Bridge on the River Kwai

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, May 26, 2007

I had a vague understanding of The Bridge on the River Kwai because in my 8th grade English class we studied the lyrics to the Billy Joel song We Didn't Start the Fire, in which Kwai is cleverly rhymed with "Chou En-Lai," the Chinese Communist leader.  What can't you learn from popular music?  I can spell B-A-N-A-N-A-S and I know all about the Cold War.  It's magic.

But it wasn't until shortly before I left that I watched the movie Bridge on the River Kwai, which my dad loaned me because it's one of his favorites.  I found it frustrating and obnoxious that the Brits were so arrogant and egotistical that they wanted to build the best bridge ever for the Japanese instead of work slowly or poorly to help the war effort.  Plus, we knew all along that the entire movie was just leading up to the destruction of this bridge.  So Dad, I'm sorry, but I didn't enjoy the film.  But I did appreciate the background knowledge it provided me about the POW situation and the Death Railway Bridge.  After Japanese occupation of Thailand, it became incredibly important that they build a railway to Burma in order to carry supplies and soldiers to that front.  Unfortunately or fortunately, the dense, mountainous jungle made such a task next to impossible. 

Does anyone care about this?  Is anyone still reading?  Regardless....

So, it was estimated that railway completion would take 5 years.  The Japanese army demanded that POWs and conscripted and kidnapped laborers do the job in just 18 months.  Due to exhaustion, dynamite, and falling off of mountains, it is estimated that 16,000 POWs died during construction.  Additionally, as many as 100,000 laborers from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia also died.  Then, after 20 months of use, in 1945 the Allies bombed it (like in the movie) and the railway was no more.  After the war, Thailand dismantled much of it for fear that their historical enemies the Burmese might use it to push into Thailand.

Isn't that a good story?  No?  Well, then enjoy some pretty pictures.
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