Hi Reddit! My grandfather is 94 years old, a Singaporean immigrant that lived through the WWII Japanese Occupation in south east Asia! ASK HIM ANYTHING!
A short bio: My grandfather was born in 1921 he is 94 years old. He was born in Hainan, China. He moved to to Singapore when he was only 16 in 1937 arrived on a ship . He lived through the Japanese occupation in Singapore. He would love to share some stories, wisdom and life advice with everyone! Ask him anything. My aunt is doing the translating as his english is not very good.
EDIT 1: Will be back in an hour. Going for dinner. Keep the questions coming!
EDIT 2: Back!
EDIT 3: AMA OVER. THANKS EVERYONE.
EDIT 4: I WILL STILL TRY TO GET THESE QUESTIONS ANSWERED THIS WEEK.
EDIT 5: HOLY GOLD. THANK YOU, KIND STRANGERS.
"I still don't forgive the Japanese to this day"
After going through all of the negative experience with the Japanese. How would your grandfather feel if his grandson were to date / marry a Japanese girl?
"I would not be supportive of it, neither would I be against it. From my experience, the individual Japanese person is a good person. But when in a group they can be quite mean. I once for worked for a Japanese soldier that treated me very well"
Then I shall pay a visit to your grandfather solo... (NOT IN GROUPS. noted)
How did you manage to escape the Sook Ching Massacre? Also, do you know any of your friends who were caught and never came home?
"They caught me and locked me up in the camp one night I was with a one other cellmate and tt was made out of wood. I didn't think about running away at first but my cellmate convinced me that we should try. There were patrolling soldiers around. In the morning, we waited for the patrolling soldier to pass by. We broke a piece of wood and just ran for it. We ran as far and as fast as we could. I didn't even get his name. If we hadn't escaped we would have been sent to Thailand to work on the infamous "Death railroad"
I have some young Japanese on my facebook that simple don't think the Japanese portrayed in recent films could actually do such things. I find it frustrating that they can dismiss any arguments I put forth with a simple, "How do you know what happened?! You were not there!"
As someone who was "there", what would you say to someone who claims monstrosities didn't happen? Thank you for your time doing this AMA.
"They were really that cruel. I saw two heads hanging off a bridge. If you don't believe it I cannot force you. But I have seen it."
What is the best memory that your life offered to you?
"I worked for a jewish man, the work was not so hectic. My boss and his family treated me like family. The salary was good. The next door neighbour also had a helper like me that was also from Hainan. He provided me a lot of books because he was previously a teacher. He encouraged me to read rather than go out."
Teh or kopi?
Edit: asking "coffee or tea" in the Singaporean/Malay parlance
What would you consider a miracle to be?
"After escaping I ran across the country to a small village. I met this old man, he was alone. I asked him if I could stay for awhile. I stayed for 2-3 weeks. There was one night the Japanese came searching the village but on THAT night, I was out visiting a relative. I heard somebody got taken away."
I'm not sure how relevant it is to Singapore specifically but my wife speaks highly of The Rape of Nanking. Uh, the book- not the act. Her family fled Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge. Did you lose anyone along the way (she lost several family members to Pol Pot)?
Edit: My wife's family is ethnically Chinese. They fled Cambodia.
"5 or 6 of my relatives were captured. Mostly uncles and male cousins. I never saw them again"
What one thing would he change in this world if he had the power to do so?
"There would be no weapons."
Thanks for doing this AMA. It is very brave.
As for my question, It is well known the Chinese and Japanese were very hostile in WWII. Did they treat you differently to white, British citizens? If so, better or worse?
"We were all treated badly. I worked for a jewish man and even he was put into jail"
What was the best year of his life so far and what made it that way?
"~1947, I received a letter from my girlfriend. I was planning on going back to Hainan. I previously proposed to her but she rejected me. I wasn't really affected by it in fact I was more worried if she said yes anyway. I was quite poor and I also didn't want her to suffer with me. Before I even sent her my letter to tell her I was going back to Hainan, her letter said that she was willing to follow me back to Hainan! I was ecstatic. I told her since you want to go back Hainan with me we should just settle here in Singapore."
OP here: I'm very grateful and pretty amazed by that decision. I wouldn't be here doing this today.
What was the worst thing u witnessed during the period? Did u ever think that the war would end when u were experiencing/witnessing hardships and sufferings?
1ST Question:I saw the British soldiers being captured by the Japanese. They were tied onto the lamp-post and had their foreheads slit open to cover their eyes.
2nd Question: "I was looking forward for the American soldiers to come in. When I first saw the American planes fly over I was very happy"
Do you know any other people still around today who experienced japanese occupation? And if so do you keep in touch with them?
"Yes I have one friend. He is as old as me. We worked together in the Japanese camp. We used to talk on the phone a lot. I want to call him but I'm afraid to find out if he's dead"
As a man who has lived many a year, what advice would your grandad give to a young man today?
"Love the peace the experience today but always be vigilant. Be hardworking, have integrity, loyalty, Be prepared for the people that will bully you in life"
"and read more"
It's been four hours since you answered, but I really would appreciate if you could please ask him which books most influenced him or would recommend.
OP HERE. I don't think they would be English books because my grandfather is not very good at English. They're most probably chinese books but I will still find out what they are for you when I can.
With so many thing to feel down about at that time, what were some simple things that you were thankful for?
"World peace, there is much less war today"
my grandfather was from Hainan too! What does your grandfather think about the atomic bombs that was dropped on Japan? And also, what does he think of the Singaporeans post-British independence vs Singaporeans now? i.e: good vs bad
"I was quite happy. We were all suffering so much and they were big bullies and someone finally stopped them. The quality of people aren't as good as before but of course their lives are also much better than the people before. Back then, people were helpful. Now, not so much. For example, back then the Hainanese people were very helpful. Even to strangers."
As an elder that has endured wartime hardship, you have experienced things that the younger generations of today will never probably have to. What do you think will be the great challenge that the global youth of today will have to face in the next 25 to 50 years?
"I am still worried that war could possibly break out today because I feel that America today is a little afraid that China will become stronger than them. I am also still afraid Japan will invade again because of their lack of resources"
Hey you're older than LKY. have you met the guy in person?
"Nope. But he is a very smart, respectable and great man. He is not afraid of criticism from anyone. Not even his own people. He goes all out to achieve his goals"
Ah pek, thanks for doing the AMA. What is your fav song and food?
"I like the current chinese national anthem. I don't have a favourite food but I love sweet things like cakes. I have a sweet tooth."
What do you think of modern day Japan? (show him pics of modern Japan)
"It looks really good"
Do you know what happened to the Jewish family you worked for?
"The Jewish family that treated me very well ran back to India when news of the war broke out"
Did you try to make contact with them when the war was over?
"I used to but we no longer keep in contact."
What do you think is the best invention ever?
"Phones and aeroplanes."
What did you do after the war?
"I sold chicken rice. I met my wife in another village that my relatives were staying at."
Were there any "good" Japanese during their occupation of Singapore? & What were your feelings towards the British when they surrendered?
"I was very frightened when they surrendered. I was working in a rubber plantation, there was no newspaper or radio announcement that the British had surrendered. I only knew that they had surrendered once there were no more gunshots and Japanese soldiers inspecting the area"
What do you think of today's society, concerning technology? Is it good for us to be able to automate so many tasks, meaning we need not wear out or bodies or minds?
"I prefer things to be man-made. I am afraid that one day all this technology such as robots and machines will be used for war."
What happened right after the surrender? Did things just immediately go back to the way it was?
"After the surrender, the British returned and everything was quite normal"
How did living through the Japanese Occupation affect your view of the Japanese? Has that changed over the years, and how/why?
"My view hasn't changed. I think the Japanese are still quite controlling and ambitious"
CONTINUED: "They are very intelligent people. But quite naughty"
Do you smoke? If yes, what are your thoughts on the change and advancements of tobacco then and now? Do they taste better then or now?
Otherwise, in as simple words as possible, how would you describe Singapore now after seeing it grow from back in WWII times?
"I don't smoke. I feel so much happiness for Singapore."
Did you have much contact with the Malays when you moved to Singapore?
Were you affected by the racial riots? And what was your stance on it?
Were there any local movies you enjoyed in the past?
Were you or any of your family members caught and made to work from the Japanese?
"I had a few Malay friends when I was young. One Malay man wanted me to marry his daughter but I had no money so I couldn't."
"I wasn't very affected by it. After going through the war I don't think much of all these matters"
"I had no time for movies. I was working all the time."
OP: I've answered this in another question!
Hi Ah Gong!
WW2 had a lot of horrid monstrosities. Did you feel very traumatised by the things you've witnessed? How did you "recover" from the war?
"After the war I was very hardworking. I was too busy to be traumatised. Everyone settled down and rebuilt their lives"
Hello! I have been waiting for an interesting local AMA since forever! Thank you for doing it. What was the fondest memory you had before the war broke out?
"Working for the Jewish family"
Thanks for doing the AMA.
What was a typical day like for you during the Japanese occupation?
What are some things/stories (however small) from that period that you think people of today (especially the younger generation) have either forgotten or don't know about but you think worthy of remembering?
What are your thoughts on Hainanese language/dialect in Singapore today?
"It was pretty normal as there wasn't much violence. They didn't bother you much. However, there was a lack of clothing, we had to use flour bags to make clothes and that was considered pretty good. There was also a lack of food too. As for stories, after a year or two during the occupation, the businessmen that I once saw grew much more skinnier and had no money to buy belts. So they used their neckties"
Compared to today, back in the twenties in China and Singapore, what was gay culture like? Was the culture even something that existed back then? Was it about the same as today only now everyone makes a big deal out of it?
"Homosexuality was very rare back then. I didn't hear much about it"
Were they as inhumane as the movies make them out to seem during that period? What were some of the horror stories you witnessed? If you prefer not to answer I understand. There's just so much Hollywood-drenched drama around ww2 I sometimes wonder how close to the truth it is. Thank you for any answer in advance, sir!
"I have never seen any movies about the Japanese and WWII. But I have experienced first hand myself."
My grandma says she still hates ALL Japanese people because some of the soldiers burned all her rice. Do you still have any feelings of animosity towards the Japanese? if yes/no why?
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