Dick Hamada
Military Intelligence Service

Doolittle Flyers

Four members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, being held as war criminals, are among the prisoners rescued through Operation Magpie.

Dick later learns that Lieutenant Chase Nielsen had been tortured, isolated and starved.

The funny part is, we had no idea that the Doolittle [Tokyo Raiders], four of ’em, were held in Peiping area at the time of our parachute. See, they were constantly moved from one prison to another because they were held as war criminals.

And for being indicted as war criminals, three of them were shot [Sergeant Harold Spatz, Lieutenant Dean Hallmark, and Lieutenant William Farrow]. They were shot by rifle squad. One of the soldiers was a sergeant. [Spatz is] buried here in the National [Memorial] Cemetery [of the Pacific], Punchbowl. Two others [Hallmark and Farrow] are buried in Arlington [National] Cemetery, and one died in prison, so that left four of them [Lieutenant Robert Hite, Lieutenant George Barr, Corporal Jacob DeShazer, and Lieutenant Chase Nielsen].

It so happened that they were there when we got there, but it was a highly kept secret as to their existence and where they were kept. I read one of their books. You know the bottom of an aluminum canteen? They used to scratch their name and what organization they belong to. They’d pass it on to each other and everybody would sign that. They found out that the Doolittle flyers were, indeed, in Peiping at that particular time. So, when we parachuted on the 17th of August we didn’t know that they were there [as prisoners of war].

Liberation

Among the fifty [prisoners of war liberated and brought to the hotel] were four of the Doolittle flyers. One was Lietuenant [George] Barr, he was too sick. He was already on his last leg. I would think that if it was about two weeks later, he would have passed away. The doctor, [Lieutenant Fontaine] Jarman, [Jr.], who was the officer parachutist and also a [medical] doctor, took care of him. He [Barr] had to be retained in China for another month before he could be shipped out home.

Lt. George Barr, Flite #16 Navigator of Doolittle Tokyo Raiders (with folded arms). Prisoner of Japanese Imperial Forces, Peking, China. Released to OSS-Detachment 202 “Operation Magpie,” on August 20, 1945.
Lt. George Barr, Flite #16 Navigator of Doolittle Tokyo Raiders (with folded arms). Prisoner of Japanese Imperial Forces, Peking, China. Released to OSS-Detachment 202 “Operation Magpie,” on August 20, 1945.

We had no idea the Doolittle flyers were in there. But word got to the major saying that there were four of the Doolittle flyers that are captured and they are held in secrecy because of that tin can [aluminum canteen] signing. The word came out that they were there in Peiping area. So, negotiation — they were not supposed to be released like I said, because they were charged with [being] war criminals for bombing Japan, bombing school kids and civilian areas, not the military.

They were released to our custody, finally, on the 20th. They were physically examined. On the day, the eve, before they [were to] leave for their respective organization, wherever the military has sent them, we gave them a party. It wasn’t much, but there was food that they like [that] they ate. The next day we went to the airport with the Americans and saw them off.

NR 2 Telegram about the rescued Doolittle Flyers.
NR 2 Telegram about the rescued Doolittle Flyers.

After learning that three were shot by rifle squad, the emperor put a stop to it. He said there shall be no more [executions]. I think he did the right thing. Since they were held as war criminals instead of war prisoners, much of their rights were denied. They were starved. They were never together in the cell. They were alone. They were mistreated. This commander, he’s an ex-colonel, but Lieutenant Chase [Nielsen], that I correspond with, one night he was — picture this, he’s handcuffed, hung up by his hands, his toes just barely touching the floor, overnight. When they took him down the next day, you know what pain he had to go through. That muscle was just frozen and he just couldn’t move his arm.

They were given the bamboo treatment. The bamboo, about this size, is stuck behind their knee and they were ordered to squat. That pain, it’s terrible. They were given the bamboo sliver in the fingernail. That was also torture. They hardly had outdoor movements like going through exercise. They were almost constantly kept in prison all by themselves. Once in a while they were sent out to go take a bath.

But the thing is, your psychological effect of being cooped up all by yourself for almost four years. It's very cruel, I would say. They were not treated well. So, after the war was over and they were back to normal times, Lieutenant Chase Nielsen went to Japan to testify against the Japanese military for war criminals. Those officers that were in charge of prison committed suicide. They knew they were wrong because [the prisoners’ human rights under the Geneva Convention] were in jeopardy. [Nielsen] was the only officer that went to Japan to testify against the war criminals.

Jacob DeShazer [was] the corporal and the bombardier [of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders]. Although they were all slated for death, the emperor had stopped further killing. One day, [DeShazer] asked to see the Bible in the prison camp. They gave him a book, but they said, “You can only have this for a few days.” So he read as much as he could. And in his book he stated that he had spoke to God. God told him, when you go back [to America], go to school — the seminary — and go to Japan to preach to the people. And he did that. He spent over thirty years building churches and spreading the gospel.

One day in the Tokyo subway he was passing out these religious brochures as passengers left the train. One gentleman accepted, put it in his pocket and went home. A few days later he read the brochure and he was amazed. He said this is what he was looking for. Being a Buddhist, many of his friends ridiculed him. But, nevertheless, he says, “I’m going to become a Christian.” And he did attend seminary and became a reverend.

He went to meet Reverend DeShazer and they traveled together spreading the word of God. They even came to America, met Billy Graham. And do you know who that Japanese gentleman is? I’ve asked many and none that I’ve asked have been able to give me the answer. He was none other than [Captain] Mitsuo Fuchida, who was the bomber leader [lead pilot or aerial commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy] that attacked Pearl Harbor. God works in many beautiful ways and this is one of the ways He had converted Mitsuo Fuchida into becoming a good Christian. [Fuchida] was amazed that this religion teaches forgiveness and this is what he was looking for. It’s amazing.

It was fifty-five years later I was able to meet up with three of the Doolittle survivors. That was during the movie premiere of the movie “Pearl Harbor” at Pearl Harbor on the USS Stennis [held May 21, 2001]. I was able to meet them and we entertained them. I also went to Fresno, [California] for their reunion. I was the only one that went to their reunion. I was treated really well. When they came to Hawaii for the movie [premiere] I was instrumental in having the governor recognize the Doolittle flyers. He proclaimed that Doolittle [Tokyo Raiders] Day. The legislature also got involved and put in a proclamation. I made copies of that proclamation and gave each and every member of the Doolittle flyers a copy and they were so happy. Many of them had sent that to their museum for permanent records. I’m glad that everything worked out.

Reunion with Doolittle Raiders. l-r: Robert L. Hite, Reverend Jacob D. DeShazer, Dick Hamada, and Chase J. Nielsen.
Reunion with Doolittle Raiders. l-r: Robert L. Hite, Reverend Jacob D. DeShazer, Dick Hamada, and Chase J. Nielsen.

Dick Hamada's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Dick Hamada.

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