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Kelsey Z.

A Prisoner of War tells his story to my class

April 14, 2006 at 5:16 AM

It's been an interesting, and generally good day. It started off with a good hour of practicing before my 11am appointment for which I was 15 minutes early (wanted to make sure I had enough time to walk there so I left quite early). My appointment went well and the retainer that I still wear since having had braces can now be worn only at night! After a delightful trip to my orthodontist (they are always a lot of fun, today we got caught up on various things and watched Rick Mercer) I paid a visit to my school for just one class. I needed to talk to one of my teachers, which I did and I skipped one class but the really interesting part of school was the class I actually attended. History. We had a speaker come in who's roughly 80. He was a prisoner of war in Japan for 4 years during the second world war. He lied about his age so he could join the air force and not even 6 weeks in he became a prisoner of war. Before those 6 weeks though he had already survived an ambush of a transport train and the explosion of a bridge. It was so interesting, and important to hear this man's story and I'm honored that he was willing to come and talk to my class about it. I really don't think I could talk for 90 minutes on something so horrific and life-changing and remain a stable human being but it's so important that people hear about the untold atrocities of war from those who have experienced it first hand. The prison camp that this man was in had an 85% death rate and only 300 out of the nearly 3,000 prisoners made it out alive from his particular camp. He told stories of being moved, the food rations, the work, being beaten for simply talking to someone who wasn't a fellow prisoner. He should have been be-headed by the camps standards more than once but yet he lived. It's impossible to comprehend what it must have been like living and working in such conditions, and for 4 years. Seeing your friends beaten, tortured and killed on a daily basis, how can a human even cope? The pictures we were shown were horrific. They would torture you, tie you down, bludgeon out your eyes and then one by one, cut off your limbs until you were dead. The thing that really gets me is how can these people who do the massacreing can actually be comfortable with themselves and sleep at night. I guess you do what you are trained to but still, it's horrifying! The one thing that above all the torture and desperateness of this man's situation and the existance that can barely be called life that he experience in that camp, the one thing above all that that struck me as the most moving was that he held no animocity, anger, or grudges towards his captors. I just can't imagine how anyone couldn't be incrediably bitter towards those who had done those things and taken away any quality of life so that you lived lower than the dirt on the ground.

In quick summation, this man was tortured and beaten several times. Survived an ambush, an explosion, a massive epidemic of infection that killed at the rate of 100 people per month, at least 3 times that he should have had his head cut off if things went according to protocol, a ship on fire, being sliced in half by shrapnel (he said that something that he describes as his gaurdian angel pushed him down to the ground at exactly the instant he would have been hit) being re-captured in the attempts to escape, the command to kill all prisoners of war...... how one person manages to have the courage and bravery to survive that for so long and is lucky and blessed to have made it through all that he has and yet he is completely compassionate and willing to talk about his experiences, it amazes me.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on April 14, 2006 at 11:48 PM
Whew, what a profound experience that must have been, just listening to him. Humbles me just to think of it.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 15, 2006 at 4:44 AM
Those guys were superheros who saved the world. So many guys the age of your boyfriends, who never had a life. Always do what keeps it from being in vain.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 15, 2006 at 5:24 AM
In the last years of his life, my father was actively involved in his Seniors' Center. It was, among other things, a support group for death and dying. My father wrote poems for some of his friends there, and one was about a man who was a Holocaust survivor. This man had never been able to talk about his experiences in the death camp until he spoke to the people at the Seniors' Center, and he wept as he spoke. My father's poem said that this man's tears were not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. I suspect that the man who spoke to your class derived some personal benefit from the experience, too.

I met (on the Internet) and corresponded with a man who is helping many seniors to write about their experiences and satisfy some of their needs that way. His name is Julien Ryner, and you can read about what he is doing at

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