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Oral History Spotlight- Harold Joslin

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Harold Joslin was born in Sequim, Washington in 1918. Joslin had never before been on a boat, or even on the water for that matter when he joined the Navy in 1939. After basic training, Joslin was sent to radio school where he was brought up to speed on the latest radio technology. His proficiency with a radio was duly noted and he was officially assigned to be an intercept operator on Guam. Joslin was sent to Guam in May of 1940. Joslin’s wife, Mrs. Marie Elizabeth Joslin, was sent to Guam in September of 1940. As the political situation in the Pacific was deteriorating, all dependents were ordered off of Guam in October of 1941. The Japanese invaded the island on December 8th, 1941. Joslin recalled that he and eight other radio operators took to the hills of Guam to evade capture. On December 9th, a patrol of Japanese soldiers located the nine men and captured them. Joslin was immediately put into the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral with the other American prisoners of war. Joslin and the other prisoners remained in this church for a month, living off of a meager portion of rice and soup. The native population of Chamorrans on Guam deeply resented the Japanese occupation, often paying the ultimate price for colloborating with the Americans. In one such instance, Joslin recalls a Chamorran who wrapped up a message for the Americans into a bundle of food. The Japanese intercepted the message and the Chamorran man was beheaded.

Joslin then boarded the Argentina Maru, an old freighter, bound for Japan. Joslin recalls that even though it was late spring, it was very cold when they landed in Japan and the men  huddled together for warmth. For the next 45 months, Joslin remained in captivity at Zentsuji, the prisoner of war camp. Joslin passed the time by studying, reading the Bible, and doing his best to maintain morale among the men. When Joslin was not maintaining morale, he worked on a dock transporting food and supplies off of Japanese ships that were constantly coming in. Joslin was able to steal food from these ships and he notes that he was always looking for a way to sabatoge Japanese equipment. The Japanese allowed a certain number of messages to be broadcasted from Tokyo via short wave radio. The following is one of the messages that Harold Joslin was able to send during his captivity. He chose to make the message out to his wife.

“Dearest Marie: I am safe and well and surely hope you are okay. Go to the commander in Seattle and have him help you get an allotment started. Do you miss me like I do you? I am counting the days until this war is over and I can come home to you. Be a good wife, won’t you, dear. I Love You. Signed Harold.”

Joslin returned to the United States after his captivity and remained in the Navy until 1976.

Harold Joslin was interviewed on March 1st, 2012 at his home in Northern Virginia by Special Projects Historian Tom Gibbs.

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