The Jack Ford Story: Newfoundland's POW in Nagasaki.


240 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 978-1-897174-23-4
DDC 940.54'7252092




Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is a Victoria-based communications consultant, Canadian
news correspondent for Britain’s The Army Quarterly and Defence, and
author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.


In 1942, Jack Ford was captured in Malaya by Japanese troops and somehow survived three years of hellish treatment as a slave labourer in Japan, only to narrowly escape death from the American atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki. His remarkable saga is well told by Jack Fitzgerald, a Newfoundland journalist and radio broadcaster.


When World War II began, Ford was a 21-year-old mechanic for the Newfoundland Railway, who in those pre-Confederation days felt dual loyalty to both Britain and Newfoundland, so he eagerly volunteered for service with the Royal Air Force. He was in far-off Singapore when the place was overwhelmed by Japanese forces in 1941. Surrender of the British garrison pitched more than 95,000 prisoners of war into a three-year-long nightmare of relentlessly cruel treatment by Japanese soldiers who inflicted beatings, torture, and starvation amid a regimen of exhausting physical labour. Often told in Ford’s own words, Fitzgerald relates Ford’s dreadful existence in a matter-of-fact style that somehow makes his experiences all the more harrowing.


For most of this period, Ford was kept in a prison camp, allowed out each day only to toil in a naval shipyard, where he and his fellow prisoners had no knowledge of how the war was progressing. When the A-bomb exploded over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, all the POWs witnessed a bright flash of light, a distant thunder of noise, and a billowing mushroom cloud. It was the signal for their joyous liberation soon afterwards.


What is particularly interesting is the astonishing mildness of attitude by ex-POWs towards their captors immediately after being freed. Considering their barbaric treatment, there seems to have been no urge by ex-prisoners to inflict revenge on their erstwhile captors. Though Jack Ford now vehemently opposes nuclear weapons, he also forcefully believes the United States did the right thing in dropping two atomic bombs in 1945, which ended Japanese atrocities. This moving narrative explains why he still feels that way.


Fitzgerald, Jack., “The Jack Ford Story: Newfoundland's POW in Nagasaki.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,