Cary woman recounts surviving Japanese prison camp during WWII


CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – As threats of nuclear attacks are exchanged between the U.S. and North Korea, survivors of World War II mark 72 years since atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities.

Those attacks changed the lives of many, including those being held in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Ronny Herman de Jong, who now lives in Cary, was 3 years old when her family was forced into a Japanese internment camp. Her parents were Dutch and her father was a pilot for the Allied Forces.

“He was sent to the colony the Dutch West Indies,” recalled de Jong.

De Jong and her sister were born on the island of Java.

Soon after, her parents faced the most trying times of their lives.

“The Japanese came down the coast. They conquered every country they came through,” she said.

After bombing Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military invaded country after country around Asia, eventually attacking Java.

Men and women across the island were split up into different internment camps.

“Had to hand in everything, jewelry, money, so that there was nothing left,” said de Jong of when they entered the camps.

De Jong, her sister and her mother were held by Japanese troops for more than three years. Her mother secretly kept a diary of everything they went through, and was able to keep a sentimental bracelet and her wedding band by sewing them into her clothes.

Their situation deteriorated with their time in the camps.

“Hardly any food. No medication. People died every day, ten a day or so,” said de Jong.

They were released two weeks after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After four years apart, they were united with their father.

“If the bombs had not been dropped, thousands of people would have died,” said de Jong.

She believes today’s threat of a nuclear attack is different from World War II.

She says it was necessary then, and hopes she doesn’t see another world war in her life.

“Every day I wake up and I thank God that I’m alive, and that I’m here and that I’m healthy.”

De Jong has written a series of books based off her mother’s diary from their time as prisoners of war.

She’s holding a presentation on her stories August 15 at 2:30 p.m. in the Independent Living Theater of the Waltonwood Cary Parkway.

The event is open to the public and those interested in attending should RSVP by calling (919) 275-0983.

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