Unless you lose your freedom
you don’t know what you have

Mr. John Ford / WWII Veteran
Royal Air Force Aircraftsman 1st class

Interview with John Ford, Royal Air Force Aircraftsman 1st Class.   April 7, 2005. 

My name is John Ford, Royal Air Force Aircraftsman 1st Class. 
I was born in Newfoundland on March 25, 1919.  I served with Dutch forces in Singapore until Japan seized the country of Indonesia.  On March 8, 1942 I was captured in Java, made a prisone
r of war, and transported on a coal trap with no food, latrine or medical supplies. Overcrowding forced us to sleep on top of one another.  I was imprisoned in Singapore for 3-4 months then transported to Formosa (Taiwan) and finally Nagasaki, Japan. 
World War II Japan didn’t recognize the Geneva Convention’s provision for humane treatment of POW’s.  In October I became a dockyard slave… along with 400-500 Dutchmen.  65% of my workgroup died from starvation, disease, beatings, and slave labour.  Paid 5 cents a day and charged for 3 bow
ls of only rice with no meat, fish or vegetables, I went from 175 lbs to 93 lbs.  I lived in fear for my life.  Limitless cruelty.  Any perceived insubordination resulted in being forced to dig your own grave prior to beheading.  Allied landing upon Ja
pan meant extermination of POW’s …August 9, 1945 was set for our execution by machine guns. My life was saved when 73 000 other people were killed…the atomic bomb drop on Nagasaki.  Japan surrendered.  I returned home from Japan on July 1946 – 5 years 11 months and 11 days after entering the service and having slaved for 3 ˝ years as a POW.  The only Newfoundlander, and since Canadian, to witness and survive an atomic bomb explosion…from 7 miles away…I have suffered 4 battles with skin cancer due to radiation. I hope that another atomic or nuclear weapon is never used, but I am glad for those that were. They ended the war.  We would have been shot and 2-3 million Japanese would have died from starvation if it had been prolonged. 
I wish the world could live in peace and quiet, have no part of arms, and not begrudge what others have.  Unbridled greed, with today’s nuclear weapons, could bring about the end of creation.  What’s being accomplished by the world’s state of violence? Absolutely nothing!  Destruction and torment. I am 86 years old now and I am thankful for everyday that I live my life freely without a rifle and bayonet stuck in my back.  I hope that everyone, whether civilian, military or government, recognizes the sacrifices that veterans have made. Unless you lose your freedom you don’t know what you have. 

Story (Interview)Transcribed and edited by Kirk Newhook.   

Photo: July 19th, 2005
St. John´s / The Rooms
St. John´s Jazz Festival / Atlantic Jazz Initiative