AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- The nephew of a World War II prisoner of war thanked Eighth Army for rescuing his uncle from a Japanese prisoner of war camp, in 1945. John "Jack" Rix survived four brutal years in Imperial Japanese captivity before Eighth Army liberated him from a prisoner of war, or POW, camp in Osaka, Japan, in September 1945. Nick Dooner, his nephew from Auckland, New Zealand, received a 66-year-old small brown suitcase from his cousin Russell Rix, in 2011. In it, his Uncle Jack had chronicled his harrowing tale of survival as a POW, and his subsequent rescue. Dooner, a senior photographer with Auckland's One News-Television New Zealand, pored over the documents, letters and diary in the old suitcase to discover the story that his uncle had kept to himself after returning from the war. While serving as a Royal New Zealand Navy Telegraphist, Jack Rix was taken captive during the Battle of Hong Kong, in 1941.
In his diary and letters, Rix recalled his struggles to overcome inhumane conditions, diseases and malnutrition. Jack Rix also survived many near misses while in captivity, including the sinking of the Japanese transport ship Lisbon Maru off the coast of Shanghai.
"I had to take the bombs, torpedoes, dive bombers, and starvation, along with the enemy," wrote Rix in a letter to his family on his journey home. "Sometimes I nearly lost hope. "Many times I had one foot in the grave and the other on a bar of soap," Rix wrote. Dooner discovered that the suitcase also contained a letter from then-Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, the first commanding general of Eighth Army. Called the Pacific Victors, Eighth Army has served in the Pacific since it was established in 1944. Eighth Army liberated more 60 islands in the Pacific during World War II, served in the occupation force in Japan and then commanded all ground forces in the Korean War. In his letter, Eichelberger thanked Rix for volunteering to stay at the camp and help with the evacuation of his fellow POWs following the war. Rix also volunteered to serve as a driver for U.S. forces at the camp. "As commander of the United States Eighth Army, it is my privilege to extend to you the heartfelt thanks of your American allies for the splendid spirit of generosity and unselfishness you have displayed these past two weeks," wrote Eichelberger in the letter to Rix.
"You have proved again that the strength of the United Nations is built on that most solid of foundations - fellowship of men," wrote Eichelberger. "We of Eighth Army are proud to be your liberators." Since 2011, Dooner has made it his mission to tell the story that the suitcase contained, the story of his Uncle Jack's unbreakable spirit. "During my journey of the last two years, I have been privileged to view an exquisite and comprehensive collection that Jack saved for a reason -- to tell the world of his experience of survival against all odds," said Dooner. "Thank you for saving the life of my Uncle Jack."