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Joseph Young prisoner of war diaries

Identifier: A 305

Scope and Contents note

The collection constitutes thirteen handwritten diaries in blue-black fountain pen ink. Volume 10 of the diary, April 23 - June 2, 1944, was confiscated. The diaries range in date from December 8, 1941 through August 30, 1945. Seven of the diaries measure 3 1/2" x 6 1/8" with stiff covers. The other six have soft covers; five of these measure 5 3/4" x 8 1/8" and the other soft cover diary measures 7" x 10". The diaries vary in thickness but are all approximately 1/4".


  • Creation: 1941 December 8-1945 August 30


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Joe Young was born in Cottage Grove, Oregon on November 3, 1906. He attended grade school and high school there and worked in logging camps before joining the U.S. Navy in 1926. He was married in Astoria, Oregon in June 1932.

Young served on many types of ships and stations in the Navy, and in 1938 became a Chief Petty Officer and was transferred to the Naval Station in Guam, and assumed the duties of Communication Chief at the Naval Radio Station there. His family was evacuated back to the United States in June 1941.

In December 1941, Young was taken prisoner by the Japanese. As Prisoner of War no. 183, he was shipped to Zentsuji prisoner of war camp, Shikoku, in January 1942. He was transferred to Osaka on June 8, 1942 to do stevedoring work, and on September 2, 1942 was again transferred, this time to Kawasaki Camp, Branch no. 1, Tokyo area. Here he and other prisoners were hired out to Japanese firms, among them Suzuki Company, until their release in August 1945.

At the time of his capture, Young had a small notebook with him, and started a diary to record his experiences. He managed to acquire more small notebooks and kept them throughout the war. In a letter, he recalled how he was able to keep the diaries: "The story of how the diaries were preserved could make up a book but I really had no set method. Each situation had to be dealt with as it came up. During the early part of the war I kept them tied around my waist under a sheet. As they became more numerous I made a double bottom in an old canvas bag I carried my clothes in and when inspected [I] would open the bag, take it by the bottom and shake everything out on the ground. They would look in the bag but never picked it up for a close inspection. In camps there was always some secret place that the guards weren't smart enough to find. One time when I was caught unexpectedly in a hurry up move I just tied them in a bundle and carried them in my hand. They searched my bag and searched me but never did see the bundle of books."

The diaries commence with a detailed description of the Japanese invasion of Guam and subsequent events recalled retrospectively to April 18, 1942. Thereafter they are a daily account of prison life intended as a "letter" to Young's wife, Irene. The diary entries are both factual and contemplative, a remarkable example of how to make much of little.


0.25 linear feet (1 container) : 1 container, including 14 volumes and 1 folder

Language of Materials



Joseph Young was a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. While a prisoner, he kept diaries of his experiences, written in the form of a long letter to his wife, Irene. Joseph Young was born in Cottage Grove, Oregon and lived in Eugene, Oregon for many years after the war. The collection comprises thirteen diaries and six miscellaneous items.

Processing Information note

Collection processed by Linda Long.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Joseph Young prisoner of war diaries
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Linda Long
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA