Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Operation Borneo" - the untold key US role in liberating Borneo

Kota Kinabalu: The central logistical role that America played in flushing out the Japanese from Borneo during World War Two has been mysteriously sidelined in history books and other written accounts of the war.

This made Korean War naval veteran Gerard R. Case decide to put the record straight in his "Operation Borneo - The last untold story of the war in the Pacific, 1945" which he co-authored with James A. Pounds, a former Lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers, 1942-52.

"I just want to set the record straight," said Case at the book's launch by Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, at the Likas residence of former Chief Minister, Datuk Harris Mohd Salleh.

A group of 23 Australian war veterans, relatives of the 1945 Death March, Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk Masidi Manjun, and some 100 guests attended.

"It's about the Americans who fought alongside the Australians and never got the recognition," Case said. "All Australian publications mentioned the Australians were here (Sabah).

"Yes, the Australians did their part but for some reasons, they just don't recognise that the Americans were here. So I have to come out and say the Americans were here."

"The American soldiers (who were involved) are dying of old age. They are all in the 80s and 90s so they need to get this story out because they want the credit due them and there is no money involved," he said.

Three thousand American soldiers, against a huge a division or two of 75,000 soldiers were involved in the Borneo Operation between May and August,1945 - a comparatively tiny American presence.

"So, they probably say this is inconsequential," Case said.

However, Case noted: "The Australians didn't have boats that could take them up rivers. The Americans had LCM (Landing Craft Mechanised) and the LCM had a ramp, you roll the ramp and the soldiers go ashore," he said.

"In fact, the Americans were seconded to the Australian 7th and 9th Divisions by General Douglas Macarthur. They provided all the ships and American LSTs let off tanks and soldiers of the Australian Army in Balikpapan, helping, aiding and fighting alongside but no credit," Case groused.

Case's book "contains everything, including the Death March from Sandakan to RanauÉ50% is about Australians and 50% about Americans as all the articles are written by the soldiers themselves."

He said he found out the true stories by interviewing 75 Australian and American soldiers and put them in the book.

Datuk Harris said he hosted the event both as a friend of some Australian soldiers and "in memory of the Australian landing, particularly in Labuan in 1945."

In a light vein, Harris quipped: "There is always this problemÉwhen an Australian is writing Borneo, 90% is about Australians and when an American writes I think it's the other way round!"

"I think the Americans gave logistic support to the Australians for us but anyway, we are remembering the sacrifices made by these people which we think are all going to remember in our whole life," Harris said.

On a more serious note, Harris said: "The world must change if we really want peace, progress and prosperity.

"But it seems we are going backwards by a hundred years."

Harris cited UN sanctions, invasions, bombings and the killings of millions of innocent people without a formal declaration of war, the disparity between democratic rhetoric and practice where "superpowers can just ignore the wishes of the majority of nations.

"So long as these things are happening, I think this so-called fight against terrorism will continue because they are weak and can't fight openly and they are going to fight like what they are fighting now."

Touching on tourism, Harris congratulated Chong for promoting mass tourism in Sabah.

"Sabah deserved to be visited by Australians and other people around the world. We have plenty to offer here," he said.

However, he said: "What I worry is what read in the newspaper with headings like 'We thought the British know us' and at the bottom it says Britons visited Thailand - 700,000; Britons visited Malaysia - 200,000." " I think it is the same with Sabah. The Australians know us but how many Australians visit us?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Chong described Operation Borneo as "a very important historical book for Sabah."

"Sixty years ago, thousands of Australians came and did not go home," noted Chong, recalling those who sacrificed their lives.

"I can tell you all, Australians have a special place in Sabah, Australians will always be remembered for the sacrifices of their war veterans."

'While we recognise the sacrifices of the Australians, here we give rightful recognition to the Americans who also served and fought alongside the Australians," Chong said.

Courtesy of Daily Express

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