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Laurits V. Larsen

Exchange passenger on the Gripsholm in 1943


Robert N Johansen has contributed the following story about his cousin Laurits V. Larsen.

© Robert N. Johansen 2008

Sometime during the 1930's Laurits V. Larsen traveled to Shanghai, China to manage a candy/ice cream factory for an American company, Henningsen Produce.

After the Japanese captured Shanghai, my cousin, Laurits V. Larsen, was interned in Chapei Camp, a former Chinese university, in March of 1943. During Lars internment there were two Japanese Americans that had been conscripted to be interpreters. One interpreter had gone to school at Stanford University , Palo Alto, California , and the other had gone to school in Seattle, Washington . I got the impression that Lars and the interpreters got along. Lars told me of a time that he was summoned to see the officer in command of the camp, the interpreter told Lars, "don't say anything to me you don't want the officer to understand, because he understands English very well". Mr. Leck told me that the interpreters would sometimes take the belongings of the internees.

In 1943 my cousin was part of an exchange program. September 19th, 1943, Lars boarded a Japanese ship, Teia Maru, in Shanghai and was taken to Goa, India where the exchange was made. When the exchange was made, he boarded the MS Gripsholm.

The Japanese who transferred at Goa came from the United States and Goa. Lars told me the Japanese had suitcases loaded with consumer products. Lars said some Japanese brought refrigerators. (I'm not sure if the prior sentence is something I remembered Lars telling me, or if it's something I remembered reading in an excerpt of Mr. Greg Lecks book "Captives of the Empire"). Lars told me that the first day onboard the Gripsholm the chef fixed a gourmet meal. My cousin, who had been responsible for food at the internment camp , advised the fellow passengers to not eat very much because their stomachs couldn't handle the rich food. The next few days the ships doctor had the chef prepared light meals. The other thing that made an impression on me was that my cousin told me it took an inordinate amount of time to get to New York, because the ship had to go around South America to get to New York.

Lars was on the Japanese ship Teia Maru from 19 September to 15 October 1943, and was on the MS Gripsholm beginning  22 October 1943 arriving in New York 1 December 1943.

Thanks, Robert N. Johansen

Note: Place names, and dates, came from Mr. Greg Leck, author of the book "Captives of Empire."

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