The Prisoner on the River Kwai (Forgiveness)
Content Warning: This episode contains graphic depictions of physical and psychological torture.
A world away from the war raging across the European continent, a completely different theater of warfare was being conducted by the Empire of Japan and the Allied forces in Asia. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, attacks were made against the British Empire's and French territories in Southeast Asia, including the supposedly impregnable fortress of Singapore. After Singapore fell and the 80,000 troops taken prisoner would soon come to learn their own version of horror shared by victims of Hitler's hatred across the globe.
Under the rule of the Japanese, starvation, relentless corporal punishment, and torture were the rule. Good treatment including proper food and medical care was the exception. And this was all exacerbated by the brutal slave labor being instituted to accomplish the greatest and arguably most sadistic railway project ever endeavored by a modern nation: to create the connecting railway between Burma and Thailand, then called Siam. Thousands would die and many more would suffer. And at the center of this was a man named Eric Lomax.
Lomax suffered as many others suffered during his time enslaved by the Japanese--beaten, interrogated, and tortured for the simple act of drawing a map of the railway and assisting in making a radio. He would remain a prisoner of their cruelty even long after the Japanese surrendered in August of 1945. Nightmares, emotional self-destruction, and callousness towards those he loved most. And then he would learn the identity of one of his torturers.
This episode of History Impossible--the finale of 2019--covers all this and more.
Special thanks to the musical talents by Eric Harper with "Os Ventos Detras Os Montes" and Magnus Moone with "Pin Lights".
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