Forgotten War Heroes: Commemorate SE Asian volunteers resisting Japan in World War II
They are the forgotten heroes of the resistance against Japan. With Japan blockading China's ports in the late 1930s, more than 3000 mostly truck drivers and mechanics from Southeast Asia, or Nanyang as it was known in China, volunteered to ferry goods along a treacherous mountain route from Burma into Yunnan. Some in Malaysia are determined not to let the memory of their sacrifice fade away. And this year, on the anniversary of Japan's surrender, some descendants of the heroic truck drivers and engineers stood shoulder to shoulder with Malaysians taking part in the commemorations. Rian Maelzer reports from Kuala Lumpur.
They are the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of volunteer truck drivers from Malaya who remained in China after the war.They have journeyed to Malaysia to visit memorials to those who gave their lives fighting against Japan, and, like this, to the truck drivers who provided a vital lifeline for China.
RIAN MAELZER KUALA LUMPUR In July 1937, Japan blockaded China's ports. China constructed a road to Burma, and then set about recruiting volunteer drivers and engineers from Southeast Asia to ferry essential medicines, munitions and other supplies overland from Burma to Kunming in Yunnan province.
In 1939, more than 3000 men, almost all ethnic Chinese, signed up. Around one third perished from accidents, disease or attack on the treacherous 1100 km road. About 1200 returned to Southeast Asia. But hundreds, like these people's relatives, settled in China.This man said he was fulfilling his truck driver father's wish by coming back to Malaysia.
LIN XIAOCHANG SON OF TRUCK DRIVER The son, grandchild and great grandchildren, we have come to attend these commemorative events to remember our ancestors who gave up their privileged lives overseas to resond to the call in China's time of need. The truck drivers' descendants, stood side by side with Malaysians and a Second World War study group from Japan.
LIN RUTAO GRANDSON OF TRUCK DRIVER We love peace, and we should work together to improve our world and ensure peaceful coexistence. Groups here have worked to create permanent displays about the truck drivers, as well as dedicated memorials, including this one on the island of Penang.
GEORGE CC YONG MALAYAN SECOND WORLD WAR HISTORY SOCIETY They faced all the odds in their life. They let go of the comfortable life during the British colonial time in Malaya in Southeast Asia and went over to China to assist in this warfare. Without them, I think history may take a very different course. The descendants of the truck drivers will return to China knowing that the memories of their loved ones' wartime sacrifice are not forgotten here. Rian Maelzer, CGTN, Kuala Lumpur