Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Real Life Story Behind “The Bridge on the River Kwai” Illustrates . . .

Well, We’re Not Sure What All It Illustrates But There is One Thing it Does

There are good movies and there are great movies, and one of the best is the Bridge on the River Kwai”.  This movie tells the story of British POW’s in World War II forced to build a railroad bridge for their Japanese captors.  It is one of those movies that is both highly entertaining and filled with an insight into human life.

It turns out the movie was based in part on fact, and that one of the actual British prisoners who just recently passed away had a remarkable life after his capture and torture by the Japanese.

Eric Lomax, a former British soldier who was tortured by the Japanese while he was a prisoner during World War II . . .  died on Monday in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his publisher, Vintage Books.

Mr. Lomax, who was born in Scotland, was 19 when he joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 1939. He was one of thousands of British soldiers who surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore in 1942. Many were relocated to Thailand and forced to build the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

The building of the railroad and the brutality involved was portrayed in “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 film directed by David Lean.

Mr. Lomax was repeatedly beaten and interrogated after his captors found a radio receiver he had made from spare parts. Multiple bones were broken and water was poured into his nose and mouth.

Mr. Lomax knew who his torturer was, and naturally despised him.

“At the end of the war, I would have been happy to murder him,” Mr. Lomax told The New York Times in 1995, shortly after the “The Railway Man” was published and became a best seller.

In the book, Mr. Lomax described having fantasies about meeting Mr. Nagase one day and how he had spent much of the 1980s looking for information about him. 

And he found him.

Micool Brooke/Associated Press
Eric Lomax, left, in 1998 with Nagase Takashi, his chief wartime tormentor. The two met again at the River Kwai, Thailand.

The men finally met in 1993, after Mr. Lomax had read an article about Mr. Nagase’s being devastated by guilt over his treatment of one particular British soldier. Mr. Lomax realized that he was that soldier.

“When we met, Nagase greeted me with a formal bow,” Mr. Lomax said on the Web site of the Forgiveness Project, a British group that seeks to bring together victims and perpetrators of crimes. “I took his hand and said in Japanese, ‘Good morning, Mr. Nagase, how are you?’ He was trembling and crying, and he said over and over again: ‘I am so sorry, so very sorry.’ ”

Mr. Lomax was able to forgive Mr. Nagase,

“I haven’t forgiven Japan as a nation,” Mr. Lomax told The Times, “but I’ve forgiven one man, because he’s experienced such great personal regret.”

And apparently Mr. Nagase himself suffered from his deeds.

Mr. Lomax told The Times said Mr. Nagase’s later life resembled his own. “He has had the same psychological and career problems that I have,” he said.

And while there are many messages here, one in particular is illustrated here and it should be directed at former Vice President Dick Chaney.  It is this. 

Those who are victims of torture suffer greatly, but those who conduct or condone or support the torture, if they have any shred of human decency also suffer.  Do you, Mr. Chaney?

No, we do not expect an answer. 

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