to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

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This website will relate the results of my on-going journey (since 2016) of discovery to learn the story of the hellish ordeal of the US POWs who worked the Thai-Burma Railway (TBR). There are many stories to be told; almost as many as there were men to tell them. Not all of the men ‘involved’ were sent to the TBR; a significant number lived out their separate ordeals in a number of other places in South East Asia.

“No one knows you were there unless you tell your story”
— Roy Livingstone, ex-POW

I will attempt to present their many stories in chapters to make it readable and understandable. Not everyone who visits this site will be interested in every portion of the story. There are many parts to this complex story of a country (Thailand) in turmoil and the men who found themselves in a special kind of hell there.

A significant portion of these men did not work the TBR but went to Japan (some after working the TBR). Others went to Borneo or Sumatra (where they worked the lesser known Sumatra Railway). A few never left the island of Java where most of them began their journey through hell.

The first of the two main groups who became prisoners of the Japanese in March 1942 was comprised of Texas National Guardsmen who were federalized and then destined for the Philippines but were diverted to Australia then Java when the Japanese overran the Philippine Islands. The second group were the survivors of the sinking of the USS HOUSTON (CA-30) off the coast of Java on the night of 28 FEB – 1 MAR 1942.

There are a few ‘others’ whose stories we will add along the journey. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is that of Khun (Mr.) BoonPong and his smuggling network to get the POWs needed supplies. The most ‘forgotten’ group are the Merchant Mariners who survived the sinking of their vessels. One small group were sent to work the TBR at Hintok near the infamous Hellfire Pass.

Also the story of the 1944 Thai-anusorn Shrine has developed a ‘life of its own’. (see Section 14.3) So, too, is the ever developing story of the romusha and achieving for them the recognition that they are so sorely due. (see Section 20)

As a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), I have taken the VFW Congressional mandate to “perpetuate the memory and history of our dead” to heart in relating the story of these men. The story told herein is my version of events and those involved.

Any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone. I have not intentionally violated anyone’s copyright. If I have used something that you claim as ‘yours’ alone, I hereby request permission to continue to utilize it.

This site currently consists of multiple Sections or Chapters. In many Sections, the story continued to expand over time. I have chosen to add new content as information becomes available, but not to edit the earlier content significantly. This simply shows how the saga has evolved over time.

COL(ret) US ARMY Medical Corps

Life Member VFW Post 9951 Bangkok

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Some of the GALLERY photos are truncated for space; you can click the photo to open a larger view

Current Page Total Visits: 61572
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33 thoughts on “0.Introduction

  1. Currently sat in a hotel room approximately 3km from the bridge. I’m a regular visitor to Kanchanaburi and part of the attraction is the British military history, as well as that of allied forces
    So many people believe that there was no involvement of any US military and the only information available is that of a small plaque at the side of the bridge.
    Great to finally get the chance to read experiences of our friends from across the big pond.

  2. My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different web page and thought I should check things out.
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    1. If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d be happy to to discuss.
      Did you see the CAPT Pomeroy story at section 3.6.9 ?

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  14. J K
    My father, Walter Pollock, was a British POW who was captured at Singapore and then worked on the Thai-Burma Railway from Nov 1942.
    One of the few things that he kept after the war was a short diary, on a couple of scraps of paper, which also included names of POWs that he knew.
    This included three US POWs: Buster H Spann, Plainview, Texas; Self, from Lubbock, Texas and Hienen (possibly Heinen) from Dallas, Texas.
    As well, on his list of POWs, was Sardis, West 44th, New York. Which I believe is the cafe off Broadway. Do you know if this was a meeting place for POWs after the war?
    I would be interested in communicating directly with you further about this if possible?

    1. I know nothing about Sardis as I have not pursued the saga beyond their liberation.
      However SPANN had something of a unique journey.
      I’d would like to see more of what you have.


  15. A website like yours is needed to keep the terrible history alive. Very informative and the content is very interesting. Congratulations! Greeings from Belgium!

  16. Thank you Dr JJ,
    You are a true historian who really spends time in making sure what really happened back then. I am a son of a Asian Forced Laborers, Romusha who were forced to come here with lucrative offers. My father was probably 15 to 16 , he served as a cook for the Japanese. Daily boiling tapioca, pounding groundnuts and sugar to serve meals to the Army Officers. He has to taste every meal served in front of the Japanese. On other days he does help with clearing undergrowth making the tracks. He came back after the war, a bunch of them did not even know the war was over. I remember my dad said 1945 or 46 that they walked over 6 months back to Malaysia along the railway tracks. RIP to my Dad. He passed in 2004. In 1954 he joined the Royal British Army and served 27 years. In 1957 at Independence he was moved into the Malaysian Armed Forces.

  17. JJ,
    My dad, W.F. Hook Matthews was one of the E Battery guys that attempted to escape on the the small boat from Surabaya.
    He styed in Java until Jan. ’45. He as in Java Party 26 when he went to Changi.

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