Bataan Death March – April 1942 – World War Two

While part of the Japanese army landed on Java in the Dutch East Indies, marched into Soerabaja, separated and incarcerated families, a horrifying, atrocious event took place on the island of Luzon in the Philippines after the fall of Bataan, known as the Bataan Death March. If you have never read the details, perhaps this article, quoted from http://www.Roger will give you an idea of the cruelty of the Japanese.  And this was only the beginning of three and a half years of brutal Japanese oppression in Southeast Asia.

map of bataan One of the earliest and most severe mistreatment of prisoners of war became known to the world as the DEATH MARCH.  All troops, both Filipino and American, gathered at various points on Bataan after the April 1942 surrender to the Japanese and then were forced to march 65 miles from Mariveles on the tip of Bataan to San Fernando under conditions that no one believed could happen.  All valuables were confiscated; Jack Heinzel recalls: “All prisoners were stripped of personal possessions, watches, jewelry and cigarettes by the oncoming Japanese front line troops.” There was very little food, no water and no medical attention to the sick and wounded.  Ferron Edwin Cummins attests in “This Is My Story” that “we were placed in a kneeling position, searched again and left sitting in the hot tropical sun for about six hours without food or water.” Abie Abraham began his account, “The men started to march in a long column on the dusty road.  For many of the bloody, frail men this was the last march. The sun beat down unmercifully on the marchers with a continuous drum by the Japanese guards to hurry.  Furthermore, the Japanese treated the POWs with savage brutality. As Albert Brown recalled, “Those who fell out of line or failed to follow orders were met with beheadings, stabbings, or shootings.” In an article about ex-POW Paul Ehney, Curtis Norris writes: “Along the way, numbers of them were slaughtered by bayonet, sword, gun, truck, whatever the Japs could use to kill. Many wounded were buried alive, their moans smothered by hastily-shoveled earth. There was no rhyme or reason to the killings. They occurred as the fancy hit the individual Japanese soldier.” Around 70,000 men began the trek to the north, but only 54,000 arrived at Camp O’Donnell.  No one was ever able to record the exact death toll since many were unaccounted for or just escaped.   Approximately 600 of those who perished were American, and between five to ten thousand  were Filipinos.

Arriving at San Fernando, the troops were literally shoved and stuffed into small railroad cars with no room to sit down for last leg into Camp O’Donnell.  They received no water, no food and the heat from the tropical sun was relentless.  Thus they came to the end of the road, suffering from every disease imaginable.  They were dirty, unkempt, pale, bloated, and lifeless.  They looked aged beyond their years and had nothing to look forward to except degradation. Of those who survived to reach the Japanese prison camp near Cabanatuan, few lived to celebrate U.S. General Douglas MacArthur‘s liberation of Luzon in 1945.

The United States had informed the Japanese government on December 18, 1941, that it (the US) is a party to the Geneva Convention of 1929 on Prisoners of War, and intended to apply the provisions to both captured armed forces and civilian internees which may be interned by the United States, and requested the Japanese government to apply those provisions to those captured or interned by the armed forces.  On February 4, 1942, the Japanese government cabled that “IT IS STRICTLY OBSERVING THE GENEVA CONVENTION AS A SIGNATORY STATE AND WOULD APPLY MUTIS MUTANDIS PROVISIONS OF THAT LAW TO AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR IN ITS POWER.”
Also on February 4, 1942, Japan cabled that, “ON CONDITION OF RECIPROCITY, JAPAN WILL APPLY GENEVA CONVENTION TO POWS AND CIVILIANS INSOFAR AS APPLICABLE, AND THEY SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO PERFORM LABOR AGAINST THEIR WILL.”  These cables are totally inconsistent with the manner that the Japanese military and civilians mistreated American prisoners of war in their power.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Until next time.


Engineering Ground Zero

The 2001 terrorist attack on September 11  in New York City left two huge voids at the site of the World Trade Center. A once-in-the-history-of-the-United States project called Engineering Ground Zero is taking place at the site. A beautiful Memorial opened on the tenth anniversary. Six new towers are being built. Constructed from strong concrete called liquid steel for strength and safety and 1” prismatic glass for refraction of light at the base of the building, Tower 1 (Architect David Childs) will be the highest skyscraper in the world. Ground Zero is being rebuilt from the inside out.

Compare that to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who survived the systematic starvation, tropical diseases, and barbaric cruelties of the Japanese in concentration camps during World War II in the Pacific. Left with huge voids in 1945 after the Japanese capitulation they had to rebuild their lives from the inside out. For many people the losses were too great; many survivors still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Our little family made it. I thank my parents for rebuilding our lives as a family and enabling me to build a happy life of my own after the camps.

I welcome your comments.

Until next time,


The Shadow of War: Never-ending Pain, Haunting Memories and the Soothing Calm of Pitjit

A little girl, born after World War Two in the Pacific from Javanese parents, Cis learns from Ibu, her mother, the magical, healing effects of Pitjit, Indonesian massage.

Every night her father is plagued by devastating nightmares. He re-lives night after night the time that his battalion was ambushed and the years in the Japanese concentration camp laboring at the Birma railroad during World War Two. His back is aching all the time. In his temper flare-ups and in his screams you hear his anguish and his fear.

Her father lies face down in the center of the floor of the small front room. Carefully Cis climbs on his back, barefoot, and finds her balance. Her father’s back feels cold and spongy. Due to a lack of vitamin B1 during the war both her parents suffer from beriberi and are retaining a lot of fluid. Little dark brown spots indicate the scars caused by cigarette butts snubbed out all across her father’s back. The scar of a bayonet shows in his side. The wounds of war are permanent.

With straight feet Cis walks with small steps left and right of his spine, back and forth, and back and forth. Then again, but now with pressure from her heels, her arms wide, balancing like a tightrope walker. It gives relief and her father smiles.

Now a mature woman, married, with two sons, Cis Everhard is the owner of an Indonesian Massage Practice in Hengelo, the Netherlands. She practices Pitjit with love and healing hands. “Van top tot teen Pitjit”, the wonderful book in the Dutch langugage that she wrote about her family and the healing ways of practicing Pitjit with hands and heart and soul is available on her website

It brought back memories for me of Java and Bali and the way it was, “tempo dulu”.

Excerpts from “Van top tot teen Pitjit” translated by Ronny Herman de Jong

I welcome your comments.

Until next time,



Japanese Contingent signs Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay

September 2, 1945: Freedom at last

Every year on August 15, my parents hung out the flag to commemorate the end of the War in the Pacific. When Emperor Hirohito actually surrendered, on August 15, 1945, my mother Netty, Paula and I were still imprisoned in camp Halmahera in Semarang and were unaware of what was happening in the world. Mamma crossed out the days on her little calendar every night; the last day she crossed out was August 22.

Women and children still died during that week, not knowing the war was over. In other camps it took sometimes longer than that. But in every camp, when they heard the message, the prisoners experienced the most emotional time in their lives singing the Dutch National Anthem “Wilhelmus.” The most wonderful news for me, a little girl of almost seven, was that our Pappa would soon be home. Everything else just went by me.

On September 2, 1945 the Japanese Contingent signed the Instrument of Surrender together with representatives of all the Allied countries, on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. That important date, when the end of the war became official, signed and dated, went by me completely for many years.

Until 1995, when I was invited to the 50th commemoration of that event. I stood on the deck of the “Mighty Mo”, anchored in the harbor of Bremerton, WA, on the actual spot where the document was signed, and I walked over to the bow where three 16” gun barrels pointed straight ahead. It was then that I realized the immense significance of that moment, fifty years ago, and I wept. My family had survived. I owed my life and my freedom to countless men and women who had fought the bloody war and won.