Monday 26 September 2016

Memoirs of a World War II POW bring home horrors of conflict

Published 20/09/2015 | 02:30

The cover of 'A Doctor's War', which recounts tales from a WWII POW camp
The cover of 'A Doctor's War', which recounts tales from a WWII POW camp

There was great media coverage last month of the film documentary of Aidan MacCarthy's World War II years as an RAF doctor and prisoner in Japanese POW camps. It is one thing reading an article, but by reading his war memoir, reprinted three times this year, one learns about his survival. Like when a Sumatran POW went to talk to a friend who visited him outside the camp fence, to learn news of his ill wife. The guards thought he was a spy and beat him and buried him to his neck. After two days in the hot sun, he died. Pleas to give aid were refused.

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MacCarthy had his own beating, when one day he was passing where Japanese guards would sit with their pet monkey. They had gone for lunch. He could not resist saluting the monkey instead. A guard saw him and they beat him until he was semi-conscious and his POW friends were allowed take him away.

Another time he was with a prisoner, dying painfully, when a guard walked in and was angry he was not saluted. Although he hesitated as MacCarthy said he was helping a dying man, he smashed his elbow with his rifle, resulting in an operation without anaesthetic. It became infected and he nearly died only for a medic risking his life to leave the camp to buy the medicine.

A physiotherapist POW friend helped him, but he was to die of diabetes when the insulin could no longer be obtained. "It was a bitter experience, watching him die, slowly and bravely," MacCarthy says in the book.

POW doctors dealt with many diseases and cases of leprosy. They kept it secret so as not to cause panic and in case the guards would kill or eject the leprosy victims from the camp.

In one camp, they made strong alcohol with the support of the guards. The guards liked the brew. MacCarthy was later moved to Japan in terrible conditions with 1,200 POWs. Their ship sank. He was saved by a whaling ship on the way to Nagasaki, where the fishermen were ordered to bring the 82 POWs back to sea and dump them. They refused.

"Grudgingly we were allowed to disembark . . . and a strange looking bunch we were, covered with cuts and abrasions... A few local women gave us water and some makeshift splints and paper bandages before being chased away by the returning Army personnel," he says in the book.

There are light moments like their first weeks in Java before the Japanese came. When travelling they had rest stops. At one, angry monkeys pelted the convoy with coconuts. They gave up on more stops when their last one by a river to freshen up was interrupted when hundreds of crocodiles woke from their nap. 'A Doctor's War' is available from www.bookdepository.com

Mary Sullivan, Cork

Watery eye-opener

Here is the reality of Irish Water. In the exceptional rainfall last weekend, Irish Weather Online's Fergal Tierney (Irish Independent September 14) said: "At least two trillion litres of rain fell on Ireland during Friday and Saturday. The average rainfall over 26 synoptic stations was 23.6mm".

If unrecorded rainfall in the mountainous regions were included these figures would be drastically increased.

Looking at it in a realistic and more practical form, this is enough water to fill almost 800,000 Olympic swimming pools. Surely such figures must tickle the imagination of administrative personnel in Irish Water, to whom conservation is so vital.

Uisce Éireann should be in a position to trap this excess water with inter-connected reservoirs all streamlined to a main storage depot where water is processed for purity, giving every metered household an identical quality product. Then, they can decide on charges!

This would be an exercise similar to Electric Ireland, where wind, solar, marine and biomass energies are conserved and connected to the national grid for control, storage and delivery as a guaranteed product to customers nationwide.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Syria is root of the problem

Yet again we see governments, including ours, bumbling around and trying not to offend any prospective voters instead of solving a problem. The refugee crisis, fuelled largely on Facebook in countries such as Syria, needs sorting out at the root of the problem.

All the targeted countries, especially Ireland, have their own homeless problems already, which our Government is also incapable of solving. All the countries and the EU spend millions of our tax money on diplomats.

All decent taxpayers contribute, one way or another, to the United Nations, which I always assumed was supposed to be solving problems like this.

I have great sympathy for the hundreds of homeless on Dublin's streets and for people who are suffering in other countries but, hopefully, a few politicians will develop a backbone and try to solve the problem at root before the EU, including Ireland, already hopelessly in debt, collapses under the financial strain.

Richard Barton, Tinahely, Co Wicklow

Banking Inquiry truths

The 'truths' revealed in the Irish Banking Inquiry were the same 'truths' revealed by every other Western nation that has investigated the banking system in the years from 2008 to the present.

Iceland was the only Western nation that truly embraced its inquiry and punished those responsible accordingly.

The 'truths' revealed from the Irish inquiry circus are: banks are too big to fail, and, when banks take a gamble and get it wrong, Joe Taxpayer will foot the bill.

Irish politicians 'coasted through' the 2008 crisis in confused financial ignorance.

We appear to have learned nothing from the dotcom crash of March 2000 nor the banking crash of September 2008. Another financial economic crash is inevitable and looming.

Why? Because nothing has changed, apart from the redistribution of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street. It's not rocket science. No inquiry will reveal anything until all is revealed, as happened in Iceland.

As the third US President, Thomas Jefferson, once said: "Banking institutions are more dangerous to society and our liberties than standing armies.

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around (the banks) will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

"The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."

Paul Feeney, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan

Irish Independent

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