Interview with James L. Leggett, Jr., April 8, 1981
Project: American Veterans: World War Two Oral History Project
Interview SummaryJames Leggett, Jr. talks about how mail from the U.S. into the prison camp was censored both by the Japanese and the U.S. military. He talks about how the prisoners obtained other news by stealing and translating Japanese newspapers and holding secret meetings among the prisoners. He talks about some of the prisoners sneaking out of camp to steal from a local bakery and what happened when they were caught. Leggett gives a description of the barracks at Zentsuji, and how the prisoners kept warm in the winter. He talks about the prisoners who worked in the camp's kitchen. He talks about the bathroom facilities at the prison. Leggett talks about the amount of freedom the prisoners were given and what they did in their free time. He talks about how the list of contraband items was always changing, and lists some of the items that were put on the list including playing cards and condiments, among other things. Leggett talks about the internal organization among the prisoners, which he says was done by military rank. The highest ranking officer in the camp, among all branches and nationalities, became the spokesperson. They also punished their own people for transgressions such as fights and stealing food. Leggett talks about how prisoners would celebrate holidays, including giving one another cards and performing plays and skits. Leggett talks about classes in which prisoners knowledgeable about a subject would teach the others.
Leggett talks about moving from the Zentsuji prison camp to Rokuroshi, near Fukui, a city which was soon after bombed by the Americans. He talks about the differences between this camp and camps he had been at previously. He talks about the terrain, work detail, and the prisoners' treatment at this camp. Leggett talks about the medical experiments the Japanese conducted on the prisoners. He talks about one of the prisoners who was a doctor and the surgeries he performed with few supplies and no facilities.
Leggett talks about how the mood in the camp changed in the days leading up to the end of the war. He talks about how the guards' treatment of the prisoners changed, and talks about how they were told of the war's end. Leggett talks about being left in the camp by the Japanese after the end of the war. He talks about why it took so long for them to receive supplies, and tells a story about the dangerous way their supplies were dropped in. He talks about when the recovery team finally arrived to rescue them.
Leggett describes his journey from the Rokuroshi prison camp to a hospital ship which then took them to the 29th Replacement Depot in the Philippines. From there they were taken by ship to San Francisco. Leggett talks about seeing his wife for the first time after his return. He describes his experience being back in the U.S. on base but without his uniform. He talks about his reactions to people leaving food on their plates when eating in a restaurant, and talks about people who, despite the war rationing shared their meat with him. He talks about his reunion with his parents and friends. He talks about continuing to serve in the army before retiring due to health issues resulting from his prolonged malnutrition.
Interview LC SubjectLeggett, James L., Jr. Leggett, James L., Jr.--Interviews World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Asia World War, 1939-1945--East Asia World War, 1939-1945. Prisoners of war--Japan United States. Army--Military life World War, 1939-1945--Food supply--United States World War, 1939-1945--Prisoners and prisons
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Interview UsageInterviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Leggett, James L., Jr. Interview by William J. Marshall. 08 Apr. 1981. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Leggett, J.L., Jr. (1981, April 08). Interview by W. J. Marshall. American Veterans: World War Two Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Leggett, James L., Jr., interview by William J. Marshall. April 08, 1981, American Veterans: World War Two Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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