Omuta 

In January 1941, two men left their families in Tyssedal, Norway to earn their fortunes from just one year of work in Manchuria, China. The dream was to earn enough money for building projects at home such as breeding facilities for mountain trout. The opportunity of so much money in such a short period was too good to pass up for Sjur Bratteteig and Arthur Lindstrøm. To good to pass up, and too good to be true. 

After their one month travel to build an aluminium factory, the Japanese invaded Manchuria and they were forced to escape to Manila. Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, and next Manila was blown to smithereens preventing the Tyssedal boys from escaping. Left with no choice they joined the American forces and were sent to the fortress of Corregidor, known by the Americans as “The Rock”. The American forces held the fortress for a year but was forced to surrender in 1942. Along with fifteen other Norwegians and thousands of US soldiers Bratteteig and Lindstrøm were sent to Cabanatuan. For those who survived to tell about it, Cabanatuan was a hell on earth w an average of 250 soldiers dying every day, most of those on the infamous Bataan Death March, the rest suffering from disease and dysentery at the Omuta POW Camp, in Fukuoka, Japan. 

On the 9th of August, 1945 the earth shook the coal mines stopping the dirty and malnourished men from their work: bombs. This shaking was different however. Feeling the impact 1200 meters below the pacific ocean, this was clearly more powerful. Their pause was but for a moment before they were forced back to work by their guards. When they surfaced from their hole ending their 11 hour work day they could not escape the site of a large, ferocious cloud rising like an ethereal mushroom. No one understood what they were seeing. Over three thousand doomed men watched in stillness the growing mass, which at first was dark, threatening, and outlined in red. But slowly this turned whiter and whiter eventually blinding them temporarily from the flash. Shaken, no one said anything. Even their sadistic captors stood in silence. 

After years of torture, they were conditioned not to believe nor hope for anything. But that day. The first day in three months and three days that the prisoners in the Omuta camp could feel a sense of hope. A strange feeling that a reckoning had passed them by. They knew they were alive but did not know why. And who was their saviour? God, or the devil? 

Sjur Bratteteig died when the Japanese prisoner ship «Maru» was bombed by American planes in 1944. Arthur Lindstrøm however had been aboard another ship during the attack, suggesting some prisoners had escaped before the bombing. Observations done of two Norwegians in a Soviet prison camp near Vokuta matched one of their descriptions with Arthurs. 

The story of how the prisoners in the Omuta camp experienced the day the nukes hit Nagasaki in 1945, is the inspiration for Dreamarchers song Omuta from their EP Harding; inspired by the stories of local historian Jan Gravdal. Stories of individual strength, courage and innovation that run through the isolated communities of Hardangerfjorden where Dreamarcher comes from.

 

The story of Arthur Lindstrøm was first published in Gravdal's book "Lindstrøm" from 1997. A short version in Norwegian can be found on his blog.