I just came from a visit to Nikholai’s blog website (Blackbox). His articles reminded me of myself when I was young.
During my OCS (Officer Cadet School) days in the mid-70’s, someone lent me a war novel entitled The Winds of War by Herman Wouk. I enjoyed it so much that I eagerly awaited the sequel, War and Remembrance. Subsequently, I went on to read most of his books, plus others like Holocaust by Gerald Green, Midway, The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, and Malaya Upside Down. I had developed quite an interest in 2nd World War events. My father was pleasantly surprised when I asked him to tell me about life in Singapore under Japanese occupation.
In 1985, when NPB (National Productivity Board) sent a group of us to Japan for three-and-a-half months of training, I was the only weirdo in our group who liked to visit war cemeteries. At the end of our training, while many of our colleagues took the opportunity to visit Korea and Taiwan, I and 2 other colleagues chose to remain in Japan for another week. My friends Paul Sum and Low Hock Meng liked Japanese castles and temples whereas I liked war memorials. So I agreed that if they accompanied me to visit the Peace Memorial Park (平和记年公园) in Hiroshima, I would follow them to any other place.
A-Bomb Memorial Dome - 21/12/1985
Memorial Cenotaph, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Muzeum
So we left our main luggage at Tokyo International Centre and took a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Hiroshima. From there, we took the slow trains back to Tokyo, stopping to visit interesting castles and temples along the way; the whole trip lasting 1 week. By the way, I was really impressed by the Japanese bullet trains. We left Tokyo at 9.00 am and arrived in Hiroshima at around 2.30 in the afternoon. Bear in mind this was 2 decades ago. In comparison, my drive to Ipoh over a similar distance of about 600 km took 8 hours using the North-South Highway (not counting the horrible jam at the Spore immigration on the return trip). Before they built the NS Highway, it was even worse. How I wish they would build a high-speed railway between Singapore and Ipoh.
Himeji Castle – 23/12/1985
During my OCS days, the platoon IC had to write a quotation in the IC book. I remember writing these words from a John Lennon song; ‘Imagine no country, nothing to kill or die for’. Since then, I have embraced Christianity and my views on such things have changed. Talented as he was, John Lennon’s vision will always remain a dream, because, without the Prince of Peace, there can never be peace on this earth. And so I cannot sing, “No hell below us. Above us only sky.”
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