The Battle of Burma: History's Infamous Railway of Death

The Battle of Burma: History's Infamous Railway of Death (1986) Dark days for the Allies early in WW II. Interviews with survivors of what was fallaciously portrayed in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Colonel Bogie and The Bridge garnered Hollywood Oscars, while historically they earned a failing grade.

This made-for-television film chronicles the Australian army’s experience first of surrender in Singapore in 1942 and then the forced labor on what the POWs called the “Death Railway,” properly known as the Burma-Siam Railway. In one sense, this documentary refutes the myths about life and death, leadership, and Japanese ineptitude at engineering on the Railway generated by David Lean’s pacifist film, Bridge on the River Kwai(1957)

The documentary features several Australian POWs, most of whom remain extremely bitter toward their Japanese captors. A more charitable attitude is displayed by Dr. Edward “Weary” Dunlop, the most prominent survivor, who was one of the true heroes of the Australian army in captivity. Although not generally known in the United States, this documentary has great value in the quality of the interviews with the former prisoners of war. Each part of the POW ordeal is addressed: capture, long march, prison landscape, escape or lack of it, brutality, repatriation, and lament.
Robert C. Doyle Franciscan University of Steubenville

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