thanks Uncle Sams Boys.
    Keelung Docks (BI).jpg formosa_dock5a (Bri).png formosa_dock9 (Bri).jpg 30.F451.jpg 23.F451.jpg Happy on hanger deck (BI).jpg


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  2. 716thresearcher

    716thresearcher Junior Member

    Hello all,

    In hope that this thread is still active, I am posting a comment here.

    My father was a Sonarman second class on the USS Brister DE327 at the time and was a participant in this rescue. The memories of the appearance and condition of the prisoners never left him.

    I have attached a reference to an article from Naval History Magazine which provides additional historical details of the planning and execution of the rescue. Also attached is an After Action report submitted by the CO of the USS Brister describing (albeit in bare-bones naval naval bureaucratese) the circumstances of the rescue.

    As a final personal note, I'd like to mention that either shortly before or after this rescue, my father visited the temporary grave of his brother (my uncle Ed), who had been killed barely eight months earlier at San Manuel in the Philippines. I have posted comments and pictures related to my uncle elsewhere in another forum on this excellent website.

    Charting a Course toward Rescue
    Naval History Magazine - October 2013 Volume 27, Number 5

    By Lieutenant Colonel Tom C. McKenney, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

    If there are any relatives of the former prisoners, or relatives of any of the personnel attached to the USS Brister at that time, please feel free to comment or get in touch.


    Attached Files:

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  3. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    My Uncle George was, apparently, one of the 98 mentioned by Enigma in post #1. His experience was such that he never even told his family he had been on Formosa; they all thought he had been kept at Singapore!
  4. 716thresearcher

    716thresearcher Junior Member

    Did you ever learn of the details of his repatriation?
  5. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Whilst I can't be absolutely certain, my understanding is that he was evacuated a short time later by a New Zealand Hospital Ship that took him and others to the Philippines. From there they were shipped to Canada, across Canada by train and then by ship to Southampton then train to London (which is where my Father and Grandfather - George's brother and Father - met him). At that stage they were able to update him with several years of family news (some of it neutral and some bad - enough said, the rest is too personal for a Public Forum).

    Now for Uncle George's version: remember we all thought even until just a couple or so years ago (itself many years after he died) that he had been kept on Singapore. Uncle George told me and other family members that he went to Australia to be fattened up and then brought to Southampton. Talk about 'white lies'. One thing that always puzzled me - I was quite close to him - was why would he be moved all the way from Singapore to Australia to be fattened up? Why not just let him recover - he said he weighed less than six stone when freed - and then ship him from Singapore to the UK. We all now know the real reason. Uncle George and all those other men RIP.
  6. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    are you happy to share Uncle Georges name with us. I have gathered some repatriation details of Formosa over the years.
  7. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    Are you aware that the list of the 50 men carried onboard Brister to Manila, has still not been located in NARA files? (Lists have been found for Kretchmer, Gary, Finch and Block Island) If you ever come across it, it would help a chapter of the story.
    Did your Dad have any other photos of the repatriation apart from those already posted on internet?
  8. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron


    Good to hear from you.

    His name was William George Pannell

    You may remember my thread 'Does anyone here speak Japanese' after which you very kindly placed poppy crosses at the Kinkaseki and other memorials when you visited Taiwan.

    Does anyone here speak Japanese?

    Best regards
  9. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    Sorry, memory lousy.

    Since that time have found the official copy of passengers arriving in Wellington with 'Uncle George' listed. Not a particularly clear photo, but proof. Not found anything to say he moved onto Australia.
    Mike MG-13 ROSTER-6 P1490775.jpg
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  10. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron


    That's incredible information. Sincere thanks for posting. I can only guess he was being 'lazy with the truth'. Didn't realise he actually went as far as New Zealand!

    What do the letter MW mean re his Classification?

    Also, which ship would that have been? Must admit I'm getting confused between going to the Phillipines, then New Zealand etc etc. One day I will hopefully know his entire route from Formosa back to the UK.

    Thanks again
  11. 716thresearcher

    716thresearcher Junior Member

    Hello again,

    Re your first question to me in the above post: No, I wasn't aware that the relevant Brister information was missing from the NARA files; thanks for that insight. It may still be possible to obtain the information from the USS Brister's deck logs. Sometimes it can be troublesome to go directly to NARA catalogs for information, but it may be possible to get at it indirectly through the Naval Heritage and Historical Command (NHHC) which initially collects ships' deck logs and subsequently hands them off at some point to NARA. You can try the NHHC yourself, but as a non-US citizen I'm uncertain if you would be permitted to file a Freedom of Information request for the information. (To be sure, given the state of the US government as of this writing, it would likely be problematic for me as well.) I intended to request the relevant logs myself in the course of researching my father's role in these and other events. I'll give it a shot, and I will be sure to post any relevant findings if and when I get them.

    As mentioned in the first post above, it was the New Zealand hospital ship Maunganui that eventually evacuated the liberated POWs who were too sick to be moved until later. One thing is not clear to me -- is the document above the Maunganui's official manifest/muster roll? Also, is there a way to access the ship's logs? If so, relevant pages from the logs should provide clues as to the disposition of the men once they arrived in New Zealand. That is, were they transferred to another ship, to a hospital, etc.

    To answer your second question: To my knowledge, my father took no photos himself. He had vivid recollections, such as his and his shipmates' shock at the condition of the prisoners, and that his ship was at battle stations on the approach to the harbor. He also mentioned that his ship had been alerted to the presence of shore batteries in the area. It was unclear at the time whether or not the Japanese manning them had gotten word of the surrender, or if they had, whether or not they would choose to abide by it. He never mentioned that his ship and others had unknowingly steamed through a minefield.

    I'm happy to see that so much information from the past is coming to light. The stories of these brave souls deserve to be known and the lessons from their experiences should never be forgotten. At ease and RIP to them.

    I'm looking forward to reading and learning more about them. Thanks.
  12. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    The ship is still the HMNZHS Maunganui. He stayed onboard when arriving Manila, and then sailed onto Wellington.
    I am not certain what the code letters mean, but have seen the classification of either 'walking' or 'cot' referred to previously. MW and MC still leaves a couple more unanswered.
    I do know that he DID NOT travel to Southampton on the Maunganui as he is not on that ports arrival list.
  13. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Thanks for your reply. The mystery deepens! I'm now wondering, of course, how he got from Wellington to the UK. Family lore says he arrived in Southampton and then got a train up to London which is where he was met by relatives (reference my earlier post).
  14. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Looking at the medical diagnosis I would guess that the Classifications stand for Surgical Cot (SC), Surgical Walking (SW), Medical Cot (MC) and Medical Walking (MW).

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  15. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    Thanks Tim,
    Thats another bit solved

  16. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    Hi 716,
    Many thanks for your offer to see if there might be a chance of getting the list of POWs onboard Brister.

    You stated ” He never mentioned that his ship and others had unknowingly steamed through a minefield.”, but I never said that.

    A Japanese pilot boat came out to meet them and guided them through the minefield.

    A few years ago I had a subscription with Fold3 which gave some useful information on the 6 ships involved in the repatriation task force. I have never tried NHHC, or even heard of them, perhaps that’s a step too far for me.

    Both hospital ships, the Maunganui and the Tjitjalengka arrived almost together, and POWs were sent to 4 or 5 locations. (including when they later docked at Littleton, Auckland) . The Tji had more Australians onboard, so some from Maunganui transferred to Tji and this then sailed onto Sydney. (Maybe also some UK, but no records yet found, and Australia was still refusing to accept any UK POWs at this time)
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  17. 716thresearcher

    716thresearcher Junior Member

    In my post above, what I meant was it was my father who never mentioned the minefield. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

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