World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

Slave Labourer in Nagasaki – Part Two

About 11 o’clock the next morning the ship’s siren went off. One single plane with the markings of the Japanese flag came flying overhead. At 3 o’clock we saw a smoke plume on the horizon from a Japanese warship. Shortly afterwards another ship appeared, a corvette. They signaled for us to shop our ship. The two warships just kept circling, their two dozen or so torpedoes and their cannons pointing at us. Gabal and van Veen said: “Let’s go to the other side of the ship – then we can jump off if they start firing.” How naïve we were! When we were at the other side we saw more torpedoes and their cannons pointing at us, and the ships kept circling us like sharks. They lowered a sloop with a crew of marines who boarded our ship. Another three battle ships appeared on the horizon with double towers. Now we could see the enormous war power of the Japanese!

We felt humiliated and powerless with our insignificant gun. The Japanese officer made a speech in perfect English and told us that they would win the war and that we were now POWs without any honor. The Tjisarua started its engines again and we headed northeast to the Sunda Islands under escort of one war shipOur red-white-and-blue flag was gone from the mast and instead there was the red circle.


We entered the harbor of Macassar on the Island of Celebes (now Sulawesi). With a lot of screaming and pushing on the part of the Japanese guards, we disembarked. On shore we were counted, and counted and counted. Then came a loud “Kurrah” (hurry) and we had to jog. In the darkness of the night we finally were given the order to stop in front of a big ugly building which was formerly a women’s prison. We had to be counted again and again by a fierce Japanese guard who used a heavy piece of wood for counting. We were put in a cell that was made for eighteen women, and there were 130 of us! The ones at the walls had a little back support. The boys in the next cell had arrived one day earlier. We found out that they had survived the Battle of the Java Sea. We got the information through the prison walls by Morse code.

The next morning we had our first breakfast, a slice of bread. After that we had to wait till evening for a little rice and a piece of dried flying fish. Plates were not available and we had to use whatever we had – a hat, a handkerchief or our bare hands. The Japanese officers and ship’s crew came to watch us in our cells as if we were animals in a zoo. On one of these visits, one of the English survivors of the Battle of the Java Sea made a remark like “bloody bastards.” One of the officers who understood English overheard the remark. The culprit was taken out of the cell and fastened to a pole, with his hands above his head. Then he was beaten with a ship’s rope that had been soaked in water. This was the first of many tortures which I had to witness.

March 18 started as usual with counting, then breakfast, then counting again. Suddenly I heard commotions outside our window in the courtyard and heard a lot of “Kurrahs”. When I looked out, I saw a young eighteen-year-old Amboinese boy about to be shot by an officer of the guardhouse.

The Amboinese loved the Queen of Holland very much and in every one of their homes one could expect to find a portrait of Queen Wilhelmina hanging on the wall. The boy had been told to take down the picture of the Queen, which he did. The Japanese officer of the guardhouse threw the picture on the ground and started dancing on it, breaking the glass. He then tore the picture to shreds, whereupon the young Amboinese hit the Japanese officer in the face.

The officer took him to the courtyard behind the guardhouse and asked him if he would like to be blindfolded, but the boy refused. He was told that he would be shot, and they tied him to the pole. The officer walked backwards, took his pistol out and was ready to shoot. We watched with horror through the window. At that moment the boy managed to release one arm and he started to yell at the top of his lungs, “Long live the Queen!” The officer began shooting, and the boy kept yelling. After repeated shots the boy was still not dead; the officer walked over and put the gun to his temple.

Excerpt by John Franken.  Published earlier in Four Years till Tomorrow

To be continued.

As always:  I welcome your comments right here on this page.

Until next time,



World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

Other than civilian concentration camps for women and children, numerous men’s camps existed as well. Men were also used as slave laborers, not only in the Dutch East Indies, but as far away as Japan. The following story was written by John Franken, an amazing Canadian-Dutch man, whom I met on deck of the USS Missouri, moored in the harbor of Bellingham, WA, for the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1995. Part of his story runs parallel with that of my father, ten years his senior. My father was a pilot with the Dutch Naval Air Force in Soerabaja since 1937. John Franken joined in 1941. In February 1942 both men were ordered to evacuate to Tjilatjap and board a ship with unknown destination. From thereon out, their lives continued in different directions. Both survived! Read excerpts of John Franken’s story in my upcoming Blog posts.\

On the deck of the Missouri, Bremerton 1995Slave Labourer in Nagasaki

I was born on April 10, 1922, in Semarang, capital of the middle part of the island of Java. I was the fourth of five sons. My father was a traveling salesman for an insurance company while my mother tended a small store. When that became too much for her, my father closed the shop and rebuilt it into a hotel, since there was a big demand for accommodation for salesmen passing through, selling imports from Holland. I learned a lot about my Jewish background during this period because many of the salesmen were Jewish. My mother ran the hotel with a firm hand. She was fair to everybody and was always there when needed. She had many friends among the natives and was very much loved. My father passed away on May 3, 1941. Before he died, he called my brother and me to his bedside and told us to learn a trade.

In July 1941, when I was nineteen, I was mobilized and went into the Naval Air Force in Surabaya, the capital of East Java, and signed a contract for ten years. At the end of January the order came that we had to evacuate to Tjilatjap, a harbor city on the south coast of Middle Java.

We were to be shipped to an unknown destination. Fourteen of us were assigned to an airport transport bus with an Indonesian driver. Each of us was given an antiquated gun (model 95) with ammunition, in case we would meet Japanese soldiers. What a joke! While we were loading the bus with food and drinks, the air raid sirens went off again. We took shelter under the bus and when the air raid was over, the driver had disappeared. Only one of us, Theo Snellen van Vollenhoven, could drive the bus. When we passed through Djogjakarta (now Yogyakarta) I said goodbye to my mother. That was the last time I saw her and it remains engraved in my mind. She died on November 2, 1944, in the Japanese concentration camp of Ambarawa.

When we arrived in Tjilatjap there was a great deal of commotion and disarray. The harbor was crowded with ships from the Dutch Merchant Marine. Meanwhile, there were many air raids because the Japanese knew that an evacuation was in progress. Many ships left but we had to stay another day without explanation. All fourteen of us boarded the Tjisarua and left for an unknown destination, with one seven-cm gun on board. We heard that some ships which had left ahead of us had been torpedoed while trying to get out of this mousetrap on the south coast. It was one big chaos; the world was collapsing around us.

We kept close to the coastline to escape any waiting submarines. The next day we came to the end of the south coast of Java, and we changed direction to southeast. Then we understood that we were heading for Australia. We were apparently escaping the ring of submarines and were starting to feel safe. The sea was calm, the night sky full of stars. The atmosphere was more relaxed – but not for long!  

Excerpt by John Franken. Published earlier in Four Years till Tomorrow

To be continued.

As always: I welcome your comments.

Until next time,


Into the New Year: 2014

I don’t know about you, but the New Year  started ever so slowly for me. Friends who died, two birthdays and a wedding anniversary, and not to forget all the Christmas cards and newsletters from friends and relatives that I wanted to re-read and sometimes respond to made for a very relaxing first week. Then, after I was featured on Highlighted  a flood of reactions got me back into the saddle.

Have you made New Year’s resolutions? I would love to hear what they are and I will share a few things I have set my mind to.

1) I have started my bucket list and am very excited when I think of all the things on that list that I will see and do in due time.

2) I have started a list of things I can do to preserve water here in our high and dry part of Arizona.

3) I have started a list of things I already do and can add to in order to save money.

4) If you have read my book, you would know that I would not be Ronny if I did not have a birthday/anniversary/Mother’s Day/Christmas wish list. 🙂 If you have not read my book, please do, because, looking at all the wonderful reviews it got on Amazon, I am sure you will love it and learn from it.

I am looking forward to your comments. I hope I can learn from your suggestions.

Until next time,