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by Jack Wong Sue
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|Blood On Borneo
Jack Wong Sue AKR 13
Little has been published on the operations of Australian special forces "Z" Units in the Pacific during WWII. These commandos and operatives were inserted deep within enemy territory. Blood On Borneo is the personal memoir of Jack Wong Sue, of AKR 13 "Z" Forces.
The book begins with an introduction by the aging Sue - that is an inspiring story in itself. Crippled and hospitalized by a stroke, he wrote the book in his hospital bed, with only the use of one finger to type. This dedication and his recovery speaks to the fiber and character of the WWII "greatest generation". His short introduction should inspire veterans about the importance of writing ones memoirs - regardless of circumstances. The finished book reads like a intimate conversation with the author, and will certainly be remembered by all who read it.
Born in Australia, Sue's WWII service began at age 16 as a volunteer on Netherlands Merchant Marine. Afterwards, he was selected for covert operations with the newly formed and top secret Z Forces. His Chinese ancestor and knowledge of languages made him a perfect candidate. Sue details some of his training, and the secrecy around it, including not being allowed to tell his own family, and training with new weapons like plastic explosives and tactics of clandestine operations and guerilla warfare.
Inserted by American submarine deep behind enemy lines in British North Borneo, he and is group code named AGAS 1 began operations behind Japanese lines, reporting to base by radio, and being resupplied by submarines and air drops from "Flight 200" American B-24's. Their mission included gathering intelligence, training guerillas and ambushing small Japanese garrisons.
The horrors they witnessed in Borneo were numerous. Sue makes no compromise in his descriptions of the cruelty of the Japanese occupiers. In Borneo, they learned accounts of the atrocities committed in the Sandakan POW camp where thousands of Commonwealth prisoners were starving and subjected horrible cruelty by their Japanese captors, and the "Borneo Death Marches" when starved and unhealthy prisoners were marched over jungle tracks at the end of the war, with thousands perishing on trip. And, the murder of POWs as hostilities ended. He, and other "Z" forces were angry about the politics that prevented an operation from being launched to attempt to rescue some of the POWs, due in part to politics, and reasons unknown to this day.
The book also deals with Sue's trips back to Borneo after the war with his family, fellow veterans and tour groups. These descriptions are particularly interesting, as it gives a unique prospective about changes to the areas he served after the war, and the fates of some of the personalities he knew. Sue's lifetime of involvement with his former unit, and issues related to memorials and the history he participated is common among veterans, but unique as he undertook many trips back over the decades since WWII.
Also, Sue touches on the darker issues related to the theater he fought. He, like other Australian veterans questions the choices of higher command, and reflects on the sad losses suffered by Australian troops in operations at the very end of WWII in Borneo - a territory fought for that had little meaning for Australia post war, and against troops already bypassed by American operations. Finally, the post war facts about Australia's silence about the Borneo Death Marches, and mild prosecution of war criminals post-war, and the scant recognition those who fought in Borneo received in terms of pension, memorials and service records.
For readers, Sue's book will make an important addition to your Pacific library. And, will be of particular interest to all Australians and American readers alike. It is an amazing account of little know history of the Z Forces, and the life of one of its members.
Interview with author & veteran Jack Wong Sue
Review by Justin Taylan
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