An entire generation of young soldiers kept the secrets of their experiences in the Dutch East Indies to themselves. Many of them took their histories to their graves. With this book, I want to break the taboo and out the secret history.’ – Ilse Akkermans
Her father's old suitcase contained hundreds of letters from his days in the Dutch East Indies. When Ilse Akkermans read the letters and asked her father about them, she became sure to write his story. The letters provide a staggering report of the chaotic Bersiap period in Indonesia from the perspective of a young Dutch soldier.
His house is ruined, his favourite uncle has disappeared after a razzia by the Nazis, and he has not been able to get in touch with his best friends for months. Once Canadian and US troops liberate the south of Holland, young Harry volunteers to help fight the German occupiers. He sings up to become one of the first Dutch soldiers to receive Marine training in the United States. When the division is ready for combat, the war is over. Rather than being sent home as Haryy expected, the Dutch government assigned them to Indonesia – a Dutch colony occupied by Japan.
Yet, rather than liberating Indonesia from its Japanese occupiers, he is faced with Indonesians declaring independence. He turns from liberator into captor – a reversal of fate he had not anticipated. From the moment violence claims the first victims amongst his troops, Harry feels that he and the other boys are sacrificed for the wrong cause. And even though his letters to the Netherlands are censored, he keeps writing to his family back home. The letters he receives back keep him going.