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Silverlieb, Irving

Document Type

Oral History

Date of Interview



Irving Silverlieb was born on 31 May 1922 in the small farming community of Danzik, North Dakota, one of five children of Russian immigrant parents. The Silverliebs moved to Minneapolis when Irv was four, and he grew up here, graduating from North High School in 1939. In July of that year Irv enlisted in the Marine Corps. Following Basic Training, Irv was stationed at several island locations in the Pacific. He was part of the 1st Defense Battalion on Wake Island when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. Wake resisted, but on 24 December the island fell and all service personnel became prisoners of war. Irv remained a POW of the Japanese for thirty-nine months, primarily at several locations in China: camps by Shanghai and Kiangwan during January 1942 - May 1945. After a brief time at Pusan, Korea (likely June 1945), Irv was transported to Japan, and with other POWs used as slave labor at a coal mine, called Hakodate Camp 3, on the northern island of Hokkaido. He was here when the Pacific war ended in August 1945. Work details at these locations varied from farming and construction to dock labor and mining; in Irv's opinion, the mine work in Japan was the hardest and most dangerous. Like all POWs of the Japanese, Irv endured malnutrition, mistreatment, and disease. Following his evacuation in October from the coal mine camp, Irv returned to the United States; he spent time in several medical facilities before being discharged in April 1946 with the rank of sergeant. He was married in April 1946 (wife Jeanette), and worked many years in the scrap metal business, retiring from American Iron in 1988 with thirty-five years of service. At the time of this interview (July 2003) Irv and Jeanette lived in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.


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Irving Silverlieb - Transcript.pdf (923 kB)
PDF Transcript of Interview with Irving Silverlieb