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Lat 14° 0' 12N Long 99° 33' 0E Kanchanaburi is located in Kanchanaburi Province in westen Thailand near the border with Burma (Myanmar).
During the Pacific War, the Imperial Japanese Army construct rail roads using Allied Prisoners Of War (POW) as laborers. In total, 16,000 Allied POWs and 90,000 Asian laborers died during the constrcution, dubbed the "Death Railway". The Bridge of the River Kwai, a small part of the death railway is one of the most visited tourist spot in Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi Art Gallery and War Museum (JEATH War Museum)
A smaller building opposite the main museum contains WWII relics, including photos and sketches made during the POW period and a display of Japanese and Allied weapons. Inside, a glass case contains 106 skeletons unearthed in a mass grave of Asian laborers.
over the River Kwai
The materials for the bridge were brought from Java by the Imperial Japanese Army during their occupation of Thailand. In 1945 the bridge was bombed several times and was only rebuilt after the war - the curved portion of the bridge are original. The first version of the bridge, completed in February 1943 was all wood. In April of the same year a bridge of steel was constructed. It is estimated that 16,000 POWs died while building the Death Railway to Myanmar (Burma), of which the bridge was only a small part. The strategic objective of the railway was to secure an alternative supply route for the Japanese conquest of Burma.
Construction of the railway began in September 16, 1942 at existing terminal in Thanbyuzayat in Burma and Nong Pladuk in Thailand. Japanese engineers at that time estimated that it would take five years to link Thailand to Burma by rail, but the Japanese Army forced the POWs and Asian Labor to complete the 415km 1m width railway in 16 months.
Roughly 2/3 of the railway run through Thailand. Much of the railway was build in difficult terrain that requires high bridges and deep mountain cuttings. The rails were finally joined 37km south of the Three Pagodas Pass, a Japanese brothel train inaugurated the line. The River Kwai Bridge was in use for 20 months before Allied bombed it in 1945. The Japanese even tied Allied POWs on the bridge to discourage Allied bombing.
Only one POW was know to have escape, a Briton who took refuge among the pro-British Karen guerrillas. Although the number of POWs who died during the Japanese occupation is horrifying, the figure for the labourers, many from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are even worse. It is estimated that 90,000 to 100,000 coolies died in the area.
Little remains of the original railway, west of Nam Tok, Karen and Mon carried off most of the track to use in the construction of local building and bridges. The Railway Museum in front of the Bridge have engines used during WWII on display. Every Year during the first week of December there is a nightly Light & Sound Festival at the bridges, commemorating the Allied attack on the Death Railway in 1945 complete with the sound of bombers and explosions, fantastic bursts of light and more. It ends with a firework display. The best way to get to the bridge is to catch a songthaew from town or a motorcycle taxi which is much cheaper. You can also take a train from the Kanchanaburi railway station to the bridge for 3B.
Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery
Kai Allied War Cemetery
Phra Maha Tomson Tongproh, a Thai Monk who devotes much energy to promoting the museum, speaks some English and can answer questions about the exhibits. The museum itself is a replica example of the bamboo atap huts used to house the Allied POWs during the Occupation. The long huts contain various photographs taken during the war, drawing and painting by POWs, map, weapons and other war memorabilia. The acronym JEATH represents the fated meeting of Japan, England, Austrialia/America, Thailand and Holland at Kanchanaburi during WWII.
Hellfire Pass - Sir Weary Dunlop's
on Sir Weary Dunlop's Memorial:
The original crew of 400 Australian POWs was later augmented with 600 additional Australian and British prisoners, who worked around the clock in 12 to 18 hour shifts for 12 weeks. The prisoners called it Hellfire Pass because of the way the largest cutting at Konyu looked at night by torchlight. 70% of the POW crew had died, and were buried in the nearby Konyu Cemetery.
The memorial consist of a trail that follows the railway remains through the 110m Konyu cutting, then winds up and around the pass for an overhead view. At the far end of the cutting is a memorial plaque fasten to solid stone, commemorating the death of the Allied prisoners. There are actually seven cutting spread over 3.5km, four small cutting and three larger ones. Thanks to Walt Deas for the wording of the inscription.
Trestle Bridge (Pack of Cards)
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