Take our user survey and make your voice heard.
national

Australian in Thailand devotes life to 'Death Railway' POWs

20 Comments
By DENIS D. GRAY

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

20 Comments
Login to comment

I hope that stories and history like this are never forgotten. We have a duty to remember and thanks to this one man and his wife this part of history should be preserved.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

I speechless...very moving article.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Read "The Naked Island" by Russell Braddon, he was one of the survivors of the railroad. His book is wonderfully written, and tells of his 4'years life of as an Australian POW of the Japanese.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Out of the jungle appear remnants of a railway that cost the lives of more than 100,000 Allied prisoners and Asians enslaved by Japan’s Imperial Army.

Is it just a coincidence that this article appears just a few days after Japan had all the big ceremonies to commemorate the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I mean there were countless articles here on JT alone about all the anguish still associated with those events.. Don't guess this article will gain much traction in Japanese-language media.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

jerseyboy: I still remember some Japanese female 'reporter' who visited one of the sites of the railroad, with a full crew, lots of water, and medical group if need be and went for a casual walk/jog along it saying, "See? This is not that bad! No way it is as it has been reported in foreign media." etc., etc., and pushing how it was all lies. And there are many who deny that this part of history even happened, never mind even admitting the Allied prisoners of war who died, but the tens of thousands of Asians who died while being forced to work the railroad as well.

That said, it should be noted that even in the article is says Japanese records were more helpful at times in revealing information, and some of the tales of history from Australia or others were just that -- tales. So while many here deny it happened, and politicians who think they're scoring points for personal projects to change the constitution aren't about to apologize for it, there are those who kept proper records here. Also, many former Japanese guards have shaken hands with former prisoners/laborers in some very moving ceremonies.

But yes, this will largely go unmentioned here, as is par for the course.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

90,000 Asians, including Tamils from Malaysia, Burmese and Indonesians

Japan's old 'Co-Prosperity Sphere' adding value to fellow Asians.

They were starved and worked to death by Japanese and Korean soldiers.

The bombs stopped many more from this unforgivable murder.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

SmithIJ,

I think that tart "walked" the Batan Death March route, not the railway in Thailand

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And where is Japan in all these efforts. Don't they feel the need to give a hand to this noble and lone expedition? There is no other place where help could come than from Japan. Hopefully they will not rebuke and criticise again whatever this honorable man uncover along the tracks as time passes, as they already done to other causes for WWII.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

my great grandfather spent much of the war in a Japanese POW camp, he made a diary about his ordeal after the war, which after his death was passed around many of our family to read. the treatment at the hand of the Japanese was horrific the long days labouring very little food, forced to eat rodents bugs lizards and even grass just to stay alive. the whippings if you slacked off, left to die if you could go on no further. he was about 200lb before the war when he was liberated his weight was less than 90lb.. For many many years after the war he would horde food canned etc in and around his home just to be sure he wouldnt go hungry. Hunger he wrote was one of the worst tortures imaginable. He knew very little of Japanese and Japan before the war, after the war and til his dieing day he hated anybody Japanese or looked Japanese. He wrote in his diary that he tried very hard to forgive those who treated him like that, but the haunting memories of the suffering and death of many of his friends made that impossible. he seemed sadened that he couldnt forgive like many did, his mental scars just ran too deep. He spent 3.5 yrs in POW camps, and he said that if it had been any longer he doubted he would survive. almost half of all in his camps died of disease, starvation, overworked. Just though id share a tiny fraction of his diary.

now just wait for all the "Japan was the victim" bashers to say that POWs didint suffer at the hands of th IJA, the figures are exaggerated

8 ( +8 / -0 )

There's a sheen of 'Japan wasn't so bad really' in this article. Maybe it's just my mood. But, statements like these:

Japanese soldiers also suffered hardships and savage commanders, and not all are portrayed as brutes. The exhibits include rare photographs provided by a Japanese engineer on the railway.

and

He proved that the guards killed no Australians there

and

the index cards that Japan’s Imperial Army kept on every POW sometimes have proved more helpful than Australian officialdom

rankle me a little. Of course, they are true. Just like not all guards in Nazi concentration camps were brutes, and the Nazi's own records helped sort out the fate of many.... but... if you look at the mentions of Japan in the article, 3 are the ones I listed above and 1 is the dismissive

Although Japanese atrocities are graphically depicted, it is not a mere museum of horrors.

Like I say, maybe it's just my mood today.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

GW: "I think that tart "walked" the Batan Death March route, not the railway in Thailand"

Oops! You are absolutely right, and I was mistaken. My bad. But while the incidents are different, the attitude is the same in terms of the denial or simple dismissiveness of atrocities committed by the IJA. Hence the error.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Phil

I wouldn't say that the article is trying to make Japan look good, it's more concerned with establishing the facts, which is surely what Mr Beattie is working towards.....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good article. I rode the surviving section of the Death Railway some years ago; it's a very beautiful train ride through some wonderful scenery, and it terminates in the vicinity of Hellfire Pass (mentioned in the article). We also visited the Hellfire Pass memorial, a moving tribute to what happened there.

I recall my first visit, a few years later, to Yasukuni shrine and the attached Yushukan museum. The first thing you see upon entering is a big black steam locomotive. It is the original locomotive engine from the Death Railway, on loving display for posterity without any mention whatsoever of the horrors it represents, without any attempt to educate about what happened.

On a recent visit I popped into the Yushukan's entrance hall and noted down exactly what the display board says, which is:

Model C65 Locomotive No. 31 from the Thai-Burma Railroad. This locomotive was produced in 1936 by Nippon Sharyo, and ran in the Nanao region in Ishikawa prefecture. It was commandeered to the south for the Great East Asian War where, as one of 90 cars that played an important role in Thailand, this locomotive No. 31 took part in the opening ceremony of the Thai-Burma Railroad. After the war, it was used by the Thai national railroad. It was to be retired in 1977, but members of the southern forced field railroad squadron who were involved in the construction of the Thai-Burma Railroad contributed funds and bought it back from the Thai national railroad. In 1979 it was dedicated to Yasukuni Jinja.

That was the English panel; the Japanese one says the same thing, and also has an additional panel gaving a little more information such as the length of the railroad, the number of workers, how long it took to complete, and that it was a great engineering achievement. But no mention of the six-figure number of casualties, no mention of the starvation and sickness, no mention of anything other than geography and engineering; a perfect illustration of the problems surrounding the Yushukan and the Yasukuni version of history, and the historical whitewashing by leading political figures who share this denialist view.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Silly question. But why was the railway abandoned in 1947? Surely it was built for a reason? What changed after the war?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hi Luca,

The Japanese built it to supply their frontlines against the British in Burma / India. Once the war finished, the Japanese were obviously no longer using the line for that purpose; as to why Thailand & Burma didn't choose to keep it in operation, I have no idea.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Silly question. But why was the railway abandoned in 1947? Surely it was built for a reason? What changed after the war? simple really probably was too expensive to finish since you didnt have anymore free lave labour to do it for you.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Yoshitune & wtf

Thank you! Makes sense....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kudos to this guy. What he's doing is really admirable. It's important that crimes like these don't get buried, sidelined and allowed to fade into history. This, the infamous Bataan Death March, and other atrocities committed by the IJA should never be forgotten for the sake of future generations. I wish we had more people like him in this world.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Well. If it was me... I would sell all that steel

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan's old 'Co-Prosperity Sphere' adding value to fellow Asians.

They were starved and worked to death by Japanese and Korean soldiers.

The bombs stopped many more from this unforgivable murder.

Agree with everything, except that the Soviet entry into the war against Japan is what most likely caused their surrender

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites