Sunday, March 29, 2020

Book Recommendation: Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific by Alistair Urquhart

Book Recommendation: Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific by Alistair Urquhart

This brutal book was written by Urquhart when he was 90, because he didn’t want the story of massive Japanese atrocities swept under the rug in the interests of better trade relations. It reminded me of the struggle Vietnam vets have had to get the truth out. The Germans admitted their guilt, but to this day, the Japanese government denies this happened. The author never fired a shot in anger. As a young Scot, he was drafted into the Gordon Highlanders in 1939. His battalion was sent to Singapore where they were taken prisoner when the British surrendered to the Japanese army. I have long wonder why a larger British force would surrender the “Gibraltar of the East” to a Japanese force half their size. This book explained that. They were poorly trained, poorly led, poorly organized, and poorly equipped. The author was sent as slave labor to work on the “Railway of Death” for 750 days. The “Bridge on the River Kwai” was a sanitized version of the story. Many thousands of British prisoners and tens of thousands of local inhabitant slaves died and were buried along the way. They were beaten daily, forced to work every day on a cup of rice and a cup of water twice a day, denied medicine and anything else. Urquhart then was put of a hell ship with hundreds stuffed in unventilated holds, with even less food. The Japanese had marked their ammo ships with Red Crosses but not the POW ships. Torpedoed by an American sub, he was miraculously blown clear and floated for days without food or water in the sun. Picked up by Japanese fishermen, he was forced to work in the mines outside Nagasaki until the bomb ended the war. He was treated shabbily by the British government when he returned home, and suffered from what we now know as PTSD all his life. And no wonder. I recommend this book for the strong of stomach and heart.

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