Op-Ed: My Father-in-Law Was in Japan in 1945 – This July 4 You Need to Hear His Story

On July 4th, Independence Day, Fred Fullerton was in prison under a death sentence. To be sure, he was guilty of the charge. He sat and reflected about growing up in Taylor, Texas, where his mother admonished him in any decision that might impact his future to “weigh both sides of the question carefully.” She also said, “First, you must really know what you want out of life. Is it security, peace and happiness that you want, or is it excitement that you are looking for?” Excitement is what he chose. Fred always wanted to fly because of the freedom and beauty of the skies. He volunteered to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but was washed out due to night vision problems. He registered for the U.S. draft and his number was called. He was drawn to the Philippines, known as the “Pearl of the Orient.” Fred said, “For a small-town country boy, it sounded exciting.” And now Fred, a U.S. Army soldier, was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao in 1942. His freedom was lost and, probably sometime soon, his life would be, too. Everyone knew of the order by the Imperial Japanese army that as soon as American forces invaded Japanese soil, all the POWs were to be killed. The question of death was not “if,” but “when.” Life was difficult as a prisoner. Fred was a slave working in the rice fields, sawmill, steel plant and copper mine. All the POWs were beaten and starved, and many were murdered at the hands of cruel captors. The basic food ration was 365 grams of rice plus some vegetables and occasionally some meat. Health conditions were horrible in the jungle regions, with malaria, beriberi, dengue fever and other diseases running rampant. Every day in captivity the prisoners’ chance of survival was reduced as their mental and physical health degraded. On July 4, 1942, American prisoners were tied together with heavy gauge steel wire in columns of four and forced to march in the subtropical heat and humidity with no water. The POWs were close together, only about 18 inches apart. If one fell, the Japanese soldiers made sure they never got up again. The march began in the morning and lasted until about 7 p.m. The Japanese liked this parade of prisoners in order to berate, insult and demoralize the POWs and to prove Japan’s superiority to the West. By 1945, Fred and other able-bodied POWs were shipped to Japan to provide labor for the war effort. Everyone knew that the American armed forces were increasing in strength and that an invasion would occur soon. When that happened, Fred’s life would end on earth. There was no escape and no way to be free of this life of sickness, slavery, loneliness, torture and torment. On Aug. 13, a guard escorted the POWs into a stone building at the Ashio copper plant and locked the door. There was only one door to the building. Fred thought that this was the end. There was speculation that the U.S. was preparing to invade or perhaps had already invaded Japan. One of the guards acted like he was either sick or in a daze, which in fact he was. The American prisoners asked him what was wrong. But all they could get out of him was, “One airplane, one bomb, all gone!” He was referring to Aug. 6, when in one instant, with a flash of bright light and a power never before seen on this earth, an event transpired that would soon end the war and bring freedom for those condemned to die. Fred learned that the guard was talking about the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, completely destroying it, and then another four days later on Nagasaki. After waiting for weeks, Fred and the other prisoners were turned over to the U.S. Army on Aug. 31, 1945. What a great feeling that was for him, and even better when he finally saw his family in Texas. It was the end of a long war, a long trip, and at last he was home. While some men survived, some went crazy, and others gave up and died. What caused the different outcomes? I asked Fred Fullerton, my father-in-law, how he survived 42 months in unimaginable conditions in multiple prisoner of war camps in both the Philippines and Japan. His answer was simple: “I always knew that America would come back for me.” As I reflected on that comment, I thought of what the Bible says about Jesus coming back for me and other Christians. No one knows the time and date, but we do know the certainty of this event happening. 2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” 1 Peter 4:13 says, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” As you enjoy this holiday weekend, think about the veterans who have made your freedom possible. Thank them for their service. Also think about Jesus’ sacrifice of his life to give us victory over sin and death. Thank him with your prayers, worship and by living for him. Let us look forward to Jesus’ promised return. That surely will be a glorious and majestic day for those who have accepted Christ. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Related Articles

Support His Glory

His Glory Newsletter

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.