Northwood University

The Northwood University Study Abroad Blog


Moving Moments

One of the first day trips we took was to Kanchanaburi, which has some of my most memorable experiences: The Bridge over the River Kwai and Hellfire Pass. We first went to the bridge and walked across it. It is a steel bridge with giant frames and seems unimaginable that most of the work to create the bridge was done by pure manpower. Many POWs – Prisoners of War – to include Americans alongside some Thai people were forced to construct the Bridge over the River Kwai. After the Bridge we went to a war memorial that is the resting place of many of the fallen POWs, excect Americans who were sent home. It was very moving walking past the numerous gravestones and noticing that the majority of these fallen comrades we not much older than I am. The following day we went to Hellfire Pass. The first stop was that museum, which was almost too hard to read the conditions these soldiers endured. They had minimal protective clothing, medicine, and if it weren’t for locals trading some of their vegetables for the POWs rice they probably would have died from malnutrition. After the museum, we walked part of Hellfire Pass, which is the railroad the Japanese built to improve communications. The locals gave it this name because of the massive flames that were lit at night so that construction could continue 24 hours a day. These POWs had to construct a railway by turning steep inclines into flat terrain and carving holes out of solid rock mountainsides. When walking down the tracks, we were able to see pieces of the railroad and the path that was made, however on the way back we decided to take the steeper direction. This made most of us realize how hard it must have been for these men to construct this railroad, because most of us struggled just get back to the top. The men probably did that climb multiple times a day with minimal food and water and other forms of labor in between.

I Salute To Thee, Our Fallen Comrades

-Kincaid, Christopher L.

(Top: Hellfire Pass railroad through rock mountainside; Bottom: Bridge over the River Kwai)