Escape: A True Story
The following is a true account as told to me by my father
Author's Note: To eliminate some confusion, my father is narrating this story not me
In the summer of 1945 during the end of the World War II, my father Dohn was held captive in a Japanese military camp. Japanese forces had conquered the south- central banks of the Mekong River of Laos, namely Muang Khong near the Lao-Cambodian border. It was here that his plight took place, as I recall from memory the incredible story told to me by my mother when I was a mere adolescent in the wake of my father ’ s death.
As lieutenant and battalion leader, my father struggled to survive at the hands of the Japanese troops and so maintained his morale as his men ’ s hope for survival hinged on his unrelenting will. For more than a week, he and his battalion of fourteen soldiers were undernourished and barely were given enough water to survive. Seeing first-hand the poor treatment of his soldiers by the cruel Japanese soldiers, my father vowed that he would find the means of escape and leave safely with the remaining members of his battalion and not without rightly punishing his foreign captors.
One night when at his breaking point, my father saw his opportunity and took full advantage. He reached out from his cell and grabbed the first guard on duty and broke his neck with his bare hands. He then disarmed the second guard with the help of one of his soldiers—how exactly they did so, I ’ m not certain. He was careful to not make any noise so as to not alarm the other Japanese soldiers at the camp, managing to leave his cell along with the rest of his battalion. The cell door was fastened by a heavy chain and so my father was able to take the dead guard ’ s key and escape. At this point, I am not certain whether or not my father and his platoon killed off the rest of the enemy camp, only that their entire battalion that totaled fifteen men managed to successful escape unscathed that night to Kong Island which, was nine kilometers away and then another fifteen kilometers to Taebeur, Cambodia or what is modern-day Kampuchea. He ordered his troops to rendezvous there before their plight should any of them get separated from the rest of the battalion.
Once in rural Taebeur, the sympathetic local villagers were willing and able to provide for the friendly soldiers with food, water and shelter. Unbeknownst to my father and the battalion, the war was by then coming to an end, as the Americans would drop their atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima on August 6th and August 9th . One of the villagers had caught wind of the news as it was broadcasted over an old radio. My father ’ s battalion rejoiced in triumph with tears of joy. The Japanese had been defeated. They could all finally go home. When reaching the mainland of Laos, my father ’ s feelings turned back to the Japanese soldiers, as his feelings were bittersweet because as far as his eyes could see along the banks of the mighty Mekong River, which bought both life and death, hundreds of dead Japanese soldiers lay strewn on the ground like fallen trees. Their message was clear: Rather than face dishonorable defeat at the hands of their enemies, they took their own lives. The blood from their bodies flowed into the Mekong River where it washed away out into the ocean.
Before my father left this world, he instructed me more than anything else, to remember: “ Remember me and remember your past, ” he said to me. “ Remember all the things I’ve taught you…Remember my struggles for when I leave this world, the memory of me will all that will be left. Be forever grateful of the Americans that ended this war when they did, because there is no telling how long it would have continued and how many more lives would have been sacrificed—just look at how many of their boys died in Normandy alone...If not for the Americans, our country would still to this day be occupied by the Japanese, who bayoneted helpless babies in the cruel act of war, because for any person in this world that shares with me a common enemy, I will proudly die alongside him and call him my brother. ”