Remembrance reminder

Colin MacLean
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Man who spent Second World War as POW laments lack of media coverage

Second World War veteran Jack Ford talks about his time as a prisoner of war. He was working at the shipyard in Nagasaki when the second American atomic bomb was dropped on the city. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

As Jack Ford sat down to read his morning paper Wednesday he was shocked to see that there was no mention that it was Victory over Japan Day (VJ-Day).

That was disappointing, said Ford, 93.

VJ-Day commemorates the day Japan surrendered to the Allies and the Second World War effectively ended.

Ford said he’s not angry — disappointed is more like it — but he does wonder if Wednesday’s omission might be an indication of things to come.

The people who experienced the war first hand are getting older, he said. Someday important days like that one might fade from memory. That’s a dangerous mistake for the world to make, said Ford.

“You soon forget, and if you forget, everything is lost.

“If you forget, it could happen again — and who in the name of goodness wants to be involved in anything like that again?” he said.

“I care because I should care. It’s a situation I went through for 3 1/2 years,” he added.

Ford spent most of the war as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp.

As a young man, Ford signed up for the Royal Air Force and was stationed in Singapore when it fell to Japan.

He was held for a time in the camp in Nagasaki, not far from where the United States dropped one of its atomic bombs.

Japan’s surrender was announced on Aug. 15, 1945. The country officially signed the declaration of surrender on Sept. 2, which is when the United States commemorates the war as ending.

Ford said he and the rest of his camp didn’t find out about the surrender until several days after it happened. They’d known something was up but none of their guards would tell them anything.

Then one day, an American B-52 bomber flew at low altitude over the camp. The prisoners got their blankets together and spelled out the word “news,” as a way of getting the pilot’s attention.

The bomber crew put together their rations and a short message and dropped it into the camp.

Ford said that’s how he found out the war was over. The next day it was officially announced.

“Basically what this day means to me ... here I am, 67 years ago today, and I remember that just as plain as if it happened this morning,” said Ford.

That day should never be forgotten, he insists.

“Aug. 15 should be remembered as the day the war came to an end and the world rejoiced in the fact that the war was over. And if they are forgetting — then they weren’t very happy about it,” he said.

The anniversary did seem to pass with little more than a whisper in most media outlets.

The Canadian Press, the national news service that feeds news to hundreds of publications across the country, ran only one story on the anniversary on Wednesday.

Its content mostly used the date as a backdrop to highlight current military heightened tensions in the seas around Japan.

A quick Google news search of “V-J Day” results in a number of story results, but very few of them are from Canada.

Steven Blaney, minister of Veterans Affairs, issued a short news release commemorating the anniversary, but it was largely ignored by the media.

“Today (Tuesday) we extend our heartfelt thanks to our Canadian troops for their service in the Far East under difficult circumstances and demonstrating extraordinary courage and determination,” wrote Blaney.

“It is important to commemorate the heroic sacrifices of our veterans. Their contribution has made our country what it is today. Neither time nor distance will lessen our remembrance.”

Ford hopes that last sentence is true — it certainly is for him.

“How can I, after praying day after day after day for the war to come to an end — and my prayers were answered if I may say that — how can I forget the torment and the massacres that went on there?” he asked.

More than 10,000 Canadians took part in the war in Asia, including more than 2,000 who reinforced Hong Kong in 1941.

Many Newfoundlanders joined the war effort through the various branches of Britain’s armed forces and merchant marine.

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Royal Air Force, Canadian Press, Google Veterans Affairs

Geographic location: Japan, United States, Singapore Nagasaki Far East Asia Hong Kong Britain

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Recent comments

  • Bill Tulk
    August 16, 2012 - 08:32

    Mr. Ford, Thank you and your generation for the freedoms we enjoy today. I'm 58 years old and have enjoyed a pleasant and peaceful life thanks to you and all the men and women who gave so much during The Wars on our behalf. I, for one, will never forget that. All the best, Bill Tulk

  • wa
    August 16, 2012 - 08:00

    It's an unfortunate fact of history that such anniversaries stop being commemorated a few generations after they occur. Does anybody now know when Trafalger day is ? or the Battle of Waterloo or even the war in which these battles were fought. In their time these were pivotal events that quite probably changed the course of history. In another 50 or 60 years I expect that WW2 will be relegated to the same place in history as the Napoleonic wars. This is in no way meant to diminish the service or sacrifice of people like Mr. Ford or even great statesmen like Winston Churchill. It's just the way human memory and history works.

  • Paula O'Quinn
    August 16, 2012 - 07:50

    Mr. Ford, Please accept the sincerest gratitude for your sacrifice in the name of our country. I too was solemnly surprised on Wednesday when the day passed without hardly a mention of VJ-Day. I am a veteran from a war several decades later in Afghanistan. I also remember the many nights of prayer for the battle to be over soonest, so that we could return home safe to our family and friends. Sir, you and your comrads have not been forgotten...... Thank you for reminding us....... Sincerely, P. O'Quinn, Capt (Retired)

  • Whaddaya At ?
    August 16, 2012 - 07:24

    No mention of VJ Day in the paper, but they didn't forget the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death on Aug. 16. Go figure.

  • grant
    August 16, 2012 - 07:05

    Tibbits, pilot of the Enola Gay and Sweeney of pilot of Bocks car, the planes that dropped the bombs are gone, i think the only one alive of the plane crews is Dutch Van Kirk.. I thank Mr Ford for his services. The plane that is mentioned here was a B-25 Mitchell instead of a B-52 which didnt inter service untill the 50s.

  • Lori
    August 16, 2012 - 06:50

    There was no mention of Canadian Peacekeeping Day either on August 9... it took one news media til the next day to say, 'Yesterday, peacekeepers gathered... to celebrate...' Sad. Bless you, Mr. Ford.