This is a summary of my speech on Commemoration Day, 15th of August 2010. In Alfaz del Pi (province Alicante), Spain, and composed of what I have spoken by heart and as far as I can remember. O. P. A. Louwerens
It is all about the sea transports of POW’s by the Japanese during WWII. Up till the past recent years hardly anything was known about these bestial ways of human transportations..How many of these transportations do you think there have been ? At least 210 transports, with about 68,000 POW’s. Almost 22,000 of these POW’s died
on these transports because of 18 ships being torpedoed by submarines (English and American) , and other ships by bombardment and/or gunfire by allied warplanes,
and also bad conditions on the ships.
From all these 68, 000 POW’s, about 34,000 POW’s were transported to Japan.About some 4,000 of them were Dutch military with the Dutch nationality.. Some 3,000 of them survived and about 910 ended their lives in an urn (my brother was one of them). At the end of the war , of these survivors , about 500 were hospitalised and the other 2,500 were gathered in army-tents outside Manila. They (these 2500 troops ) were further detailed and transported to the Dutch East Indies, in the second half of October 1945, and immediately were put into action on the islands of Borneo and Celebes( now Sulawesi). The English Army in command of the island of Java,and also commanding all means of transportation between the islands of the Dutch East Indies and Java, gave our military no permission to enter the island of Java.Our main goal was the harbourtown of Soerabaya, where there was a lot of trouble and the English troops there could not restore order.
Back to the seatransports ! In the Netherlands we have an Institute for War Documentation (NIOD).
Taking a look in their website, one will notice that the issue of seatransports of POW’s are mentioned in no more than ………..2 sentences !! A very bloody shame !!
In this respect we also have, as I discoverd its existence only this year, a List of Honor in honor of the fallen military and resistance in the years 1940-45. I asked the audience,
“Did you know of its existence ??” I only saw 4 or 5 heads nodding :Yes. A very bloody shame !!
Also a lack in respect and decency,and for many relatives rather offending,and also to the fallen soldiers and resistance men !!-
Now you should know that this list ( or better book in parchmentpaper) was ceremonally installed by our Queen Juliana and her 4 daughters (our Princesses) in the year of 1960
(50 years ago) ,at the entrance of our “Tweede Kamer “( the Dutch Parlement). But given the fact that I checked the personal data of 10 of my well-known deceased friends and acquaintances (including those of my own brother) and found all of them with errors or were not mentioned, the list must be full of errors, false data and omissions (non-mentioned).
Of course I wrote about this to the responsible Institute (the NIOD subsidised by the tax-payer), but got no answer. Almost 7 weeks later I wrote another letter as a reminder ,
but up till now – No answer !!Well, I will be waiting; I got the time!
Well, I will now continue with my personal experiences on these Japanese seatransportrs of POW’s.
My first one was with the Makassar Maru in September 1943 from Batavia (Jakarta) to Singapore. On this middle-sized freighter about 3,500 POW’s were stowed away in the
holds and the rest packed together, unprotected on the deck.Some sources say there were not more than 2,000 POW’s, but you can believe me, there were at least 3,500.
Food was scarcely distributed, and there was hardly any sanitary. But fortunately it rained regularly, so the urine and poop was for the greater part flushed away from the decks, overcrowded with POW’s. For those in the overcrowded holds , it was a dirty, stinking hell !!
After several weeks in an improvisized camp with bamboo-matted barracks in the Changi hills, we were set to work on cutting trees, palms and bushes, and leveling a swampy terrain
for what later has become the new Singapore Airport. At last we were ordered to be ready to be shipped again. Our ship was the Hawaii Maru that departed somewhere on the 10th of November 1943, in a convoy protected by several Japanese warships. On the Hawaii Maru were about 1,200 Dutch troops, some 550 in the back-hold and some 650
(included my person) in the front-hold. The Hawaii Maru, as usual with the Japanese transportships , had no indication of a POW-transport, or otherwise. On the contrary,
on the frontdeck was mounted a gun, I think a 25 pounder, anyway , big enough to sink a submarine with one shot.
Zigzagging slowly the convoy followed its course along the Vietnamese coastal line.Our daily food was of utmost simplicity: mornings a tasteless porridge of cooked rice ,and in the afternoon steamed (or cooked ) rice with soup, looking like boiled water being touched by some meat with cabbage leaves floating around. This was our daily menu, 4 weeks long !!
The WC’s (toilets) consisted of several baskets with a hole in the middle and fastened outboards on both sides with ropes to the railing of the ship.You had to take care and watch
your steps climbing into it. With choppy seas the waves almost reached the baskets. It was quite a happening, hanging above these waves ! You should try it someday !!
When we reached Hainan, the convoy crossed over to (Formosa) Taiwan , where about halfway it encoutered a typhoon. And as usual in case of alarms and heavy seas, the holds
were closed .Huge waves beating and rolling over the deck . Sometimes it looked and felt like the ship was kept under water and shuddering coming out of it.Anyway the convoy reached Taiwan where it took shelter and waited for better weather to continue its voyage.Several days north of Taiwan we had air-raid alarm. and Just before the holds were closed we had a glimpse of 3 bombers in the air.
We heard the explosions of the bomber-attacks , and luckily not in our neighbourhood..
After a while we felt that the ship was halting , the holds were opened again , only to let in the POW’s from the backhold , who had to clear it for the survivors of a sinking ship ,
we were lying alongside. A destroyer was circling around the both ships to protect them against submarines.
Destroyer and our ship left the convoy and took another course to China. We arrived in Sjanghai where the survivors were disembarked , and we left Sjanghai again to continue all alone, and with no protection whatsoever, our voyage. We followed the Korean coastline and crossed over to Japan to arrive in Moji ,north-coast of Kyushu, on the 6th of december 1943. It was snowing and felt like a freezing cold in our tropical uniforms.
For the most of us this was the first winter in our life , but optimistic as we were, we thought we had had it now !!
How wrong we were, not aware of what misery and hard slave work was awaiting us in the coming years.
Thank you for your attention.
Commemoration Day Speech August 2009
The speech I held on the commemorating day of 15 August 2009 (capitulation of Japan ) follows after this and is a resumption of what I spoke, mainly by heart, and as exactly as my recollection goes, and only concerning the events with the POW-s in the last 6 weeks of WW II in Asia. In the audience of about 90 were among others present :
The Dutch Ambassador for Spain from Madrid , the Dutch Consul for the Gosta Blanca Spain, the 2 Military attaché –s from the Dutch Embassy in Madrid
and Valencia. The commemoration was held in Alfaz del Pi near Benidorm (province Alicante ) Spain, and this was the fourth time I had the opportunity to speak about the time as a POW during WW II in Asia.
Speech of O. P. A. Louwerens on 15 AUG. 2009 (Commemorating Day Capitulation of Japan).
I am very honoured that our Dutch Ambassador in Spain has wanted to be present on his last day in his official function.
In these past decennia you have been lavished every year by our news-media with all the occurrences in World War II concerning the occupation of Holland
and the expulsion of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz , Bergen-Belsen ,Westerbork (transit camp for the Jews to liquidation camps in Germany) , and Anna Frank , and others. This year even enlarged with the news that a chicken-shed should be dismantled, because it was built with the wooden boards of the wreckage of one of the barracks in Westerbork, and even specified in centimetres exactly.
That’s one of the reasons why today I only want to speak about the last 6 weeks of WW II in Asia , with the slaughter and butcheries that took place and which
I consider as the first acts in the Holocaust of Asia. I am thinking of the Andaman Islands, Sandakan (now known as Sabah ) in the former British North-Borneo, the Cheribon Incident ( Java, Indonesia ) and the Loa Kulu mines near Samarinda ( East-Borneo , Indonesia ).
Now after 64 years and gathered here together to commemorate this day , I will ask you ,the audience here , to raise your Hand , if you have ever heard of or read about “Cheribon Incident “ and/or “loa Kulu mines “ ? Places where hundreds of our own countrymen, Dutchmen, have been merciless drowned , slaughtered and butchered . Our Ambassador ,the Military Attachë in Madrid ,and my wife are not allowed to participate (NOTE: pre-acquainted by me).
I repeated the query , (Note: I knew that the audience were either descendants of/or parents and grand-parents who lived in Indonesia during those days).
This is for the statistics : Not one single hand was raised !!
Well, the hot breath of the Holocaust was ,although unaware of this , also hanging over Fukuoka 17. A POW-camp in the town of Omuta on the island of
Kyusju (Japan) , where I myself have been a POW for some 17 months as a mineworker in the coalmines some 450 meters (1500 feet) underground. At a night bombardment on Omuta in June/July 1945 , part of our camp was also hit ;among others 2 POW-barracks that burned down completely. One of these 2 barracks was my barrack, and we , the inhabitants, lost everything of our belongings, with the exception of the cotton working clothes we were wearing ,the shoes we had on, mine-cap , mess tin and spoon. The inhabitants of the 2 barracks ,about 90 in total , were brought under (lodged) in the back part of the mess hall .
Fortunately , the inhabitants of these 2 barracks worked on different shifts in the coalmine.
So, one of the 2 shifts would always be able to make their necessary sleeping hours. However sleeping on the hard wooden tables with our skeleton like bodies was far from comfortable and painful also , so one has to turn one’s body regularly during his sleep.
As you see me here standing before you, I am not thick nor thin with my 66 kilogram . Back to those days , you have to skip my 10 cm (4 inches) of old age shrunken body length ,
and take away 20 kg (45 lbs) of bodyweight and there I am as I was as a POW-coalminer working daily 450 meters beneath sea level. This situation lasted till the capitulation of Japan, without any indication from Japanese side to improve our housing and/or essential outfit , and the next winter was already on its way.
Of course we had no knowledge of the existence of a “Kill-all Order “ of August 1944 from the War Ministry Tokio.
(Note: here follows the in English translated text (extracted) from which I only used the red-printed sentences J
“Kill-All Order” of August 1, 1944″ War Ministry, Tokyo
When the battle situation becomes urgent the POWs will be concentrated and confined in their location and kept under heavy guard until preparations for the final disposition will be made. Although the basic aim is to act under superior orders, individual disposition may be made in certain circumstances. Whether they are destroyed individually or in groups, and whether it is accomplished by means of mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, or decapitation, dispose of them as the situation dictates. It is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any trace.
Although we had some suspicions of Japan losing his grip on the war , such as more air raids with smaller dive bombers at daylight, intensified bomber-attacks ,etc.
Decennia afterwards we learned from documents of the Army Staff Kyushu that because of an eminent American invasion of Japan, the 3 POW-camps in Omuta and Kumamoto should be liquidated according to the Kill-All Order and executed on or about the 26th. of August 1945. The 3 POW-camps (Fukuoka 17 being one of them) would only stood in the way, and I think that this was probably the reason to leave any improvements in our housing, etc in Fukuoka 17.
Massacre on Andaman ( August 14 , 1945 )
Summary of the massacre on the day before the capitulation. On the main island were in internment some 800 India civilians. They were transported to a small uninhabited island, Tanuugli and liquidated by machineguns and bayonets of a Japanese detachment of 19 military.
It lasted more than 1 hour to liquidate them all and more than 2 days to cremate the bodies and bury the ashes and bone-remnants. However 2 civilians could escape and kept themselves hidden on the island , and afterwards gave their testimony.
Cheribon Incident-atrocity (July 1945 ).
About 90 Dutch civilians in internment were transported to the harbour and were ordered to take place on the deck of a Japanese submarine waiting in the harbour. The sub took off , and after may be 2 hours the sub submerged in the Java Sea. No survivors.
The Sandakan Death March in British North Borneo (July 1945 )
I will give you only a summary of the Sandakan atrocities. About 2430 English and Australian POW-s from Singapore island were transported to Sandakan (now known as Sabah )
to build a military airfield. By malnutrition and tropical deceases this group was decimated to some 1360 POW-s in July 1945 , when they were transported to Ranau
(about 190 kilometres north ). The displacement had to be done by foot in 3 groups with a total of 1066 POW-s. Only 323 of them reached Ranau alive.
What happened with the sick POW-s (about 290) who stayed behind in Sandakan and also with the group of 323 POW-s
that reached Ranau , is till now still unknown. Anyway , no one has survived , with the exception of 3 POW-s who with 3 other comrades escaped from the last group displaced
to Ranau.. The 3 survivors of the 6 escaped POW-s were to testify in the Tribunal for War crimes in Rabaul (Australian New-Guinea).
Massacre at Loa Kulu mines (30 July 1945 )
About 100 Dutch POW-s , military of the KNIL (Royal Dutch Indies Army) and interned Dutch civilians, together with their families ,were ordered one day (30 July 1945) to gather on the town’s square of Samarinda (East-Borneo) , where they were told by a Japanese Officer that they all were sentenced to death. They were separated in groups of men , women and children , and transported in the mine-lorries to the Loa Kulu mines in the neighbourhood of Samarinda .
Then I told the audience that Max Rufi, owner and chief-redaction of the weekly Hallo (weekly for the Gosta Blanca ) has asked me not to make it too bloody this time you will understand this won’t be easy for me. The execution of these group of almost 400 men, women and children would take place by means of beheading and bayoneting.
It was not allowed to use guns or machineguns , probably because of shortage of ammunition. Bayoneting belongs to the normal drill of the military, it is another story with the b
eheading with a samurai-sword.
Well, to give you an idea about this mass-execution , I will tell you the following.
I was on the Royal Military Academy to become an officer of the KNIL. As a KNIL-officer you was also armed with a “Klewang “(short sabre ) ; for that
reason you had to be trained in the use of it. In the training of fighting with the klewang, next to the ceremonial and saluting part , we also practised on banana trees.
A full-grown banana tree (already had grown fruit ) has a resistance-factor somehow like a human body. Our (well-trained) instructor hung such a banana tree with a rope on a tree
or pole , and with 2 flashing strokes the top was still hanging on the pole while 2 other pieces were laying on the ground. Someone who is
not trained can not even cut such a banana tree in half with one stroke. Most of the Japanese soldiers however, “busy“ with the samurai-swords were not trained!
The bodies and heads were thrown in the mineshaft and filled up . As I already told you before , I considered these massacres as the beginning of the Holocaust in Asia,
and it only was halted by the 2 atom-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki .
Thank you for your attention.