Everybody Has a Story: Ship's freezer stored only food, fortunately

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In 1949, I was a soldier stationed in Tokyo, Japan. I was an old-timer, as I had been in the last part of World War II. I was 23 years old. My job at the time was mess sergeant.

One day, I was ordered to draw rations for 30 soldiers for a two-week trip. I was told to board a ship in Yokohama ready to go. We left the next morning at first light.

The colonel in charge had a little conference with me. He wanted to make sure we had enough groceries for the whole trip and didn’t eat everything up, because then what would we do?

The whole trip was a hush-hush deal. The ship’s captain and crew were Japanese. I guessed the ship’s captain knew where we were going, as on the fifth day, early in the morning, I could see land. We were in Shanghai, China. The Communist troops were about to take the whole city. Our mission? “Pick up a shipload of Japanese army war criminals that were there in prison.”

Right away, the opposing Nationalist Chinese Army marched the prisoners down to the ship. We were out of there.

We had no trouble with our prisoners during the trip back to Japan, as they were very happy to be returning and reuniting with their families.

Some of the prisoners were old and feeble. I thought maybe some might die before we reached Japan and I didn’t want that — as the colonel had told me that if any died, the dead would be put in my walk-in freezer. That would really be something, a freezer with dead bodies mixed with my frozen chicken and beef.

We took the prisoners to Yokohama. Some went to prisons in Japan, but I think most of them were freed and went home to their families.

The men of my unit asked me where I had been. I told them I’d been on a little trip to Shanghai!


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