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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Three men against Japan.

Before I start my story I have to let you know, that the story I am about to write,is about a story my husband Ruud read when he was only seven years old. Every weekend he would go to his grand-parents and was allowed to sit in their 'Sunday room', that's how they called it. This room was only used on special occasions.It was above their store. They owned a small hardware store right in the middle of a small town Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The year was 1948.
Every two weeks his grand parents received a magazine 'Katholieke Illustratie' (Catholic Illustrations). He was only allowed to read the magazine when they had finished reading it. For hours he looked at the pictures and read the stories.They would call him downstairs for hot chocolat milk. 'He was not allowed to have any food or drinks in their 'Sunday room'. He remembers those days with so much fondness.He loved his grand parents.To him they were the nicest people on earth. When his 'Oma' (grandmother) got sick,and she was not able to help herself anymore, he did not think twice about it to help her to relief herself. He was only 14 years old.They just laughed about it and he always called her my 'Doris Day' after the film actress.It was one of the darkest days in his life when his Oma (grandmother) passed away.
Ruud's Oma and Opa Kromhout.

In 1970 he and his family emigrated to Canada and on one of his trips back to The Netherlands,his mother told him that she had kept the magazines for him and if he liked to have them.
It was a big surprise to him that the magazines the 'Katolieke Illustraties' were all book bound. His parents knew that as a young boy he had been fascinated with these magazines and to his great joy they are now in his possession. One story which always intrigued him was about 'Three men fighting against Japan', during World War II in the Dutch East Indies.
That's the story I like to share here on my blog.

Three men against Japan.

Very little has ever been written about the underground resistance during the ruthless Japanese occupation in the Dutch Indies.Even in history books very little is mentioned about what happened in the Far East.There were many heroes who put up a stout resistance against the barbaric Japanese. Sadly enough many of them lost their lives in the jungle of West Java.
Bridge over the river Tjitaroem near Batoedjadjar-Tjimahi.

Tjimahi is a very quiet village near the plateau of Bandoeng.It's much cooler here, then near the coast; life is much lazier and gay, the natives are very cheerful and good natured.The girls are walking around with smiles on their faces and big hibiscus flowers in their black shiny hair.

The hibiscus flower is beautiful to look at, but did you know they can have a deeper meaning? They can hold memories of Love from family and friends, and they can also hold memories for those they've lost. When a girl wears a flower in her hair, it can mean many things; in the Pacific a hibiscus hold in a girls hair means, if it is behind the right ear, it symbolizes she is single. If she wears it on the left side, it means she is married or taken.

A small paradise on this large, hot, and fruitful island of Java.
But the eight thousand Dutch men,the remnant of different infantry-and artillery regiments and motorized divisions of the K.N.I.L, those who had fought in Kalidjati, did not see any of this beauty.The yellow Canna's, golden alamanda's and the red sepatoe flower, which color red is such a contrast against the dark green of the bushes.
They were squatting down on the arid scorched ground from the POW camp, which the Japanese in Tjimahi in record time had set up. Merciless the sun burned round midday where almost nowhere was a spot where you could sit in the shade.Only on the north side of the barracks you could find a little shadow. There most of the POWs men were trying to get a little bit relief from the scorching sun. Quiet, their thoughts far away,sadly remembering their lost freedom, worried sick about their family and what the future would bring.In some places a small fan palm gave a little bit of shadow and Jan Luxinger had found a little spot under this palm close to the entrance of this place.He was a stout blond boy and his face bore the stamp of intelligence and determination.He was sitting with his back against the trunk of this fan palm and behind him his friend had found a little shadow from the same palm. His friend was smaller in posture dark hair and a darker complexion.His face, very uneven and pock-marked-- because of this he was given the name' the Pimpel'-- he showed without a doubt undeniable will-power and spirit.Both had been sailors from origin.'The Pimpel' had been a bargeman on a Groninger coasting vessel and Jan had sailed all the seas of the world.They were softly whispering their memories from a free and carefree past.Being taken imprisoned was probably a heavier burden to carry for them, then for most of the other men. For them their life had been full of adventures on the open sometimes wild seas.A third man was walking slowly to their spot under the fan palm to try to catch some shade.

His nickname was 'Tall man'; they recognized him by his skinny and tall figure. His walk was with an air of carelessly.He sat himself down with a small greeting.He fitted well in their company, because he too had been a sailor, coxswain on the foreign trade.An undauntedly big chap.He sat himself down and under his breath, a bitter curse.Through the entrance of the camp a car drove up, a long green De Soto. A guard quickly opened the door and stood strait up to salute a Japanese General who got out of the car followed by two Japanese officers.
The three Dutch men were looking at this spectacle, disdainful and annoyed. One of the Japanese, glasses on his yellow face, passed them very closely and the men turned their heads in distaste the other way. Jan however could not keep his eyes of the car.He kept staring...... If only we could escape with this car.... he mumbled under his breath.The two other men looked at him. There was a moment of silence, each man was thinking."Everything is better".the Tall Man mumbled "then dying here from hunger".'The Pimpel' whispered:" If it does not work, then it's a bullet, but I am not afraid, but we should do this not without giving it a thought"."We have no time to think about it, now or never!": said Jan and stood up.This was what they needed and simultaniously all stood up.Each went his own way,inconspicuously but with an resolute expression on their faces.Fifteen minutes later they were back under the palm tree, and each of them carried a small bundle under their arms. A fourth person had joined them, his name was Kuiper, he had a round face with a big white scar on his cheek.The Japanese guard was in the small low barrack. Between the two guards at the entrance and the Dutch men stood the waiting green car.
Without a sound each of them opened quickly the doors and got in. 'The Pimpel' started the car. A short turn around and the car drove out the gateway between the Japanese guards, who with fixed looks presented their riffles with a salute, thinking that the Japanese general was leaving again.
The Pimpel floored the car in high gear. The escape would surely soon be discovered.From the camp all of a sudden screams of alarm sounded, the one Japanese guard had discovered his mistake.The Pimpel floored the car from seventy, eighty to ninety. Every muscle in his body was concentrating on the road in front of him.

They passed rocking tji-cars,and here and there a Javanese on foot.The Pimpel did not notice what the others were discussing what to do next.All his attention was on the road, his heart was racing in his throat.But Jan who was a leader took over the command, and the Pimpel heard that they were trying to reach Batavia, and hopefully they could get contact with some of the units of the K.N.I.L.They had passed Tjimahi, and before them was lying the highway to Batavia.One hundred the meter showed and the Pimpel brought the meter up to one hundred and ten, knowing that later in the mountains they would lose time.He looked at the gas meter and noticed that they were very low on gas. With this tank they would not even reach Tjiandjoer.But he did not slow down.When the time comes and the gas tank would be empty they would have to make a decission.For now they had to get as far as possible they could.Suddenly The Pimpel stood on the brakes as hard as he could."Give me a hand"called the Pimpel and pointed at the side of the road, as he jumped out the car.Now the others saw it too, there in the open field they spotted a couple of barrels obvious filled with gas."Watch for guards", screamed Jan. Kuiper pointed at his trouser pocket, where the outline of a heavy pistol was showing. Jan smiled. From an old uniform pants, which he still was holding tight,he unwrapped a light machine gun."You on the left, and I on the right," he said. The Tall guy already helped The Pimpel. There were no guards, only a few signs, that said in broken malay that the owner of the barrels were the Dai Nippons.The gas tank was filled right up to the rim;and they continued their mission.Fifteen minutes later the Pimpel noticed a dark object in front of him, but could not make out what it was, because darkness had set in. A few minutes later they saw that they were behind a row of Japanese trucks. Now what? The Pimpel took his foot of the gas pedal and slowed down a little and looked at his mates for guidance.
"Don't pass", they said,"that's too much of a risk".Annoyed the Pimpel looked at the speed. Forty, thirty five kilometer. At the same time when the speed went down he felt danger was rising. Suddenly the convoy in front of them came to a halt. For one moment a shadow fell over his face, but at the same time he made a quick decission. "Now, right now, pass he jelled at the Pimpel, we have no choice. Put the metal to the pedal!". With the same breath he told the others to keep the wapen ready.With their horn blasting the De Soto pased the convoy. The Japanese soldiers jumped to the side and a sergeant saluted.They passed the last trucks and smiling the Pimpel looked in his mirror and saw the last trucks diappearing behind him. Now the first bends in the road from the Missigit had started. This region of the territory was wild and there were no inhabitants.Bend after bend at these roads like snakes.

One side steeper then the next, high lime cliffs on one side and deep ravines on the other side. Suddenly a scream from the Kuiper:" Car behind us!"
The Pimpel bend over the steering wheel. He heard broken glass; the machine gun was put in position.All he could do was concentrate on the road and the speed.Every time they went through a bend in the road he heard the Tall guy cursing, when the pursuer became visible again."He is catching up, goddammit". Then Jan commanded; "Stop..., now!" The Pimpel with all his strenght put his foot on the breaks. Four meters, and the car stood still against the lime cliff.They just passed one of the many bends on the roads and out of view of the pursuers." We set a trap" Jan screamed.With a few quick motions he told each of them what to do.In a dangerous situation like this, they quickly started to understand each other, with just a nod and a look. The Tall guy was running with the machine gun behind a big lime rock and the others disappeared into the bushes.For just one instant Jan Luxinger could see the bright red flower sepatoe and smelled the unbelievable toxicated odor.A few moments of adrenaline and tension follow.In full speed the car with the pursuers flies around the corner, as soon as the car is in sight, the sound of deadly gun fire echo's of the cliffs.For one instance the car continues to drive,then they hear another salvo of gun fire from the Tall guy, which brings the car to a stop. Nothing seems to move in the car. Some kalongs ( flying fox ) wild flapping their wings is the only sound they hear.

Kalongs are big bats, kalongs mainly live in Soutch East Asia.They are also called flying fox.

With a tense look in his eyes Jan looks from where he is sitting between the bushes for any sign coming from the car.For a second everything is quiet.Than very slowly, almost imperceptible, a face peers from one of the back windows; a hand with a wapon moves and two shots are fired, echoing from the lime rocks. But Jan has fired some shots.....and the yellow face has disappeared.
Jan screams to the Japs to surrender. Then two bare arms, empty hands are waving from an open window. The four Dutch men ran to the car.They find two dead men, and the two others are deadly wounded; they die within minutes.Stuck on the front window they notice a Japanese pass, which might come in handy for the fugitives, maybe a priceless piece of paper.They find three machine guns in the Japanese car. They push the car over the cliff into a deep ravine.The Pimpel start the car and De Soto quickly drives away.

They enter a different landscape. On both sides of the road are rice fields.They pass through kampongs with high speed, and scaring the hell out of the Javanese.They now are close to Tjiandjoer.

Just before the village a red flag, which is waved passionate. The Pimpel slowes down immediately and expect a commando.Jan looks through the front window and between two sand bags,he sees a black barrel pointed at them.
"Lets stop", he says very quiet.Two Japanese, with rifles at ready, walk towards the car door. The Tall guy steps out the car;and tries to make a conversation.He shrugs his shoulders and says:"Commandant"' and opens the door for Jan Luxinger. Jan walks up to the soldiers and looks at them negligent."Go get your Captain", he orders and points at the small barrack.A sergeant is already walking up to him. Jan shows him the pass,and the sergeant who knows a little english thinks he understands what they mean; these high Dutch Officers have instructions from Tjimahi for the Army authorities in Buitenzorg. Of course he can pass, and the guards even salute. " I can't believe it"' Jan says " maybe we can play this game again".Laughing they are on their way to Soekaboemi. Full speed the car drives over the postweg.

They drive full speed over the Postweg,trees on both side of the road which were planted by the Dutch (Daendels),venerable trees.They drive through the rich plains of Tjiandjoer.Beautiful landscape with high fan palms, where peaceful small kampongs are being lit by the red of the sunset.

Very slowly the water buffalo pulls the wooden plow through the wet rice fields.The Javanese at the back of the plow sings his monotonous song.On the verge of the road a few almost naked brown children are playing; at the sound of the engine of the car a Soedanese with a pikolan over his shoulders, which is bend by the weight of the baskets on each end, jumps out of the way to the side of the road.Prosperity blossoms,beautiful green rice fields, swaying palm trees, beautiful colorful flowers, but the four Dutch men see nothing of all this beauty. They are fugitives trying to escape from the brutality of the Japanese invaders. This beautiful land will soon be turned into hell and this beauty destroyed.This Paradise, where peace looks like imperturbable.

In the distance two big mountains rise up far above the ripening rice fields.The twin peaks volcanos,Salak and Gedeh.Gedeh means big in Javanese. The mountains are covered with sage brush.They look very intimidating.

The men are quiet, each deep in thoughts, overcome by the sight of this beauty, this peaceful landscape.How long before this quiet place would erupt into a battle field? The terrain is changing.Again they are in mountainous area.The road becomes a snake like path, along wooded inclines.
Moments later the first houses of Soekaboemi comes in view behind a mist of rain.

The Pimpel is cursing, the windscreen wipers are not working and he has difficulty seeing where he is going.At the last minute the Pimpel sees a barricade of sandbags and the threat of machine guns.At first no sign of life; then very slowly and lazy a sentinel appears from one of the houses.Again a moment of enormous tension. But when the man finished reading the pass; he nods and without a word he gives them the sign to drive on.They just cannot believe there good fortune of this pass, this is crazy.On all corners of the streets are sandbags with machine guns.Even while they are driving through these streets, they see a group of prisoners, bend over by the heavy load of carrying beams; one white man stops, breathing for air, and gets a kick from one of the Japanese boots. The man looks up, and gets a glimpse of the Dutch soldiers with tight faces behind the windows of the car.
One moment a flicker of hope on his face, thinking of an unexpected rescue a miracle........Than the car drives on disappearing behind a curtain of heavy rain.
Jan, the leader, likes to leave the danger of all these sentinels behind them as soon as possible. Further down the road is a side road to Buitenzorg and he says to the Pimpel;" turn into that road". Then suddenly a shot, right in front of them, which rips open the bonnet. Another shot and another one. The Pimpel put his foot on the pedal, the car is racing down a little lane and is outside reach of the machine gun.Their faces have turned white; no word is spoken.Dusk has surrounded them but a few kilometers further down this lane, they can see the contours of red flags and a grey mountain of sand bags.Jan Luxinger commands:" Don't stop, it's getting too dangerous.Get your wapons!"
Wild waving of the red flags against the grey sky of dusk and rain, the sounds of screams. But the Pimpel is a man without wavering.He drives strait in at the red flags, brushing the drab looking sand bags.Then suddenly, close behind them, a shrill and sharp shriek:"Stop! Stop!"
With a shrieking sound of the brakes, slipping on the wet loamy soil, the car turns around it's axle. the nose pointing in the direction they just came from. White faced and strained the men look around them. It's the Kuiper who had screamed. Has he gone crazy? But the boy with the strange scars on his face points behind him.
" The bridge!" he jells. And now the others see it too, the dark hole of the river where the bridge used to be. The bridge which has been blown up by the Dutch army, has not been fixed jet by the Japanese army.The car is standing in front of a gaping cliff. Behind them are the Japanese soldiers, now alarmed and their weapons in position.

But Jan Luxinger never gives up. He bellows to the Japanese soldiers, that he likes to speak to their "Captain" and quick!An officer is looking at Jan with a suspicious look in his face.The Dutch man has to come with him to a guard room, so they can investigate the papers. Calmly Jan walks beside the man; the car follows in first gear.But suddenly right in front of the guard house the door opens from the car and Jan jumps in. The car takes of in high speed in the pouring rain. The Kuiper and the Tall boy shooting from the back window.The Japanese officer,and three Japanese soldiers have been hit, and lie on the ground. The others are looking for cover and open fire. Bullets are hitting the steel chassis, through the roof and some landed in the solid covering of the car.One bullet penetrates the gas tank. Kuiper is holding his hand against his shoulder, he is bleeding. But they made it out of sight.
"We are not going to make it to Buitenzorg before night fall": says Jan. " I know somebody here, it's the boss from the enterprise Sinagar,that's where we go.Hopefully we can get something to eat there. And just past Parang Koeda we can stay overnight with my friend Japie".One more obstacle on the road jst before Sinagar. A car is sitting on the side of the road, two white men are trying to fix a flat tire.They are two German NSB-members, working for the Japs.Surprised, they put their hands in the air, and the Dutch men take all their papers and money. They tie them together and push them down into a steep ravine. For the time being they will be no threat, it is pitch dark now.
Arriving at Sinagar they are welcomed and receive a meal, and Kuiper's wound is cleaned up and bandaged by the wife of the administrator of Sinagar. Upon leaving Jan receives an envelope with money. "For our Fatherland",says the host.He is very moved and his voice shakes.'Japie' Jan's friend from the enterprise which is past Parang Koedais is totally surprised by seeing his friend. But is very worried, because the native workers should under no circumstances find out about the four Dutch Military on the plantation.On the grounds is a sanatorium for pilots; that's where he takes his friends and entrust them to the care of an ex-pilot. They are taking a bath and hide their weapons in a secret place.In the dark of the night De Soto car is been dropped into a deep ravine.They listen to the big boom, not without emotion.This car took them in a few hours along steep ravines, and saved them if captured from an absolute death, a frightening experience.
After a good nights rest, Japie takes them in his car, without being perceived, outside the compound, before the workers wake up.A short but hearty fare well, and then they are are all alone standing between high trees totally covered with climbers and air plants, on foot and without weapons.

On my next blog : By train to Batavia.---- The first underground resistance.

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