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
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 prisoner
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 bowls
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 Japan
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.