Long Way Back to the River Kwai: Memories of World War II

Overview

Loet Velmans was seventeen when the Germans invaded Holland. He and his family fled to London on the Dutch Coast Guard cutter Seaman’s Hope and then sailed to the Dutch East Indies—now Indonesia—where he joined the Dutch army. In March 1942, the Japanese invaded the archipelago and made prisoners of the Dutch soldiers. For the next three and a half years Velmans and his fellow POWs toiled in slave labor camps, building a railroad through the dense jungle on the Burmese-Thailand border so the Japanese could invade...

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Long Way Back to the River Kwai: Memories of World War II

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Overview

Loet Velmans was seventeen when the Germans invaded Holland. He and his family fled to London on the Dutch Coast Guard cutter Seaman’s Hope and then sailed to the Dutch East Indies—now Indonesia—where he joined the Dutch army. In March 1942, the Japanese invaded the archipelago and made prisoners of the Dutch soldiers. For the next three and a half years Velmans and his fellow POWs toiled in slave labor camps, building a railroad through the dense jungle on the Burmese-Thailand border so the Japanese could invade India. Some 200,000 POWs and slave laborers died building this Death Railway. Velmans, though suffering from malaria, dysentery, malnutrition, and unspeakable mistreatment, never gave up hope. Fifty-seven years later he returned to revisit the place where he should have died and where he had buried his closest friend. From that emotional visit sprung this stunning memoir.

Long Way Back to the River Kwai is a simply told but searing memoir of World War II—a testimonial to one man’s indomitable will to live that will take its place beside the Diary of Ann Frank, Bridge over the River Kwai, and Edith’s Story.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

Exceeding readable . . .

Simon Winchester
“Well-remembered and impeccably written . . . [A] most wonderful book.”
Washington Post Book World
“This candid, understated book is a useful contribution to our understanding of an essential truth.”
The Washington Post
It is good that by the 1970s extensive business dealings in Japan had taught Velmans that "there was no longer any reason to think of the Japanese as the bad guys," but it is also good that he has the honesty to say, "I never lost my compulsion to keep a wary eye on them." To harbor such feelings has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the brutal legacy of war. This candid, understated book is a useful contribution to our understanding of that essential truth. —Jonathan Yardley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611451856
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,430,778
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Loet Velmans came to America after World War II, where he worked for and became CEO of public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. His wife, Edith Velmans, is the acclaimed author of Edith’s Story. They divide their time between New York City and Sheffield, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Maps vi

Reflections 1

Prologue 7

1 Boyhood 21

2 Escape 37

3 Refuge 51

4 Prison 81

5 Death Camp 129

6 Recovery 167

7 Renascence 187

Epilogue 211

Acknowledgments 235

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