Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Fortress Singapore

I found it interesting that the President decided to use Singapore as his meeting place with the dictator from North Korea. Singapore is a fascinating country in that it chose, a long time ago, to follows its own path into the Twenty-First century.

Its strict laws have been criticized by Westerners as barbaric and cruel by our standards. Nevertheless, their adherence to conformity hasn’t diminished their success in the marketplace; regionally or worldwide. I found Singapore to be at once modern and ancient, congested and clean. It felt extremely safe for a large metropolitan area.

We traveled to Singapore as part of an Asian trip when Sharon was President of her local Rotary club in Apple Valley. After Singapore, we traveled through Bali, Thailand and Hong Kong. Without a doubt, Singapore was the highlight of our trip.

Long before that trip, there was a special place for Singapore harbored in my imagination. That fascination with the Island State had been fueled years earlier while I was still in high school. Two books by one of my favorite English authors, Alistair MacLean, began this life-long interest with World War Two; especially the early stages of Japanese conquest of the Far East.

Alistair MacLean’s first novel was entitled ‘H.M.S. Ulysses.’ It was based on the infamous Murmansk run. A dangerous convoy trip from America and England to send supplies to Russia. One of the most lethal convoys was the Murmansk Run across the North Atlantic and from Iceland to the Russian ports of Murmansk, Archangel, and Kola Inlet. It involved more hazards than in any other kind of naval duty. In addition, prior to the spring of 1943, when an effective Allied antisubmarine offensive got underway, ships and men making the so-called “Murmansk Run” had about a one in three chance of returning alive.

The icy waters of the North Atlantic and hunter-killer U-boats meant certain death to any crewman unlucky enough to have his ship torpedoed during the trip. Hence the great song by Woody Guthrie ‘The Rubin James.’

The second novel, which tied directly to the fall of Singapore, was entitled: ‘South by Java Head.’ Winston Churchill had called Singapore the “Gibraltar of the East.” An impregnable fortress at the heart of the British empire in the Far East.

When the island fortress fell to Japanese forces on February 15th 1941, it marked the beginning of the end for the British Empire’s extended colonies. The ‘jewel in the crown of the British Empire’, India, gained independence in 1947. Other British holdings followed: Burma in 1948, Malaya in 1957, and Singapore soon after. And it all began with the fall of Singapore.

I’ve already written a 30-page treatment for my own novel about the fall of Singapore. It’s entitled: ‘Siloso,’ named after the last British fortress on the Island to fall to the invading Japanese soldiers. Right now it patiently waits behind other treatments for plays, screenplays and novels each shuffling around in my brain, trying to grab my full attention and a place at the head of my ‘to do’ list.

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