CBI – British receive POW’s / Vietnam in the picture

Japanese POWs in Malaya

“From May onwards, prisoners in a terrible state came in daily,” recorded a British gunner unit in Burma, “many of them armed with nothing more dangerous than bamboo spears, trembling with a mixture of malaria and humiliation.”

British soldiers in Burma

But if some proved ready to quit, others did not.  To the end, most Japanese who lost their ships at sea deliberately evaded Allied rescuers.  On the deck of HMS Saumarez, destroyer Captain Martin Power was directing rescue operations after sinking a Japanese convoy off the Nicobars, when he suddenly heard a “clang” against the ship.

Andaman and Nicobars Islands

Peering over the side, he saw a bald, heavily built Japanese man clinging to a scrambling net with one hand, while hammering the nose of a shell against the hull with the other.  Power drew his pistol, leaned over and whacked the man’s head.

“I could not think of anything else to do – I spoke no Japanese.  Blood streaming down his face, he looked up at me, the pistol 6 inches from his eyes, the shell in his hand…  I do not know how long I hung in this ridiculous position, eyeball to eyeball with a fanatical enemy, but it seemed too long at the time.  At last he dropped the shell into the sea, brought up his feet, and pushed off from the ship’s side like an Olympic swimmer, turned on his face and swam away.”

*****          *****          *****

By this time of the Pacific War, the Vietnam area of Indochina was in dispute.  DeGaulle demanded that the current Vichy government take a firm stand, but this was a disaster.  The Japanese had staged a pre-emptive coup against the Saigon administration.  Frenchmen became POW’s and their future fate would cause Anglo-American arguments.  When US planes arrived from China to carry out evacuations, the French were furious that the aircraft did not bring them cigarettes.

London’s Political Warfare Executive sent a directive to Mountbatten that highlighted the political and cultural complexities of the CBI: “Keep off Russo-Japanese, Russo-Chinese and Sino-Japanese relations except for official statements.  Show that a worse fate awaits Japan if her militarists force her to fight on… Continue to avoid the alleged Japanese peace feelers.”

The Dutch, French and British owners of the old Eastern empires were increasingly preoccupied with regaining their lost territories – and they were conscious that they could expect scant help from the Americans to achieve this.  The British Embassy in Washington told the Foreign Office:

“If we prosecute the Eastern War with might and main, we shall be told by some people that we are really fighting for our colonial possessions the better to exploit them and that American blood is being shed to no better purpose than to help ourselves and Dutch and French to perpetrate our degenerate colonial Empires; while if we are judged not to have gone all out, that is because we are letting America fight her own war with little aid, after having her pull our chestnuts out of the European fire.”

Quotes taken from “Retribution” by Max Hastings

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Edward Bailey – Parma, MI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, 2nd Lt., pilot, KIA

David Cruden – Hurtsville, AUS; RA Air Force # 422443, 460 & 582nd Bomber Command Squadrons

Fred Hermes Jr. – Villas, NJ; US Coast Guard, Academy Grad., Commander (Ret.)

William A. Laux – LaCrosse, WI & Arrow Lakes, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO

John Moore – Baltimore, MD; US Navy, WWII, Captain (Ret.)

Ronald S. Richardson – Gisborne, NZ; RNZ Air Force, WWII, ETO, Lt. Commander, pilot, KIA

Robert Stoner – Buffalo, NY; US Navy, minesweeper

Harry Thomas – Marlington, WV; US Army, WWII

Michael C. Ukaj – Johnstown, NY; USMC, Iraq (the NY limo crash on his 34th birthday)

Elwood Wells – Epsom, NH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, Captain, 1337 A.F. Base, KIA

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 15, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 85 Comments.

  1. I think what “The British Embassy in Washington told the Foreign Office:” smacks of the truth, we (The English) were damned if we did, and damned if we didn’t; a no win situation, and I do believe that that view expressed still exists in many Americans today

    Liked by 1 person

    • It could be, Beari, we lost so many. On top of that, researching family history has been the rage these days and people are learning more than they used to about what happened to relatives. Recovery teams are bringing soldiers’ remains home for burial, wrecks are being found, etc. They are being reminded of that loss weekly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I could never imagine what it wold be like to be a POW. Kudos for your farewell salutes! Excellent story as always! Oh and the cartoons…hahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Zoveel wreedheden en tot wat heeft het geleid en nog erger ,het blijft maar doorgaan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helaas hebben mensen een ‘domino-effect’ gaande. De ene oorlog leidt naar de andere, een gruwelijke gebeurtenis die vergelding veroorzaakt, enzovoort. We moeten een manier vinden om het te stoppen.
      Bedankt voor je bezoek, Mary Lou!

      Like

  4. It takes me back to hear a reference to Burma. Terrible atrocities are happening in that country now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That sort of fanaticism, along with kamikaze attacks on our ships and the suicides rather than capture of Japanese fighters on the slog through the islands, surely were a factor in Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb to “save a million lives”. Without getting into a discussion of the morality or rightness of that decision, one has to appreciate the relief Americans diverted from the European Theatre after VE Day to the Pacific war must have felt, knowing they were headed to fight the toughest, most fanatical soldiers of the war…on the Japanese homeland!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, despite the moral question, I think most of the military was glad it happened. Though I have to tell you, Doug, if I show you a picture of Tokyo after the fire bombings and a picture of Hiroshima – you would not be able to tell them apart.

      Like

      • I have seen the photos, and agree there is no significant difference in apprearance. I can’t imagine fire bombing survivors dealing with burns worse than those surviving the atomic bomb, but pain is pain, and burns are about the worst thing I can imagine happening to a person for the long term care required and for the disfigurement that happens.

        An editor of the local newspaper was one of those men redeployed to the Pacific War after surviving the slog from Normandy into Germany. Many years later, in a column he wrote about his war experience, he noted that he was on a troop ship nearing the war zone in the Pacific when the bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered. He said he felt a liberating relief to know he (in the infantry) wouldn’t have to storm a Japanese beach.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. When I was in primary school I was given a book, Nurses Who Led the Way. One chapter featured the first Indo-China war, circa 1950, and recounted the experience of a French nurse tending patients underground. I guess these were the forerunner of the tunnels the Vietnamese later used to good effect. I was only very young, but it opened my eyes already to the post WWII political complexities of this area.

    I lent the book to a grand-daughter years back, and despite numerous requests, it’s never turned up. They’ve moved several times since then, so I know I will never see it again 😦

    Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the one. There’s around twelve biographical stories, several of them set in different wars.
        My copy was special to me as it was a Christmas gift, inscribed to me, from the woman who was my day-carer and stand-in mother. She was ambitious for me from a young age, in the context of working-class sixties. She envisaged a nursing career where I rose through the ranks to become matron 🙂

        I ended up with a career in shipping, logistics and supply chain, which in the early 70s was breaking new ground for a woman, so I thank her for imbuing me with the expectation I could “make it “. When I was 18/19 my biggest ambition was to be a forklift driver for a freight forwarder. It took them three months to get their heads around a woman in a hard-hat and offer me the job, by which time I was already on the first rung of a bigger role in the industry 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Just a few remarks on the origins of the Vietnam conflict. The main factor was the political ineptness of the US government at that time. They never had had to deal closely with their allies’ colonial politics and took too many statements at face value. They also grossly underestimated the ability of the French leaders (not only Charles de Gaulle) to confuse and manipulate. During the closing stages of the Pacific war, there were already grave doubts about Russia’s / Stalin’s intentions and when the French adroitly labelled all Indo Chinese independence movements as ‘Communist” , the chance for a peaceful and constructive settlement was lost.
    Michael McLean’s “Vietnam, The Ten-Thousand Day War” provides an excellent reference on this sad period of our recent history

    Liked by 1 person

    • IMO we should never have been there in the first place. The US had no use for the area, had no wish to make it a territory, so of course they were inept. Russia really didn’t hold any credence for the Chinese form of Communism, they simply made money off of selling them weapons. The US generals of WWII warned D.C. about that area, but as usual, the politicians didn’t listen.

      Like

      • The crazy fact is that initially, the US was seen by people like Ho Chi Minh as the nation that would help them reach their independence. But the politicians cast the chance of a peaceful solution away, trading it for the French participation in NATO that seemed more important to them.
        The bare facts are nasty, aren’t they?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. “…the French were furious that the aircraft did not bring them cigarettes…”

    Speechless!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have to give the guy credit—some shells have to be fired before they’ll go bang, but one has to admire his enthusiasm … just hope he enjoyed his swim (and someone told the Emperor).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Back in the time when Ho Chi Minh was an ally of ours, G. Sad that we got caught up in the remnants of the Colonial wars. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love the quote – Max Hastings is one of my favorite authors. I haven’t read Retribution yet but it’s on my list!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Interesting pre-cursor to the later Vietnam difficulties.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great informative post. I did not know the origin of the Vietnam conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. An excellent post, thank you. Sir Max Hastings is an excellent author. His book about Churchill the warlord is just one of many good reads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes he is, John. I have a few of his books, though I have not as yet gone through the ones on the European Theater, but i trust your opinion. (in fact I believe you should be publishing history books).

      Like

  15. Interesting to read this given the subsequent history of France and the US in Vietnam.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Excellent report of our Allies vested interest.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Despite what they did to America (and everyone else), it’s impossible not to respect the bravery and loyalty of the Japanese soldier, don’t you think?

    Liked by 3 people

  18. A lot of my reading for history was around some opinion that the French created the debacle of Vietnam by their unwillingness to move on.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I see you found this sad item: “Michael C. Ukaj – Johnstown, NY; USMC, Iraq (the NY limo crash on his 34th birthday)”

    That limo crash was horrific.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. For Britain, not participating would open to American accusations that British main concern was only to restore its rule on its old colonies while Americans bore the brunt of the final battles. Over the course of the war in Europe, it has also borrowed huge amounts from America so supporting the Americans could make negotiation of the payback of the loans later an easier task. Britain knew its only option was to offer Roosevelt help with a naval force which they did.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Clinging to the side and pounding a shell against the ship – that’s amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Thank you for putting Bill Laux into your Farewell Salutes!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Gruesome. The image of the big Japanese soldier clanging the ship with a shell is a powerful image.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. So typical of Britain and France, to be squabbling over former colonies when there was still a war to win. Now we are squabbling about the EU instead!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. SO compelling, that moment of truth, eyeball to eyeball. Chilling too. You show us the seeds of a future war sewn in the then current.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Extraordinary story about the Japanese banging a shell again the hull.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. De Gaulle remained very stubborn

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Thank you very much, Ian!

    Like

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