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65 years since Hiroshima: Continuing lack of awareness of the predicament of the POWs


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#1 REK

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 04:11 PM

The controversy over this issue never really subsides, but the approaching 65th anniversary does (at least in my opinion) justify a new thread.

The problem is that all major anniversaries of the bombings (and certainly the 60th) seem to prompt a wave of media coverage which blithely condemns what happened as wicked and wrong and a crime against humanity. It is almost as if the Americans had acted purely out of spite, and as if there had been no conceivable arguments in favour of the bombs worthy of serious consideration.

I'm sure the vast majority of WW2TALK members (even those opposed to the bombings) know that the truth of the matter was far more complex than that. I get the impression that most members probably share my view that the bombs avoided far more suffering than they caused, but I entirely respect the views of those who have considered both sides of the argument and reached the opposite conclusion.

Where I do have a problem, though, is when fashionable opinion-formers get on their high horses and condemn the bombings out of hand, in spite of their apparently knowing nothing about why they happened and their not having even attempted to consider what not dropping the bombs would have meant.

So why does it bother me so much?

Because I am one of countless thousands of people alive today who know (not suspect, but know) that they would never have been born were it not for the atomic bombs. Without the bombings, my father would unquestionably have died in 1945 (and, if they had been dropped two weeks later, they would almost certainly have been too late to save him).

THIS VIDEO CLIP EXPLAINS WHY

But this isn't all about him (or me). There were over 100,000 others in his position (and vastly more who were saved by the bombs in other ways), yet hardly anyone in the wider world seems to have any inkling of what would have happened to these men.

How can something as serious and as momentous as this be practically unknown?

My comments are directed mainly at the media - not at individuals. I doubt that I would have known about it myself if it had not affected my own father.

Edited by REK, 12 August 2010 - 06:08 PM.
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#2 Za Rodinu

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 04:24 PM

Such a momentous subjects as the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities would hardly have escaped the attention of the members of this forum. We have been discussing the subject at some length in the thread below:

http://www.ww2talk.c...omic-bombs.html

Perhaps it would be better to maintain continuity instead of dispersing the subject and running the risk of repeating arguments already made in the past.
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Quote from US Army field sanitation manual, 1850: "Dig the latrines downstream from the camp. The coffee tastes better."


#3 REK

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 05:13 PM

Such a momentous subjects as the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities would hardly have escaped the attention of the members of this forum. We have been discussing the subject at some length in the thread below:

http://www.ww2talk.c...omic-bombs.html

Perhaps it would be better to maintain continuity instead of dispersing the subject and running the risk of repeating arguments already made in the past.


Sorry - I thought I'd made myself clear but obviously not:

1. I'm not saying for a moment that the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities had escaped anyone's attention (on this forum or anywhere else). It's not the bombings, but the indisputable fact that the Japanese were planning to annihilate all their prisoners, which I am saying has escaped the attention of far too many people (not at WW2TALK but more generally). That is what this video clip was referring to.

2. Of course, very many people on this forum are aware of the POWs' predicament - I know this as I've spent a great deal of time reading the very thread to which you refer. It's the fact that so little is known in the wider world about the planned mass executions of the Allied prisoners that I was commenting on in my post.

3. The theme of my post in other words is not the rights or wrongs of the bombings (which I know is discussed extensively in the thread that you mention) but how this remarkable situation has arisen where something as shocking as the (very narrowly avoided) murder of over 100,000 Allied POWs has received so little publicity over more than six decades.

It didn't really seem appropriate for me to introduce this aspect into your "Did the Japanese deserve the atomic bombs?" thread, as it is really a different issue and would I believe just have muddied the waters of the separate discussion that is going on there.

Edited by REK, 12 August 2010 - 06:08 PM.
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#4 Za Rodinu

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 08:00 PM

Thank you for your clarification, my apology.
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Quote from US Army field sanitation manual, 1850: "Dig the latrines downstream from the camp. The coffee tastes better."


#5 REK

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 08:05 PM

Thank you for your clarification, my apology.


No problem at all!
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#6 L J

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 08:50 PM

Sorry to intervene in what's not my business,but,about the future of the POW's,accidentally,this evening,I am looking at an Australian-American movy on the Flemish commercial television,"the Great Raid ",by John Dahl(2005),with as subject:the Allies organizing an expedition to save POW,which the Japanese were planning to exterminate .
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#7 CL1

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 09:06 PM

Hello REK

Might be an idea to manipulate the title of the thread a tad,bringing in the story of the POWS perhaps.
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#8 sol

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 09:16 PM

Sorry to intervene in what's not my business,but,about the future of the POW's,accidentally,this evening,I am looking at an Australian-American movy on the Flemish commercial television,"the Great Raid ",by John Dahl(2005),with as subject:the Allies organizing an expedition to save POW,which the Japanese were planning to exterminate .


L J, "The Great Raid" talking about Raid at Cabanatuan, action taken by US army and Filipino Guerrillas to rescue POW from one camp in the Philippines. Unfortunately Commonwealth POW's were not liberated on this way, and they were left to the mercy of Japanese, because General MacArthur expressly forbade any Allied forces from liberating Japanese occupied territories before he had personally taken the formal Japanese surrender on 2nd September 1945 and many POW's unnecessary died or even had been executed by Japanese during this period.
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#9 James S

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 09:27 PM

MacArthur now there it seems was a man with a five star ego.
( Or do I judge him too harshly ?)
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#10 Tom Canning

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 09:42 PM

James -
You probably do judge MacArthur harshly as a similar view was held of Montgomery - five star ego - publicity hunter - too professional etc - and that was the essential point - they were BOTH professionals in a sea of mediocrity - but strangely - NOT Bill Slim who was probably the best of the three !
Cheers
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#11 REK

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:25 PM

Hello REK

Might be an idea to manipulate the title of the thread a tad,bringing in the story of the POWS perhaps.


Very fair point, CL1. I see that changing the title of the thread isn't a straightforward matter (it's harder than amending my own posts) so I'm about to send a message to the Administrator to see if he can help change the name of the thread.

(Having said that, the exercise seems a bit academic. The thread seems to have gone off in all sorts of unexpected directions since I started it a few short hours ago!)
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#12 REK

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:48 PM

Very fair point, CL1. I see that changing the title of the thread isn't a straightforward matter (it's harder than amending my own posts) so I'm about to send a message to the Administrator to see if he can help change the name of the thread.


Just to confirm that I've now contacted von Poop to see if the name of this thread can be changed to:

"65 years after Hiroshima: Continuing lack of awareness of the predicament of the POWs"

In the meantime - in a rather desperate attempt to get the discussion in this thread back on track - I confirm that the predicament of the POWs I am referring to here is the one described in this video clip.

Edited by REK, 12 August 2010 - 06:10 PM.
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#13 Ron Goldstein

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 05:45 AM

REK

Firstly, Welcome to the forum.

You put your case most cogently and I was particularly impressed to see how your explanation to Za and his then complete acceptance of the "new" threads position was conducted in an exemplary manner.

As far as my own attitude to Hiroshima, you are preaching to the converted and I have already stated my case in the thread to which you were referred.

Whether or not this thread will have a lengthy run remains to be seen but I wish it well.

Ron
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:peepwalla:

 

I was "called-up", as a 19 year old, on the 1st of Oct 1942 and was one of 5 serving brothers, one of whom, Jack, was in RAF Bomber Command and was killed on March 16th 1945.

I served as a Driver/Op (Wireless Operator) with the 49th Light Anti Aircraft Rgt. (78 Div) from Apr 1943 to Dec 1944 (North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Egypt). The Regiment was disbanded in Dec 1944 and I was retrained (in Italy) by the Royal Armoured Corps. Finally, I served as Loader/Op with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars (6th Armd.,78th & 56 Div) from Mar 1945 to Dec 1946 (Italy, Austria, Germany) finishing up as Tech Cpl. for "A" Sqdrn.  I was "De-mobbed" in Apr 1947

http://www.blogger.c...947129038825503


#14 REK

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 11:47 AM

REK

Firstly, Welcome to the forum.

You put your case most cogently and I was particularly impressed to see how your explanation to Za and his then complete acceptance of the "new" threads position was conducted in an exemplary manner.

As far as my own attitude to Hiroshima, you are preaching to the converted and I have already stated my case in the thread to which you were referred.

Whether or not this thread will have a lengthy run remains to be seen but I wish it well.

Ron


Ron

Very many thanks for your kind welcome and very supportive comments.

I too was very glad to see Za's second post on this thread, displaying a willingness to accept an alternative position and a degree of general civility on his part that is sadly all too lacking on many internet forums (and I hope that Za is reading this!).

On your final sentence, I rather suspect that this thread won't have much longevity but, in a rather desperate attempt to kickstart it, I may as well re-post this short video clip which explains the predicament of the POWs to which the title of the thread refers.

Thanks again
REK (Richard)

Edited by REK, 12 August 2010 - 06:11 PM.
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#15 CL1

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 11:55 AM

REK

Yes indeed Za is a good chap as are all on here.
Your post is very interesting and well laid out.

A site here alludes to possible execution of Allied POWs a few excerpts below

"Every night, there was a total blackout in the camp and in the town and smelter nearby. We could hear huge formations of airplanes flying over in the direction of Tokyo every night. About this time, the Japanese commander informed us that all prisoners of war would be executed if the Americans invaded the mainland of Japan. He said it appeared imminent and so they had set a date of August 29 for the general execution of all prisoners. Then they brought in a platoon or so of tough looking soldiers who proceeded to set up machine guns around the compound. The deadline was still about a month away at this point but our morale was not held by this information and the sight of troops with machine guns. "


US-Japan Dialogue on POWs
-----------------------------
"For what seemed like a very long time, I wavered between life and death. Subsequently I was forced to sign documents acknowledging that I'd been part of an indiscriminate bombing campaign which had killed civilians. I was also forced to sign a waver of my Geneva Conference Prisoner of War rights. I was not considered a POW by the Japanese, but instead a Federal Prisoner. I was charged with murder and I was held captive - with a death sentence over my head every single day of the 215 days I survived - until I was liberated from this living Hell at the end of the war."
US-Japan Dialogue on POWs
-------------------------------
Also a BBC post

"However, even before the bomb he had twice come close to dying.
One night as a PoW, he was told he would be executed the following morning. He stood blind-folded in a yard with his execution detail around him when someone approached.
He said: "Thankfully I'd picked quite a bit up so I understood: 'if you kill these men you'll have no-one to work in the mines', at which point they let me go."

BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | PoW recalls Hiroshima bomb blast
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#16 DelBoy

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:20 PM

If you want an insight into why the Japanese in particular have a skewed view of their war history (ie, in the way they view the atomic bombings as purely an atrocity) then read Ian Buruma's book "Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Japan and Germany".

It explains why the two countries vary hugely in the way they deal with the past.
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#17 REK

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:01 PM

If you want an insight into why the Japanese in particular have a skewed view of their war history (ie, in the way they view the atomic bombings as purely an atrocity) then read Ian Buruma's book "Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Japan and Germany".

It explains why the two countries vary hugely in the way they deal with the past.


I'll check that out - thanks.
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#18 Za Rodinu

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:20 PM

I too was very glad to see Za's second post on this thread, displaying a willingness to accept an alternative position and a degree of general civility on his part that is sadly all too lacking on many internet forums (and I hope that Za is reading this!).


Thank you kindly, Richard, you'll find this forum is indeed easy to tell apart from others because of a general respectuous attitude to the past, myself excluded :) I promise I'll take a look at your clip when I find the time. Please do not feel discouraged if people take a bit longer than desired to catch on, that is not a negative reflection on them, much less on you. Hang on!

Yes indeed Za is a good chap...


Since when? :D

If you want an insight into why the Japanese in particular have a skewed view of their war history (ie, in the way they view the atomic bombings as purely an atrocity) then read Ian Buruma's book "Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Japan and Germany".


Can you please provide a few highlights?
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Quote from US Army field sanitation manual, 1850: "Dig the latrines downstream from the camp. The coffee tastes better."


#19 REK

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:21 PM

CL1,

Many thanks for the positive feedback and for those very interesting internet links - all extremely chilling.

In my father's case (and I think this was fairly typical for the POWs in Thailand), the prisoners were forced in late 1944 to dig a huge rectangular ditch all around their camp - 10 feet across and 10 feet deep (although ultimately it ended up being deeper than that as the excavated earth was then built up along the ditch's outer perimeter - so there was a 15 foot wall of earth to climb up in order to get out from the bottom).

Machine guns were then built into all four corners of the huge rectangular ditch - all pointing inwards at the camp.

The men were told that the purpose of this was to prevent their escaping, but that wasn't very convincing as escape had been practically impossible from the start. It was pretty obvious that there was a far more sinister purpose (as later discoveries have since proved), but many of the POWs - my father included - simply blocked that possibility out of their minds as a means of psychological survival.

After 50 years of (near) silence, my father allowed me to interview him about his experiences and I have posted a few video clips from those interviews here. (I originally set up the site to promote a book that I had written about the subject, but that is not the spirit in which I am posting it on this thread - I am simply including this link because the video clips are relevant and may be of genuine interest in themselves to some WW2TALK members.)
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#20 REK

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 04:08 PM

A-ha - I've found it at last!

A (poorly) translated copy of the order sent from the Japanese War Ministry to all POW camp commandants dated 1 August 1944 is here:

Doc 2701-Exhibit "O" Text

However, this is not the final order that was issued. It simply confers authority to execute in certain circumstances (e.g. "when an uprising of large numbers cannot be suppressed without the use of firearms") and instructs the commandants to prepare for the "final disposition" of the POWs pending further orders.

It then describes the methods:

"Whether they are destroyed individually or in groups, or however it is done, with mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, decapitation or whatever, dispose of them as the situation dictates.
In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces."


It is this, of course, that led to the Thailand POWs being forced to dig trenches all around their camps, as referred to in my preceding post.

Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of the subsequent order, but there is no doubt that it does or did exist. In Jack Chalker's excellent book "Burma Railway: Images of War", he tells of how one of the Korean guards had caught sight of a final order to annihilate all the camp's prisoners, and that this Korean tipped some of the prisoners off. Their extermination, he told them, had been scheduled for 21 August 1945 (the expected date of the Allies' invasion of Thailand) - just days away.

Luckily for the prisoners, "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" intervened.
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#21 canuck

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 08:40 PM

REK

The following link describes a massacre similar to what was anticipated for all POW's.

American Prisoners of War: Massacre at Palawan » HistoryNet

A Canadian POW, Vince Calder, makes reference to that incident and obviously they had prepared for that possibility.

"In May 1945, when we heard the war with Germany was over, our hopes went sky high. We had always though that, when Germany surrendered, Japan would try to hold on for a month or two and then claim that since their allies had double-crossed them by giving up, they could not continue fighting the world by themselves. After May, our treatment in camp continued to be fairly good, but at work it was no fun whatsoever. We took more beatings those days than ever before because the Nippers knew the war was on its last legs. We knew it also, and so we only laughed at them and they realised that some day soon, we might just get a crack at them too. For the past 1-1/2 years, we had the camp planted with dynamite in case they tried the same things on us that they did in Palewan."
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#22 sol

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:45 PM

Good thread REK

Batu Lintang camp

Following the unconditional surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945, the camp was liberated on 11 September 1945 by the Australian 9th Division. On liberation, the camp population was 2,024, of whom 1,392 were POWs, 395 were male civilian internees and 237 were civilian women and children. Amongst official Japanese papers found at the camp following its liberation were two "death orders". Both described the proposed method of execution of every POW and internee in the camp. The first order, scheduled for enactment on for 17 or 18 August, was not carried out; the second was scheduled to take place on 15 September. The timely liberation of the camp may have prevented the murder of over 2,000 men, women and children.

....


Death orders

Immediately prior to the surrender of Japan, rumours abounded in the camp that the Japanese intended to execute all the prisoners rather than allow them to be freed by the approaching Allied forces; when Dr Yamamoto informed some prisoners that they were to be moved to a new camp they naturally feared the worst, especially when he promised the unlikely idyll of a camp "equipped with the best medical equipment obtainable ... there would be no working parties and food would be plentiful ... the sick men would be especially well cared for".


Official orders to execute all the prisoners, both POWs and civilian, on 17 or 18 August 1945 were found in Suga's quarters after liberation of the camp. The orders were not carried out, presumably as a result of the unconditional surrender of Japan on 15 August. A "death march", similar to those at Sandakan and elsewhere, was to have been undertaken by those male prisoners physically able to undertake it; other prisoners were to be executed by various methods in the camp:

  • 1 All POWs and male internees to be marched to a camp at milestone 21 and bayoneted there
  • 2 All sick unable to walk to be treated similarly in the Square at Kuching [in the square at the camp rather than in Kuching town]
  • 3 All women and children to be burnt in their barracks
Revised orders for the execution on 15 September 1945 of all the internees were also found, this time in the Administration Office at Batu Lintang:

  • Group 1 Women internees, children and nuns - to be given poisoned rice
  • Group 2 Internee men and Catholic Fathers to be shot and burnt
  • Group 3 POWs to be marched in to the jungle, shot and burnt
  • Group 4 Sick and weak left at Batu Lintang main camp to be bayoneted and the entire camp to be destroyed by fire
The camp was liberated on 11 September 1945, four days before the revised proposed execution date of over 2,000 men, women and children.


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'The position as I see it at present could not possibly be worse and therefore inevitably must get better.'

Colonel Norman Eustace DSO,
OC 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), Ningthoukhong, 12th June 1944


#23 REK

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:25 PM

REK

The following link describes a massacre similar to what was anticipated for all POW's.

American Prisoners of War: Massacre at Palawan » HistoryNet


Canuck

I'm still trying to compose myself after reading that horrible, horrible article. Thank you (if "thank you" is the correct expression!) for posting it. Knowing how close this nauseating incident came to being repeated on an incomparably larger scale made the experience of reading it even worse!

Incidentally, until I saw your post I had no knowledge at all that this particular ghastly massacre had taken place - which I think reinforces the "continuing lack of awareness" theme in the title of this thread.

Edited by REK, 25 July 2010 - 09:07 AM.

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#24 REK

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:48 PM

Batu Lintang camp


sol

Thanks for this - another sickening example of something that came terrifyingly close to happening and which fits the same grisly pattern.

(Incidentally, as an "aside", I see that the extract mentions the commandant Suga, which reminds me of something I stumbled across on Wiki a few months ago. While Suga was awaiting trial as a war criminal, he committed suicide. Ostensibly no doubt this would have been a matter of "Bushido", but the reality is understood to be that he had plunged to the depths of despair as his family had been living in Hiroshima. Afterwards, however, it emerged that his wife and four children had survived.)

Edited by REK, 25 July 2010 - 04:44 AM.

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#25 canuck

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 12:21 AM

LEK

A War Story

This is quite long but I suspect that will be of interest to you.

World War II and the NFB :: See Everything, Hear Everything
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#26 REK

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 12:59 AM

This is quite long but I suspect that will be of interest to you.


It definitely is! I've only watched the first 10 minutes and had better go to bed now (it's 2 in the morning here!) but look forward to watching the rest.
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#27 Ron Goldstein

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 05:59 AM

Canuk

Many thanks for the excellent link.
World War II and the NFB :: See Everything, Hear Everything

Beautifully constructed and well worth watching.

Ron
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If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?
Rabbi Hillel circa 30 BCE


:peepwalla:

 

I was "called-up", as a 19 year old, on the 1st of Oct 1942 and was one of 5 serving brothers, one of whom, Jack, was in RAF Bomber Command and was killed on March 16th 1945.

I served as a Driver/Op (Wireless Operator) with the 49th Light Anti Aircraft Rgt. (78 Div) from Apr 1943 to Dec 1944 (North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Egypt). The Regiment was disbanded in Dec 1944 and I was retrained (in Italy) by the Royal Armoured Corps. Finally, I served as Loader/Op with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars (6th Armd.,78th & 56 Div) from Mar 1945 to Dec 1946 (Italy, Austria, Germany) finishing up as Tech Cpl. for "A" Sqdrn.  I was "De-mobbed" in Apr 1947

http://www.blogger.c...947129038825503


#28 James S

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 12:30 PM

Slim - now there I would agree with you Tom . :)
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#29 Smudger Jnr

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 02:41 PM

REK

The following link describes a massacre similar to what was anticipated for all POW's.

American Prisoners of War: Massacre at Palawan » HistoryNet

A Canadian POW, Vince Calder, makes reference to that incident and obviously they had prepared for that possibility.

"In May 1945, when we heard the war with Germany was over, our hopes went sky high. We had always though that, when Germany surrendered, Japan would try to hold on for a month or two and then claim that since their allies had double-crossed them by giving up, they could not continue fighting the world by themselves. After May, our treatment in camp continued to be fairly good, but at work it was no fun whatsoever. We took more beatings those days than ever before because the Nippers knew the war was on its last legs. We knew it also, and so we only laughed at them and they realised that some day soon, we might just get a crack at them too. For the past 1-1/2 years, we had the camp planted with dynamite in case they tried the same things on us that they did in Palewan."



Thank you for the very informative link.

It makes for grim reading.

Regards
Tom
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#30 REK

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 03:02 PM

A War Story

This is quite long but I suspect that will be of interest to you.

World War II and the NFB :: See Everything, Hear Everything


Canuck

I've watched the film now. Incredibly powerful and really conveys the atmosphere, suffering and dreadful conditions. Just makes me glad that I was born when I was - thanks very much for posting.

In addition, the film has a very specific relevance to this particular thread (although it is not spelt out in the film itself). After the Japanese surrender, Jack Edwards - the Welsh sergeant who is the film's predominant interviewee - found what I believe was the only surviving copy of the 1944 "order to massacre all prisoners" referred to in one of my earlier posts on this thread.

Thanks again - a fantastic film.
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