One of the problems with doing genealogy research is that it is easy to get distracted by new findings. They are the shiny new findings that are interesting and take one on a previously unexplored historical adventure. Without a doubt, I’ve done a lot of that in the last couple of years. I now have four family trees on Ancestry.com, a little over 2,900 people in the trees, and a decent system for organizing the documents that I find. Whew! There are so many fascinating stories out there, but now it’s time to get back to writing about my dad’s family.
My Opa – Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu
In my last post, I ended with my grandfather’s arrival as a POW in Pakan Baroe, on the island of Sumatra, in May 1944. However, before I write about Pakan Baroe, I want to go back to the period right before the occupation of the Dutch East Indies (DEI, now Indonesia) by the Japanese in March 1942.
It was a period of great uncertainty for everyone. After the Netherlands had surrendered to the Nazi forces in May 1940, the DEI operated somewhat independently for two years. Meanwhile, Japan was posturing that it intended to create a bloc of self-sufficient Asian nations, led by Japan, which was to be free of any Western influence. This intention was announced by Foreign Minister Hachirō Arita on June 29, 1940. Then on September 27, 1940, Japan, Germany, and Italy signed the Tripartite Pact. It was a defense alliance intended to discourage the United States from entering the conflicts. These events are only the high-level indicators of what was brewing. As the war continued to rage in Europe, the Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (KNIL) or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army frantically prepared for a possible invasion in the Pacific.
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