Is it just me or does everyone wonder what war might make them do?

scott Blogs, Dont Miss, Mark & Caroline

Is it just me or does everyone wonder what war might make them do?

Is it just me or does everyone wonder what war might make them do?

Last week I re-traced the Sandakan Death March through Borneo with Wild Spirit Adventures.

It is the worst war time atrocity suffered by Australians.  Almost 2500 POW’s were interred by the Japanese at Sandakan, ostensibly to build an air strip. As the military situation turned against the Imperial Army, rations were cut and eventually the Japanese ordered the men to march from Sandakan to Ranau a distance of 260 kilometres.

All but six of the POW’s perished.  They died of starvation, dysentery, malaria, brutal bashings, torture, suicide, shootings and some were even gunned down by allied strafing after bad intelligence suggested the POW’s had been evacuated.

The cruelty endured by our young men will stay with me forever.

Our starving POW’s were routinely bashed then forced to stand in the sun for long periods with arms out stretched or crammed into a bamboo cage too small to stand up or lie down in.  Men left in the cage for weeks would emerge no longer able to walk and many died within hours of release.

Last week I walked the track with Casey Hatch who is friends with the family of Sandakan POW Jimmy Darlington, an Aboriginal soldier and talented boxer from Barraba in New South Wales.

Casey told me that when a Japanese soldier spat in his food, Jimmy reacted by breaking his captor’s jaw. A brave and probably foolish thing to do.

Jimmy was forced to kneel on sharpened sticks from a rubber tree and a split log was forced behind his knees which the Japanese guards then jumped on.  Another log was placed over Jimmy’s arms, and the two logs were trussed together with wet rope.  As the rope slowly dried it tore at Jimmy’s skin and constricted his blood flow.  He was forced to stay kneeling.

Legend has it, fellow Australians saved Jimmy’s life by distracting the guards and cutting the rope.  Miraculously Jimmy was later transferred from Sandakan and was one of the very few who made it home.

So how could the Japanese be so cruel?  It was simply how they were treated by their own superiors.

In the 1930’s the Japanese Imperial Army was a culture of extreme brutality. If a Japanese Colonel was dis-pleased he would strike a Major across the face in public. Majors would similarly chastise Captains, down the line through Lieutenants and Sergeants the brutality got worse, until the men perceived by the Japanese to be the lowest of the low, the allied soldiers who had allowed themselves to be captured.

We know now there is no such thing as a cruel race.  Every culture has a shameful history, some more recent than others.

The important thing is to remember and honour the victims.  Lest we forget.

Caroline xxx

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