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Jim Bodero spent much of World War Two in several versions of hell. Taken prisoner when Singapore fell into Japanese hands early in 1942, he – along with thousands of fellow POWs – was conscripted as a slave labourer.
He was deep underground, in a coal mine near Nagasaki, when the US dropped its second atomic bomb, on 9 August 1945. The blast that obliterated the city and incinerated 66,000 people freed Jim from his living hell below the ground. But his struggles were far from over.
Badly debilitated by the daily privations of working in the mine, weakened by chronic starvation, as well as suffering from the tropical diseases he contracted during his time on the Death Railway and on nightmarish prisoner-transport ships, he was more dead than alive.
Jim was repatriated to Australia, but his war never really ended, its legacy a lifetime of pain.
Jim’s story reveals some of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century. His suffering at the hands of a sadistic enemy was extreme, but through those and all the subsequent years, he never lost his sense of humour.
His story is infused with it and, as such, is a glowing testament to the resilience that has sustained Australians at war, especially when the going got tough.