Living a day at a time without contact to the outside world, we were unaware of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, and on Nagasaki on August 9. We did not know that the Japanese had finally surrendered.
We would not know until August 23.
Even though I very much live in the present and am focused on the future, I often dwell on the past. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, with 100 million participating troops and over 70 million casualties. I am a survivor of the War in the Pacific. My early years were spent in brutal captivity.
On August 15, 2016 the world commemorated the 71st anniversary of the Japanese surrender and the end of the Pacific War. Veterans of that conflict will have memories of their own.
Many of you who were born after that war will have heard about the war in Europe, the Holocaust, the atomic bombs and even the military battles in Asia. But what do you know about the fate of the hundreds of thousands of civilians ― men, women and children ― who were living in Southeast Asia when the war broke out? What do you know about the Pacific Holocaust?
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Starting in 1937, the Japanese army invaded one country after another, then island after island, raping, incarcerating and eliminating the (white) population in their quest to get the monopoly in Asia.
Little has been written about the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies and the terrible conditions in the POW camps they established there. My first book, In the Shadow of the Sun, was based on the detailed but secret journal my mother kept during our years under Japanese oppression.
Published in 1992, it was one of the first English-language accounts in North America about Japanese death camps for women and children in Southeast Asia. I wrote it because I wanted people to know what happened to the innocent civilian POWs during the war. In the Shadow of the Sun is now out of print. But I repeated the story!
Do you want a quick and easy way to learn what went on in the prison camps for women and children while the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Army Air Corps troops steadily advanced towards Japan? In my 2011 World War II memoir Rising from the Shadow of the Sun you will get an eye-witness account of life in the women’s camps. The Second Edition was published in November 2015.
You will also get a glimpse of the Japanese War Crimes Files, which were declassified in the year 2000. They explain what would have happened to all POWs if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.
Trailer for Rising from the Shadow of the Sun
Do you want to get an impression of what happened in civilian men’s POW camps? Would you like to read some stories by US Navy veterans who served in and survived the Pacific War? Check out my new Anthology, published on August 3, 2014: Survivors of WWII in the Pacific.
In both books you will read personal stories that make WWII come alive and show you the secrets of survival and the resilience of the human spirit.
Life is like being alone in a little kayak on a river with a life of its own: if you don’t consciously direct your own mind to where you want to go in life you may end up where you don’t want to be.
Ronny Herman de Jong