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DDT and Fleas

Heroes Remember

You try and remember the funny things, of course, when they started dropping supplies in the camp in Niigata, they were tied, before they had proper equipment they would just tie stuff in a big hunk of canvas, tie a parachute on and turf it out the cargo bay. And I guess the first morning after we got this stuff our stomachs were finally full of bully beef and whatever else they could drop but they had dropped a bunch of, as it turned out DDT powder, which didn’t mean anything to use except that it said on the instruction that it would kill insects. Well, one of the most aggravating things that I remember in that camp were the cursed sand fleas. There’s no way of getting away from him because the sheds we lived in were just, you know, boards on the floor, spaces of about half an inch or so between them and then there was straw mats so it was no question of keeping the fleas out and you got chewed all night long by these cursed things. And anyway, the first morning we got these supplies I walked out of this so called hospital room and here’s a bunch of guys standing around or squatting around in a circle around this hunk of canvas looking at it and just killing themselves laughing. So I hobbled over to see what the heck is going on, what’s so funny about that hunk of canvas. And you could look and there was dead fleas in there by the hundreds. Somebody figured he was going to sleep outside that night and if this DDT was so great, he would dump a whole can full in and roll up in the canvas and he finally got a night sleep. He hardly got bit all night but he woke up and that canvas was just full of dead fleas. Well, you never saw such a happy bunch of guys.

Mr. Gyselman describes receiving DDT powder in the American supply drop, and putting it to good use against the camp's sand flea epidemic.

Harry Gyselman

Harry Gyselman was born on February 11, 1920 in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan. His father left the insurance business to farm, but went broke during the depression. After his father’s death, Mr. Gyselman worked odd jobs to support his family. Initially interested in joining the Air Force, he opted to join a friend who was enlisting with the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Mr. Gyselman was a truck driver during the battle of Hong Kong, and was in the POW camp in Niigata, Japan when the war ended. He has the distinction of being the first Canadian POW to reach mainland North America after the war.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
October 10, 2000
Person Interviewed:
Harry Gyselman
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Truck Driver

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