Saitama Civilian Internment Camps

From Vatican City,
Despatch No. 197,
June 11, 1943

Subject: Visits of Apostolic Delegate to
Camps Urawa and Sumire, Japan.

May 29, 1943
No. 66087

Apostolic Delegate visited the camps of Urawa, for men, and Sumire, for women, where he talked with the internees and distributed gifts.

At Sumire, there were 80 Nuns of different religious institutions and some 30 women, mainly Protestant missionaries, teachers, etc.

At Urawa there were about 40 Priests and about 20 laymen.

The delegate states that according to what he heard and saw on his visits, and also according to what he heard in talks with delegates from the Protecting Power, the Japanese authorities are doing everything possible for the civilians in these camps. In general the internees seem to be in good physical condition and are satisfied with the way they are being treated.

Delegate plans shortly to begin a series of visits to prisoner of war camps in the vicinity of Tokyo and Kobe. Already games and books have been sent to the different camps where they were distributed by the authorities in charge.

aif .- 7/24/43

#2 Urawa
March 18, 1943

The camp is located northwest of Tokyo. It was opened October 5, 1942. It is housed in one building with several bedrooms, three rooms for the sick and a large dining room and living room, also there are reading rooms and a chapel. The bathroom is Japanese style, kitchen is well equipped and food well prepared but insufficient. Cash relief from the Protecting Power has been allowed. Internees are allowed to buy milk, bread and butter from the outside. The only heat is a charcoal fire in the reading room. Several protests have been made on insufficient food and lack of heat. Visitors allowed but only Japanese can be spoken. Internees are well treated.



Visited on January 28, 1944
by MMr. M. Pestalozzi and H.C. Angst

MAIL ADDRESS:Urawa-shi, Kamikizaki, 563
Saitama Prefecture.
OPENED:October 1, 1942.
STRENGTH ON DAY OF VISIT:56 - All males, whereof :
Total . . . . .56
Occupation unknown
34 (whereof 30 Canadians)
7 (all Greeks)
ORIGIN:37 from Sumire Camp
26 from Sendai Camp
3 from Miyoshi Camp
which camps have been closed since.
AGE:Minimum 31; Maximum 78
INTERNEES' REPRESENTATIVE:Leopold Marescaux, British, called camp secretary, assisted by 5 leaders, each representing 1 of 5 remaining nationality groups.
DESCRIPTION OF CAMP:Isolated location in outskirts of Urawa City, healthy, fertile farm region.
Former Catholic Mission School.
TOTAL CAMP AREA:3,300 sq. meters
BUILDING AREA:990 sq. meters
ENCLOSURE:Low bamboo fence
BUILDING:Two-storied, approximately 8 years old structure of wood and plaster with tiled roof.
LIGHT:Sufficient day and electric light.
WATER SUPPLY:By power pump from well within camp.
DORMITORIES:Accommodating from 1 to maximum 4 men; rather crowded; lack of closet space and shelves evident.
BEDDING:Internees have beds with bedding partly brought along, partly supplied by camp authorities. Number of blankets and quilts apparently sufficient.
INTERPRETER:Not required as internees proficient in Japanese; therefore, no language difficulties.
Orders given in Japanese.

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(Prepared by Rev. Paul S. Mayer)

Name and exact location of camp with description of distinguishing features or surroundings (so as to be identifiable from the air):

Number of internees broken down by sexes, nationality, race, age groups.


The Saitama Prefecture Internment Camp was established on October 5, 1942. On that day thirty-six men were transferred in two buses from the Sumire Camp, located at Denenchofu, Setagaya Ku, Tokyo. The new camp was called Saitama Ken Yokuryujo in Japanese or Saitama Prefecture internment camp. Ordinarily, however, it was spoken of as the Urawa Camp.


The camp is located in the northeastern part of Urawa, a city of approximately 50,000 people, situated in Saitama Prefecture about fifteen miles from Tokyo station. Urawa lies on the main railroad line between Tokyo and all points north, as well as on the fast electric line, connecting the cities of Omiya, Tokyo and Yokohama. The camp is situated about twenty minutes' walk in a northeasterly direction from the Kita Urawa (North Urawa) Station on the electric line. The address of the camp is
Saitama Ken Yokuryujo
Tenshu Kokyokai
Kamizaki cho, Urawa shi
Saitama Ken.
The site of the camp is a new section of the city of Urawa, laid out only a few years ago. The number of houses in the vicinity of the camp is comparatively small. Immediately back of the camp are fertile fields stretching for several miles, but on the whole the surrounding land is covered with magnificent fine trees of various species. The camp site is off from any main thoroughfare and the number of passersby is very small. The nearest houses are about one hundred feet distant. There are no factories nor any kind of military establishments in the vicinity of the camp.

Internees - Number.

The Saitama Camp is for men only. As already stated, thirty-six men were brought to the camp on October 5, 1942. On December 17 of the same year, twenty-four men arrived from the camp in Sendai and on the following day three more came from the Miyoshi camp near Hiroshima. Further additions were made as follows in the first half of 1943:
Mr. Claude A. Buss, U.S.A. Government official, Manila
Father Edwin Ronan, Chaplain U.S. Army, Philippines
Father Groote, Dutch Roman Catholic priest
The total number of men in the camp was therefore 66.

Classification of Internees

Breaking this number up into various categories, the following classifications will help to give a clearer picture of the group.
Canadians36Priests & Brothers42
British11Protestant Missionaries 2
Americans 7Teachers 7
Greeks 7Business 5
Belgians 3Seamen (Greeks) 7
Dutch 2Engineers 1
Doctors 1
    Government Official 1
Age Groups
20-29 years of age 2
60-69 3
70-79 2
Names of Internees.
Canadians (36)
Father Pierre Bissonette
Father Marien Bonin
Father Roch Carpentier
Father Ernest Casgrain
Father Pierre Baptiste Charbonneau
Father Michel Charrette
Brother Reginald Cloutier
Father Romeo Cormier
Father Marc Cote
Brother Barthelemy Couture
Father Bertrand Derouin
Father Philippe Deslauriers
Father Jean Marie Dionne
Father Dominique Doyon
Father Alphonse Forget
Father Edmond Gagnon
Brother Courad Gelinas
Father Gabriel Groleau
Father Ubald Guertin
Father Hyacinthe Hebert
Father Antoine Lamarre
Brother Bertrand Landry
Father Henri Lauglois
Father Benoit Larose
Father Louis Lebel
Father Ambroise Leblanc
Brother Fernand Lemay
Father Raymond Martineau
Father Berchmans Prevost
Father Hyacinthe Reid
Father Laurent Ruel
Father Maxime Shiller
Father Bernard Tarte
Father Emilien Tetreault
Father Bernard Traham
Father Martin Veillet
British (11)
Ivan C. Bell - teacher
Alexander Ross Catto - Business Man
Harry Goodridge - Business Man
C. G. Graham - teacher
John Graham - Business Man
Herbert Hughes - Engineer
Trevor Johnes - teacher
William Lupton - Doctor
Leo Marescaux - teacher
Ernest Pickering - teacher
James Sargeant - teacher
American (7)
William Cesling - Missionary
Claude A. Buss - Government Official
Charles Dreher - Business Man
Rowland R. Harker - Teacher
Paul S. Mayer - Missionary
Edwin Ronan - Roman Catholic Priest
Harry Stillman - Business Man
Belgians (3)
Father Eylenbosch
Father Ernest Gooseur
Father Jule Van Overmeeren
Dutch (2)
Father Joseph T. Cools
Father Groot
Greeks (7)
Mr. Danalis - Sea Captain
Mr. Hajikakis - Seaman
Mr. Papadias - Seaman
Mr. Papazoglos - Seaman
Mr. Spataris - Sea Captain
Mr. Satrazanides - Seaman
Mr. Yanulatos - Seaman
Of the 66 men, 10 were evacuated on September 13, 1943. Of this number, 4 were citizens of the United States and 6 of Canada.
William CeslingMarien Bonin
Claude A. BussErnest Casgrain
Rowland R. HarkerReginald Cloutier
Paul S. MayerMarc Cote
Barthelemy Couture
Emilien Tetreault


(Prepared by Rev. Paul S. Mayer)

Description of premises: (Photographs if possible)

Kind of buildings (e.g. barracks, abandoned factories, school or college buildings); estimate of square and cubic feet per internee; lighting and heating facilities (hours when available); kind and amount of bedding provided. Beds and nets.


This site on which the camp stands comprises 3000 tsubo (one tsubo equals 6 by 6 ft) or approximately three acres. It is enclosed entirely by a hedge. No barbed wire is used at any place. The plot is a perfectly level piece of ground, containing over 100 pine trees. A considerable part has been cleared, providing space for gardens.


The building in which the internees are lodged is a church and monastery belonging to the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church. The building is a two story wooden structure in the shape of the letter T with the crosspiece extending from east to west on the southern side. A corridor runs through the center of the building from south to north. The roof is tile.

Lower Floor.

On the first floor the right side of the corridor as you enter the building are the offices and sleeping quarters of the police, a store room, a recreation room and the police dining room. On the left are sleeping quarters for police, the chapel, a reception room, the dining room and the kitchen.

Upper Floor.

On the second floor to right are eleven rooms for the men and small toilet. To the left are a reading room (later used to accommodate internees), a small toilet, a kitchenette, a smaller reading room and 12 rooms for men.

Additional Space.

More than half way down the corridor on the right side of both floors a covered passageway leads to additional rooms. On the first floor this additional space consists of toilets for the police, two bath rooms and a boiler room. The second floor is not as extensive as the first. Here are found a wash room, toilets and bath room. The bathroom however can not be used for taking baths and serves as a store room.

Men's Rooms.

The rooms in which the men are accommodated are of four different sizes, all on the upper floor.

13 rooms, 7 by 15 feet, 2 men each
4 rooms, slightly larger, 3 men each
5 rooms, again slightly larger, 4 men each
2 rooms, again slightly larger,  5 men each

Two of the men for health reasons were given one each of the small rooms for themselves. When the number of men increased, the larger reading room was used to accommodate four men and the dining room was made to serve the double purpose of eating and reading. In the smaller rooms each man had about 50 sq. ft. of space. In the rooms where the larger number of men is accommodated, the space in square feet per man is less than

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Table of Civilian Camps