World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

Survivors’ Stories

Hannie Blaauw – Conclusion

Hannie_85_300It was hot on the road back to Camp Tjimahi. Hannie walked at a steady pace, his feet starting to ache  underneath the hard rubber strap of his klètèks. After an hour, knowing that he was not even  half way, he was so thirsty that he decided to get something to drink at a warung (small open air café selling cold bottled drinks) in the next kampong (small village). He walked into the kampong, wondering if they would have anything to drink so soon after the war. Even a cup of water would be good though, and the thought of cool water made him smile.

Suddenly, a man blocked his path. “Go back to your camp,” the man said urgently. “Go quickly, hurry! Lekas, lekas, because terrible things are about to happen.” When Hannie looked up, the man was gone. “That must have been my guardian angel,” Hannie thought, and without another look at the warung in the distance he turned around, back to the road, and as fast as his legs could carry him he hurried, his klètèks making a nervous sound, faster and faster, back to Tjimahi.

The next day, the Bersiap (Indonesian term meaning ‘get ready’) started: the violent and chaotic fight for independence of the Indonesian extremists right after World War Two. Young freedom fighters roamed the countryside, brutally killing all people in sight. Hannie was safe behind the closed gates of Camp Tjimahi.

Fast forward: Hannie went to the Netherlands by way of Singapore. Several years later, he found his sweetheart, Nellie; they got married in 1958 and emigrated to the USA in 1961. They were blessed with a son and two daughters and made a good life for themselves in California, after the initial difficult years as penniless immigrants.

In 1997 they moved to Prescott. Hannie competed in the Prescott Senior Olympics for years, winning gold and silver; for many years he volunteered at Meals on Wheals together with Nellie. When Nellie passed away, Hannie, supported by his many friends, carried on, cooking his own meals, volunteering, playing tennis, and taking care of his little puppy Scotty, his new companion. When Hannie was 86, his daughter decided he lived too far away from her, and in June of 2013, Hannie moved with Scotty to a town in the California desert.

After a week, he called enthusiastically: “Ronny! There are eight tennis courts close by, and two swimming pools!” Two weeks later: “Ronny, I have nobody to play with. I guess I have to wait for the snowbirds”. He never complained, but set out to make new friends. He offered to volunteer at the local hospital, but they had no use for him. In October, he called and said, “Ronny! I joined the church choir, a very large choir!”
“You did?” I said, “I did not know you could sing.”
“I can’t,” Hannie said, “I cannot even read notes, but they accepted me and I am singing along. Pretty soon we will start rehearsing for Christmas.”

And make new friends he did! He discovered pickle ball and is now an enthusiastic player with many other seniors in his town. The latest thing he told me was that he had purchased a ukulele and is taking classes. But learning to read notes is one thing, learning to read chords and then produce sounds with your eighty-six-year-old fingers is something else. “You are my Sunshine” is difficult for him to learn, but I bet that one day he will play it beautifully.

On April 1st of this year Hannie will celebrate his 87th birthday. Life threw him many curve balls, but Hannie knew how to swing to get far; he never gave up hope, he reached out to others even when he had to start over in a strange new environment, far away from his old friends. He lives his life one day at a time, grateful for what he has today, thankful to live in this beautiful country, knowing that God has a plan for him, a plan to prosper and not for harm, a plan to give him hope, a plan for his future.

If you want to congratulate Hannie on his 87th birthday, please leave a comment below. Hannie has no computer, but I will forward all comments to him by mail.

I hope you enjoyed Hannie’s uplifting stories about his time in captivity and his positive outlook on life: the secret to live to a ripe old age.

Until next time,



8 thoughts on “World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945”

  1. Reading Hanny’s story made me think of a children’s poem by R.L. Stevenson. It goes like this:
    “The world is so full of a number of things; I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” This is a simple thought for a man whose life has been lived finding happiness in the wonder of a number of things.

  2. Thanks for your comment Anne. There are many Stevensons; I have an old book (1924) with children’s poems by Sam C. Stevenson. Amazing. Hannie found happiness in life regardless of all he setbacks.

  3. Hannie, selamat hari lahir dari Canada samma banjiak hudjan kapok.
    My daughter also has her birtday 1 Apr. We are now old kakek’s.

  4. Ronny, Thank you so very much for sending this synopsis of Hannie’s life to me! I met Hannie and Nellie at the Pendleton Center where I was exercising. They were so quiet but interesting people! When asked, they told me they were from Indonesia but they said nothing about their WWII experiences and the Japanese. I wish they had of now because after I graduated from High School at age 17 I joined the US Navy and was off to war at that age. I was later transferred to the US Marine Corps and off to the South Pacific I went: Noumea, New Caledonia for Marine Combat Training, then Guadalcanal, then Kwajalein and up the slot to the Marianas campaign Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Roi. I would have loved to talk to them about my WWII experiences compared to theirs. The one thing I remember about Nellie was that she was such a quiet and gracious Lady! And I will never forget either one of them! If Hannie ever gets a computer, please give me his email address. If not, his snail address would be just fine and I will write him! Thanks again Ronny, you are such a doll! BTW, I was in the South Pacific 1943-1945!

    • Hi Ben, thanks for your comment. I will send you Hannie’s address by email. He would love to hear from you, I’m sure.

  5. I forgot one item that I intended to mention. On July 14, 2014 I will reach my 89th birthday so I have Hannie by a couple of years in that department! But I wish I could run like he can! Both of my knees have been replaced, ugh! However, since 1996 to the present I am still attending the Pendleton Center for my exercise program and it has been most gratifying! When I began, I weighed a hefty 262 lbs and my cholesterol number was 400! Today I am down to 204 and my cholesterol number is 232! That’s the main reason why I will never stop my exercise program!

    • You are a hero, Ben, not only during the war years, but also in taking good care of yourself with exercise. And how could I ever forget Bastille Day! 🙂


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