I was 5 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. At that time Nazi Germany had already occupied whole continental Europe, including Holland, for a year and a half. I didn’t hear about Pearl Harbor until US soldiers liberated us in 1945 and told us about it. I didn’t envisage the horror of Pearl Harbor and the national significance of December 7 until I saw the pictures in musea when I arrived in the US in 1974. The vivid memories of seeing bombs exploding on Schiphol airport in May 1940 when I was 4 1/2 were the ones that had primarily occupied my mind.
At liberation, we also heard the awful stories of the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942, when Allied ships, including several American, British, Australian and Dutch warships (which were berthed at the Marine base at Surabaja in the Dutch Indies) fought a Japanese invasion under the command of Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman. The Dutch Government in exile in London was one of the first to join the US after Pearl Harbor and declare war on Japan. Japan, short of natural resources, immediately set out to expand its realm in Asia by overpowering Singapore and Malaysia, and Borneo and Celebes of the Dutch Indies, to secure itself of abundant oil supplies. Next was the largest island, Java, of the Dutch Indies, which it approached from the island of Bali it had already occupied.
The allied fleet endeavored to stop the Japanese from invading Java, but the Japanese ships were much better armed with heavier cannons and super torpedos that had a reach of 25 miles. Its air force was superior. The more powerful Japanese fleet, which proved much better trained in sea battle at night, destroyed many of the allied ships. Two Dutch light cruisers, De Ruyter, Karel Doorman’s flagship, and the Java, were sunk and Karel Doorman perished with his ship. Several other Dutch warships sank, including the destroyers De Kortenaer and Witte de With. More than a 2300 sailors, including over 900 Dutch sailors, lost their lives.
Dutch Archive pictures
Thousands of Dutch families, who lived in the Dutch Indies, were imprisoned in Japanese concentration camps, where many were tortured and died. The Dutch never regained full control over the Dutch Indies, and the Japanese invasion meant the end of its colonial power. After the war, a bloody and cruel independence war erupted in the Dutch Indies, which ended in 1949 when Indonesia became independent. Thousands of Indonesians fled to Holland when the independence war started and were lodged with Dutch families to recover and find a new life. A father with three sons stayed with us.
Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Java Sea show some serious common lessons: In both cases, the enemy was much better prepared and armed. In Holland, this led to building a much stronger fleet after the war. Then, under cover of a powerful ally, the US, efforts to keep up a fierce military power slowed down, a pattern followed by many European countries. The lessons learned were soon forgotten.
Fast forward to 2016. While it is said that the American military is the best in the world, the political will to keep up its strength has repeatedly been undermined by several American administrations: Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama emphasized social programs over military strength. 9/11 constituted the second attack on American soil. More than 2400 sailors were killed at Pearl Harbor and close to 3000 people lost their lives during 9/11. The latter was a terrorist attack, but many say it could have been prevented had America been better prepared and kept its eyes open.
A new type of war was added to our human inclination to destroy each other. It took a long time to recognize that there is no real difference between “formal war” and “informal war”: both intend to destroy Western Civilization and its religious and philosophical democratic principles. The expansion of radical Islamic fascism signifies the same threat as German Nazism and Japanese Imperialism did, as do the threats of dictatorial regimes like Russia, China, and Iran.
Come 2017; the world is no better place. The Chinese military is spending trillions on military strength and expansion of its territory by building military islands in the China Sea, helped by the greed of the American market buying its goods and borrowing its money to cover its national debt. Russia invades the Crimea and controls eastern Ukraine, without a significant Western response. Iran undermines the Middle East through proxy wars and support of terrorism, causing tremendous civilian suffering in Syria.
The weeks after 9/11 with jets patrolling the skies aided by nearby refueling airplanes gave me that depressing feeling from WW II that we were at war again, and unfortunately we are. Osama’s escape from Afghanistan felt like Hitler’s escape from several coups against him. The indefatigable US Ops finally caught him, but when they did, the harm was already done: Sunni Radicalism had spread throughout the Middle East, Africa, and even the Far East.
I sat on the fence about the US invasion of Iraq. I could understand it from a defensive point of view: Sadam used similar bluff as Hitler did, he had invaded Kuwait beforehand, he built nuclear facilities and was working on replacements after the Israelis bombed the first one. He continually launched scuds at Israel and did use poisonous gas on the Kurds. Sadam smartly removed everything concerning weapons of mass destruction to where it came from and used the gullible self-destructing US and world media to accuse the US. Although the US invasion was badly implemented, after the surge things began to shape up in Iraq. At the World Bank, we noticed a slow but steady increase in a willingness to restore a badly retarded administration to modern normalcy. Despite internal religious strife, administrators became more responsive to stable government. Northern Iraq regained calm and even became prosperous again. When the reconstruction effort ended, I had good hopes that it might take off (see my blogs “Iraq: A Hands-on Effort to Rational Thought,” (9/13/2014); “Iraq: From Western Dream to Fragile State”; (8/23/2014), and “Don’t Cry For Me, Iraq.” (8/11/2014).
Credit: Fox News
The change in American policy under Obama destroyed all that with one swipe. Al-Zarkawi, the Sunni anti-Shiite leader from Jordan, had begun a fierce fight against the American occupation. Although US Ops were able to exterminate him, his force remained active underground. If invading Iraq may be considered a mistake, leaving it abruptly meant compounding that mistake. When the US military left Iraq, Sunny radicals quickly regrouped and despite their internal differences, created ISIS. The rest is history.
As a WWII kid, I hate war with a vengeance, but also know there will always be enemies as there will always be bullies in school. We have to be prepared to be strong enough to scare them off and defeat them. If we don’t, they’ll take us to the cleaners. Administrations like the Obama-ones open us up to being overpowered like Nazi Germany and Japan’s then Imperialism did to the Western World.
I am sleeping a bit better after the recent national elections. There is much hope things will change.
Credit: Canada Journal – News of the World
In my opinion, the political left of the US has done enormous damage to the fighting spirit and courage of this country. America may be divided (God knows why. Such a great place to live!) but as a foreign guest in the US, I pray they never come back to power. I don’t complain about placing competent generals to head security and military positions. Their decisiveness will keep me from lying awake at night about the future of my American kids and grandkids. We have to stay vigilant to protect our way of life and that of others that share it. Signs in Europe indicate that things are changing there as well.
And if you don’t like my saying these changes are good changes, that’s too bad. Let the other side of the American divide have a chance to show their resolve to make America better and “Great Again.”
MAY 5, 1945!
Finally! Finally free from those nasty Nazis. Five years of deprivation, torture, devastation, cruelty, and genocide. How can one man make this happen all by himself? How do people like Hitler come to life and how is it possible they can sweep to power with so many believing in such a monster? How did he become that monster? How did he self-destruct? Read a very interesting book that just came out
HITLER’S LAST DAY–MINUTE BY MINUTE–BY JONATHAN MAYO & EMMA CRAIGIE.
Available in your bookstore and on Amazon.com.
Here follow some of my memories of World War II: As a kid between 4-9 years old, I remember it from start to finish. Nothing more than war leaves a mark on your life.
Bombers and hunger
Death on the streets and scrambling for food
Normandy in 1944, but it took one very long year before Holland was free and allied tanks rolled in.
Adolf Hitler Kills himself and his nearest collaborators do the same. Read it in HITLER’S LAST DAY.
Nazis leaving. Some of these horses must have been my grandfather’s warmbloods.
Allied tanks with German captives.
Collaborators and traitors rounded up.
The brave fighters come in.
The people jubilate.
Food drops for us who suffered a long cold winter during 1944-45. Can you imagine the relief?
Festivities all over the country.
Mainly thanks to the USA. That we not forget. That we remain VIGILANT! Or it will happen again.
Audrey 16 years old
John 9 years old
John in Geneva and Audrey in Tolochenaz
My sweet memories of Audrey Hepburn are revealed in Chapter 1 of Some Women I Have Known, now published on amazon.com and soon available in paperback and hardcover. The short story I wrote some time ago is incorporated in this book.
My publisher, Willow Manor Publishing Inc., and I wanted it out by May 4, Audrey’s birthday. As many may remember, Audrey died of intestinal cancer in 1993. Maybe the horrible malnourishment during the war-years in Holland that she went through sowed the seeds for that illness in her body. Her departure from her close family and millions of friends shocked everyone. It depressed me for a long time. After her brilliant career as a movie actress, with that lovable face and her unique eyes and smiles, she devoted herself completely to the malnourished children of UNICEF in Africa, South-Asia, and the Far-East, till just a few months before her passing away.
My memories are only on the fringe of her life. I only knew her and her mother when I grew up, and more recently e-mailed a few times with her son Sean. She came to visit my grandparents with her mother and grandfather during World War II when they lived near Arnhem because they were family and good friends, and my grandparents lived close by. I happened to be there on vacation. It was a brief afternoon, the memory of which stuck in my mind because she was such a bright-smiled and amiable girl, some 6 years older than I, and we both suffered so much from this war, she more than I because she was older and her stepbrothers were taken away. Even a little boy remembers such things. In Some Women I Have Known I tell this story, and her sudden apparition many years later in Geneva where I worked and she stayed in nearby Tolochenaz, and we could remember this precious encounter when she was still a little girl herself, not yet discovered, trying to find her way under the guidance of her strong-willed mother, whom I called “Aunt Ella.”
I can’t be but very sentimental about Audrey. Her whole life she kept mesmerizing us at home. She lived at the firmament and we were so amazed that the girl, who came by on a visit, became such a wonderful star. When I studied in Paris, she filmed Charade with Cary Grant and had no time to see me. When I finally succeeded in Geneva, by pure luck, she remembered and told me that filming Charade had been very demanding on her, not in the least because of the exacting Cary Grant.
I hope you enjoy Some Women I have Known. The novel is based on the nine short stories that I published under the same overarching title on Amazon before. I rewrote the stories into a self-standing novel to which is added the story Joy to the World (not previously published) which tells who the author (under the fictitious name of John van Dorn) finally marries. The content of some of the short stories has been slightly modified to mold them into a single storyline.
The title of the novel is taken from the bundle of short stories originally written under the same title by Maarten Maartens, aka Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915), my Grand- Uncle, which was published by William Heineman, London, and D. Appleton & Company, New York, in 1901. He wrote 14 novels and 4 bundles of short stories, all still very readable and written in a luscious and illuminating style. His Some Women, in a reprint, is also available on Amazon.com, but their content is, of course, totally different from mine. The book explains why.
The back flap of my Some Women I Have Known tells the interested reader that the novel is a coming-of-age tale in which John van Dorn searches for his true love and meets some playful, perilous, and wonderful women along the way. He rides a pony with soon-to-be film star Audrey Hepburn, senses his first fondness of female attention at elementary school, experiences tender moments with his cello-playing sweetheart while at boarding school, loses his virginity in a risky adventure, then savors several dangerous and unfortunate loves in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva and the Swiss Alps, learning that life is full of losses and ephemeral relationships. After rescuing a woman in the middle of Africa and a narrow escape of life and death, he finally finds peace of mind with a warm and beautiful Caribbean goddess in the United States.
Each tale can be read in one sitting. So, relax and enjoy with a lush glass of wine, a smooth VSOP brandy or a cup of mellow cappuccino, and smile or drop a tear. The preliminary reviews are positive:
“Paying homage to his great uncle, an ex–World Bank professional makes his debut with a memoir featuring the series of women he encountered in his youth. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (or Maarten Maartens as he was called in publishing circles) scored the jackpot…
A wistful memory…” Kirkus Review.
Enjoy it, and give it a review and the stars you like.