Hugo’s box

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These were once the toys, clothing and medicine of Hugo Steenmeijer, the child of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother.

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When Japan occupied the Dutch East Indies in 1942, his father was sent to work as a forced labourer on the Burma Railway.

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The Japanese imprisoned Europeans in internment camps. The 150,000 people native to the country, but with ties to the Dutch like Hugo’s mother, were left to their fate. As so-called buitenkampers (those outside the camps) they were extremely vulnerable.

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Because of their loyalty to the Dutch the Japanese often made their lives miserable and they also felt threatened by groups of native rebels set on Independence. Hugo’s mother struggled to survive in the city of Surabaya with her young son. After the war his father returned. But given Hugo was so frail, he died in 1947. Along with their two younger children, the couple left for the Netherlands in 1950. For years and years this box containing Hugo’s belongings was off-limits to everyone. When Hugo’s siblings finally decided to open this small chest after the death of their parents, they found something of Hugo’s long lost life inside.

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Alistair Urquhart- The man that just wouldn’t be killed.

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Sometimes you come  across stories and you think “You could not write this”. Amazing tales of survival.Proof of how strong the will to live can be.

Alistair Urquhart  8 September 1919 – 7 October 2016) was a Scottish businessman and the author of The Forgotten Highlander, an account of the three and a half years he spent as a Japanese prisoner of war during his service in the Gordon Highlanders infantry regiment during the Second World War.

Urquhart was born in Aberdeen in 1919. He was conscripted into the British Army in 1939, at the age of 19, and served with the Gordon Highlanders stationed at Fort Canning in Singapore.

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He was taken prisoner when the Japanese invaded the island during the Battle of Singapore, which lasted from December 1941 to February 1942. He was sent to work on the Burma Railway,built by the Empire of Japan to support its forces in the Burma Campaign and referred to as “Death Railway” because of the tens of thousands of forced labourers who died during its construction. While working on the railway Urquhart suffered malnutrition, cholera and torture at the hands of his captors.

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After working on the railway and in the docks in Singapore, Urquhart was loaded into the hold of the Kachidoki Maru, an American passenger and cargo ship captured by the Japanese and put to use as a “hell ship” transporting hundreds of prisoners. The ship was part of a convoy bound for Japan; on the voyage prisoners endured more illness, dehydration, and instances of cannibalism.

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On 12 September 1944, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the US submarine USS Pampanito,whose commander was unaware of its cargo of prisoners.

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Urquhart was burned and covered in oil when the ship went down, and swallowed some oil which caused permanent damage to his vocal cords.He floated in a single-man raft for five days without food or water before being picked up by a Japanese whaling ship and taken to Japan.

In Japan, Urquhart was sent to work in coal mines belonging to the Aso Mining Company and later a labour camp ten miles from the city of Nagasaki. He was there when the city was hit with an atomic bomb by the United States.

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Remarkably he survived all 3 events. In 2010, Urquhart published The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East, an account of his experiences.

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In the book he expresses anger at the lack of recognition in Japan of its role in war crimes as compared to the atonement in Germany.

He was born in the City of Aberdeen, but has resided in Broughty Ferry, Dundee for many years. He spent his retirement teaching retired people how to use the computer and attended and taught ballroom dancing at many Tea Dances.He died on 7 October 2016, aged 97.

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The evil of Japan during WWII

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Many people forget that the Japanese war crimes were as bad if not worse then those committed by the Nazi’s albeit it on a marginal lesser scale. Beside the crimes and experiment committed by Unit 731 there were a great number of other atrocities, including cannibalism.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/07/01/unit-731-japanese-wwii-experiments/

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In “The Knights of Bushido”, Lord Russell of Liverpool describes an unprovoked murder of two Dutch civilian administrators at Balikpapan in Borneo after the Japanese invaded that Dutch colony in 1942. An eyewitness to the murders gave the following horrific account:

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“I saw a district officer and a police inspector, both in uniform, in conversation with a Japanese Army officer. During the interview, the officer had been continually ill-treating the district officer (a Dutchman), slapping his face and hitting him all over his body with the scabbard of his sword. Suddenly, the officer drew his sword and hacked off both the Dutchman’s arms just above the elbows, and then both his legs above the knees. The trunk of his body was then tied to a coconut tree and bayoneted until life was extinct. The Japanese officer then turned his attention to the Dutch policeman, who had his arms and legs hewed off in like manner. The policeman struggled on to the stumps of his legs and managed to shout ‘God save the Queen’

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He then fell dead, a bayonet through his heart”

Lord Russell relates the story of a young American pilot who was captured, murdered, and eaten by Japanese officers on the island of New Britain. The story is narrated by Havildar Chandgi Ram who had been shipped to New Britain with other Indian Army prisoners of war and forced to work as a slave labourer for the Imperial Japanese Army.

“On 12 November 1944, I was digging a trench for the Japanese in the Totabil area of New Britain. About 1600 hours, a single-engined United States fighter plane made a forced landing about a hundred yards away from where I was working. The Japanese from Go Butai Kendebo Camp rushed to the spot and seized the pilot, who could not have been more than twenty years old, and had managed to scramble out of the plane before the Japs could reach him.

“About half an hour from the time of the forced landing, the Kempei Tai * beheaded the pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips and buttocks and carry it off to their quarters. I was so shocked at the scene and followed the Japanese just to find out what they would do with the flesh. They cut it in small pieces and fried it.

“Later that evening, a senior Japanese officer, of the rank of major general, addressed a large number of officers. At the conclusion of his speech, a piece of fried flesh was given to all present who ate it on the spot.”

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Just a day before the British surrendered Singapore, Japanese soldiers stormed Alexandra Military Hospital and slaughtered its occupants, including the medical staff and patients. Even those undergoing surgery were not spared.

Following the massacre, the Japanese forced those left to clean up the mess and then herded them into cramped rooms. When morning came, the Japanese rounded up the 200 survivors (some died during the night) and bayoneted them in the courtyard. Only five survived the second massacre by hiding in a storm drain.

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Japan did not subscribe to the Geneva convention and systematically mistreated and tortured the POW’s . They even used them as target practice(1st picture above)

Close to 200,000 Prisoners of War died during the construction of the Burma-Thailand(death) Railway.

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3,098 Dutch (19%)
6,904 English (29%)
2,646 Australians (31%)
131 American (23%)
180,000 Asiatic (90%)

Even the small South Pacific island of Nauru did not escape the horrors of the war. During their occupation of the island, the Japanese committed a string of atrocities, and a few stood out for their brutality.

After a raid on the island’s airfield by American bombers on March 1943, the Japanese beheaded and bayoneted five interned Australians in retaliation.

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That same year, the Japanese also forcibly deported more than 1,000 indigenous inhabitants as labor to other occupied islands to conserve rations.

During their occupation, the Japanese singlehandedly exterminated the island’s leper colony. Stowing the island’s 39 lepers on a boat, the Japanese led them far out to sea and out of sight. Afterward, Japanese gun boats fired at the vessel, sinking it and killing all onboard.

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One of Japan’s most notorious submarines, the I-8, is best remembered for sinking two Allied ships and for the crew’s terrible conduct in the aftermath.

On March 26, 1944, the sub spotted and sank the Dutch freighter Tsijalak hundreds of miles off the coast of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Japanese took 103 survivors onboard and massacred them with swords and sledgehammers. They then bound those still alive and left them on deck as the submarine dove below. Only five survived the ordeal.

Just a few months later, the Japanese destroyed the US cargo ship Jean Nicolet and subjected the survivors to the same brutal treatment. The Japanese tortured and killed their prisoners by making them pass through a gauntlet of swords and bayonets before throwing their bodies overboard. The Japanese later dove after spotting an Allied aircraft, with 30 prisoners still above deck. Only two dozen of the 100-plus prisoners survived.

The list of atrocities is neatly endless and these ones weren’t ever the worse, China was suffered most under the Japanese. The rape of Nanking or Nanking Massacre took place between December 13, 1937 – January 1938. The numbers killed are unknown but the consensus is anywhere between 50,000 and 300,000.

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Early in 1945, General Yamashita planned for his men to evacuate Manila and fight in the countryside. However, two Japanese admirals ignored his order and committed their men to a final stand inside the city. When the Americans arrived, the Japanese forces realized that they faced certain death and vented their rage on the hapless civilians trapped inside their lines.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/08/10/the-manila-massacre/

For weeks, the Japanese raped, pillaged, and murdered. Aside from the bayonets and beheadings, they machine-gunned captives and set fire to buildings with people trapped inside. The Americans ceased artillery strikes so the Japanese could surrender, but the Japanese instead continued their rampage.

 

 

After the dust settled, all Japanese defenders of the city had died, taking with them 100,000 civilian casualties. The incident left Manila as one of the Allies’ most damaged capital cities, second only to Warsaw.