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Brave Japanese, brave Australians more like?
on 5 December 2011
This book is by Guy Harrison on his father's experience as an ANZAC soldier in the Malay campaign, as a prisoner of war of the Imperial Army of Japan (IAJ) and as one of the first allied troops to set foot in Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb. As such it is a classic and vivid portrayal of how much the human spirit can put up with. Despite starvation, diseases, beatings, untold brutality and being involved in heavy combat, Kenneth Harrison survives against the odds to witness the capitulation of Japan and walk through the devastated city of Hiroshima.
As the title suggests Harrison Snr pays ample tribute to the bravery of the Japanese throughout the entire book and there is justification in his viewpoint as history does show that the IAJ was a highly effective military force and it's soldiers were incredibly brave. A down side to this effectiveness is that they were also indoctrinated and trained to believe that the enemy, especially after surrender, was nothing but a 'curr'. This book describes amply and in detail how such 'currs' were treated as they were abused and killed in their thousands!
The main content of the book however outlines the incredible journey of Harrison Snr. His long journey starts as a member of an anti tank crew in the Malay campaign engaged in several heavy engagements. However after the overwhelming victory of the Japanese Harrison Snr spends several months avoiding capture in the jungle. After eventually being captured his journey takes him to work on the famed death railway in Thailand where the work conditions and brutality of the IAJ were responsible for the deaths of thousands of POW's, one POW for every seventeen feet of railway line. After the completion of the railway Harrison sails to Japan on an epic sea voyage in a rusty old cargo vessel where he eventually arrives to see out the rest of the war as a dock worker and miner, work that was again fraught with danger. The finale of this epic journey is that Harrison was there at the end of the war and describes the overwhelming joy of being set free and then the despair of walking through a nuclear holocaust.
The above is but a brief summation of an incredible four and a half year journey that is told with panache, humour and style. Even as an ex soldier who served in the Falklands war, I cannot really put into words how touched I was by this story. My heart really went out to Harrison Snr and his fellow POW's as I followed their incredible journey in written prose. It is simply a fantastic story and that such men were able to survive the most obtuse of living conditions and brutal treatment is simply amazing. One must never forget the pain and suffering such men went through as POW's of the IAJ but more so one must never EVER forget those who paid the ultimate price.
Forget the brave Japanese, this is a brilliant read about brave Australian and other allied soldiers who defied the odds and cheated the 'old man with the scythe'. An 86p Kindle buy but a priceless read!