Saturday, February 2, 2013

Borneo & WWII

I saw a pretty interesting documentary on the rescue of downed U.S. airmen in Borneo during WWII. In short, a B24 was shot down over the island of Borneo and seven of the crew were able to parachute out. They were assisted by the local Dayaks in avoiding capture by the Japanese who had control of the island. A commando force led by an eccentric British anthropologist parachuted in to start a guerrilla war against the Japanese and rescue any downed airmen. They were successful in both endeavors and the Allies eventually took control of the island.

What was most interesting to me was the construction of a bamboo airfield to extract the U.S. airmen and the re-institution of the Dayak practice of headhunting. The bamboo airfield especially, but really the whole story, is an example of how we push the boundaries of people and technologies during wartime, innovating out of necessity. Will it always take a tremendous conflict to unite the country in manufacturing 276,000 aircraft (FDR called for 125,000), put a man on the moon (a great speech!) or even mobilize 4.24 million soldiers (13.5% of the population in 1860)?

This story made me realize that I don't know a whole lot about the Pacific part of WWII. I would recommend this documentary despite the large number of dramatizations mixed in the story.

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