“One of the most horrifying lies the Japanese told people was that they would give them a job so long as these men followed them.
Many people, particularly men desperate to bring food to the table, believed and went away with the soldiers. Your grandfather was one of them.
The Japanese would bring the unknowing victims to isolated beaches, tied their hands together and lined them up in a straight line by the seaside.
Taking their rifles, they would fire away and watch the helpless individuals fall down one by one into the seawater. It was almost like a game for them,” Ah Ma recounted angrily.
My grandfather escaped death even though he was already lined up by the seaside thankfully for the missed bullets and the mangled mess of bodies that came crashing down upon him like dominoes falling on each other after the first one was pushed.
As the fortunate few, he climbed out from the pile of human shields in a dramatic-sounding fashion and only made his way home after a few days of walking.
But he did live to marry and tell my Ah Ma his frightful story.
Although Ah Ma did not experience the firing range first hand, her experiences with the ‘Japanese ghost,’ a local term to refer to their new colonizers, were no less good.
“For the girls, the Japanese would pull down their pants and rape them and for the boys, they would beat them up very badly,” Ah Ma exclaimed. “So once we hear that they are around the area, we would run away.”
She was 13 years old when the Japanese came.
Landing in Singapore early February 1942, the Imperial Army troops crossed the Straits of Johor from Malaya (today’s Malaysia) riding on bicycles in a shocking attack for the British, who had brazenly called the island an ‘impregnable fortress.’ In less than a week, the British surrendered their century-old colony to their enemies, barely putting up a fight due to forces being tied up back in Europe.
Despite being at war, it barely made a ripple in Ah Ma’s comfort zone.
“I only heard bits of news from my parents or my neighbors but honestly, I didn’t know what was going on out there,” Ah Ma said with a sheepish smile.
For the next three years and eight months, Singapore was renamed Syonan-to and came under the control of the Pacific power as with the rest of Malaya.In the next part of the series, Ah Ma talks about bombs, food and shelter during the Japanese occupation.
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