On Twitter I follow the realtime tweets from WW2 because I have this thing for history. This Sunday in between all soccer-results I noticed their update on the battle in Asia 1942:
In the Philippines, US troops under constant assault; Japanese boats landing behind their lines, on coast of Bataan. pic.twitter.com/kYgQp6CwDr
— WW2 Tweets from 1942 (@RealTimeWWII) 2 februari 2014
Nothing really special considering their timeline, but it instantly brought me back to 2010 when, in a small coffee place in Mobile Alabama, I ran into Colonel Glenn D. Frazier, survivor of the Bataan Death March and the subsequent Japanese prisoncamps. Hell’s Guest, his memoirs, can be purchased here.
In August 2010, I was enjoying a wall with local art, when I noticed a guy at a table in the back. He was wearing a suit with ribbons. A veteran for sure, but I wasn’t sure about the exact war. It’s always difficult to guess an age right? When I asked him, he explained that he survived the second world war and had just spent a morning talking to scholars about it.
He explained that he briefly fought in Asia. I found that very interesting, because it doesn’t happen that often that I can talk to someone who actually fought in Asia. In Europe even the Eastern front of WW2 doesn’t get much attention, let alone the war in Asia. Most Europeans seem to have forgotten WW2. Like it never happened. But I had a lot of questions and Colonel Frazier took all the time in the world for me. He also knew quite a few words in Dutch, which he learned from his fellow captives: “We had a lot of Dutch prisoners there. Tough guys mostly, especially the jungle soldiers.” Yeah he fought briefly in Asia … but what he initially let out was that the battle morphed into a yearlong struggle for survival in some of the most cruel military prisoncamps of that era.
During the talk he gave me a copy of his book which he signed (see below). I often think about his stories, the book and and what he told me that day. It’s an account of modesty. A huge contrast with our current days where people are more narcissistic and blow up every small achievement in order to pimp a resume …