Thursday, November 24, 2016

WWII and the Rail line from Thailand to Burma

After the battle of Midway where the Imperial navy suffered a catastrophic defeat, the Japanese had great difficulty in transporting men and material to Burma, where the Imperial army was fighting the British Indian army by sea, as their carrier fleet had been annihilated. This led them to plan to construct a rail line through the thick jungles to Rangoon. It was an arduous task and the Japanese thought it fit to use Allied Prisoners of War as labor for this construction. One of the most difficult stretches was across the river at Kwai. All around the river there were dense tropical forests and cutting through the forest and constructing the bridge over the river was a very difficult task.

The Japanese had a paucity of time and they wanted the bridge and rail line ready in as a short time as possible. this led a very harsh regimen for the prisoners who were made to work 12 hours a day with hardly any food to eat. This aspect of Japanese character has baffled me as they studiously ignored the Geneva Convention on POWs. The Japanese soldiers overseeing the construction treated the prisoners badly and many died during the course of the construction. it was a terrible time and after the war, the Allies tried many of the Imperial army officers and soldiers and hanged many of them.

The Bridge is still there and is a tourist site. There is also an excellent museum that showcases the construction of the bridge. All in all, it’s a place worth visiting.