Around New England

Indonesian Immigrant Recalls the Time America Freed His Homeland

August 10, 2020

A Manchester-By-the-Sea resident recalled the first dropping of an atomic bomb as a time of joy for his occupied homeland.

As a boy the man lived in a Japanese internment camp in Indonesia, which was then a colony of the Netherlands known as the Dutch East Indies. Japan invaded the islands early in World War II.

Seventy-five years later, the man recalls seeing three allied airplanes flying low overhead dropping leaflets announcing that on August 15, 1945 – nine days after the Hiroshima bombing and six days after Nagasaki – Japan had surrendered.

“My mother picked me up and shouted in Dutch ‘de oorlog is voorbij! — the war is over!’ ” the man wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Gloucester Times, which covers Cape Ann in Massachusetts, where he now lives.

A raucous crowd in the camp started singing the Dutch national anthem, which had been banned by the Japanese, the man recalled.

He finds the memory comforting during the current troubled time.

“At a time of such unusual unrest, and facing an inexplicable pandemic in this great land of ours, I find it reassuring to recall my first glimpse of freedom, in the sight of three bombers,” the man wrote. “Little did I know at the time, the freedom we were soon to enjoy, was brought about by the brave men and women of The United States of America, my future adopted home.”

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