Sandakan Death March

Jack Sue Did Not Fabricate His Wartime Heroics, Says His Son…..

Theo Fakos Source: Perth Now

CLAIMS that one of Australia’s greatest war heroes, Jack Wong Sue, fabricated key parts of his personal memoir Blood on Borneo have been refuted by a new inquiry.

But Lynette Silver, the historian who made the claims, has refused to back down and yesterday insisted: “There is not a single thing in this report that refutes anything.”

The inquiry, commissioned by the WA World War II hero’s oldest son Barry Sue, found “there appears to be absolutely no justification for calling Jack Wong Sue a liar”.

It was launched after the historian claimed Mr Sue could not have witnessed one of the notorious Sandakan death marches in northeastern Borneo.

She also claimed he could not have been involved in killing a group of Japanese defenders in Trusan and saving the life of a fellow officer or being present during an attack on the town of Pitas.

Ms Silver, who first made the claims in July 2010, about six months after Mr Sue died, said there were factual errors in Blood on Borneo based on Special Operations Australia records.

But yesterday, Barry Sue said he hoped the inquiry’s findings would ensure his father was remembered as the true hero he always was this Anzac Day.

And he said he was seeking legal advice about Ms Silver, who he said had “stooped so low as to attack a dead man”.

The inquiry, conducted by the Australian Investigation Corporation, examined Mr Sue’s personal diaries and documents, but also uncovered:

  • Notes, written and signed by fellow veteran Don Harlem in 1984, stating: “Jack and I are writing the story of the infamous Borneo Death Marches. We are the only two original operatives who covered this whole 160-mile Death March route westwards from Sandakan to Ranau during hostilities”.
  • A naval message, written by “Jack” on behalf of Don Harlem and verified by his son as his handwriting, that reads: “From Don am in Trusan send priority Morotai not to bomb for ten days …”
  • A statutory declaration, signed by retired RAAF Sqn Ldr Ian Fogarty in 2010, stating he heard Don Harlem tell guests at his house in 1983 that Mr Sue had saved his life during the attack on Trusan.
  • A statutory declaration, signed by Mr Sue’s former neighbour Ray Krakouer in 2010, stating he distinctly remembered Don Harlem telling a group of people in the early 1980s that Mr Sue “had saved his life in Borneo behind Japanese lines in 1945″.
  • An affidavit, signed by veteran Graham Greenwood in 2010, stating that he saw Mr Sue, Mr Harlem and others set off to “carry out an attack on Pitas”. “I am in no doubt whatsoever that Jack Sue was in the party that carried out the raid on Pitas. There are some things you never forget, and this is one of them”.
  • A letter from writer Craig Brown, creator of a Special Operations Australia website, stating he did not “consider the Official History of SOA volumes to be accurate sources. They were written by personnel who were not on the operations described and were not fact checked to ensure accuracy”.

The inquiry noted that Mr Sue made “several apologies in advance as to any historical inaccuracies and colourful inclusions” within his book.

“Yet Silver has treated the work as such and castigated on those grounds, unfairly, we suggest,” it found.

Barry Sue said he felt the inquiry meant his father’s reputation was “well intact”.

“I hope that it puts a lot of people’s minds at rest now because Dad had a tremendous following,” he said. But Ms Silver has stood by her claims that Mr Sue could not have been where he said he was and questioned the independence of the inquiry, saying Mr Sue’s son knew the company that conducted it.

She said she first discovered the discrepancies a few months before Mr Sue died but she did not believe that was the right time to confront him because he was too sick.

Ms Silver took no pleasure in making her concerns public and much of the information contained in the inquiry was as a result of things Mr Sue had told other people, including Mr Harlem and Mr Greenwood.

“There is not a single thing in this report that refutes anything,” she said.