Bishop John T. Durkin, M.S.C., of Louis TrichardtTzaneen, South Africa, is one of the few people in the world who owe their lives to the atom bomb.
"If it were not for the atom bomb I would be dead," he told me in his native Glenavoo, Aclare, Co. Sligo, where he is now holidaying. "At that time I had been three years in a Japanese concentration camp in Rabaul, New Guinea, and we knew we were up for auction as the camp was mined. We were told we were to be killed on August 22, and had the bomb not been dropped we would have been destroyed."
Bishop Durkin, who is 60, went on: "I was ordained in 1937 and went to New Guinea in 1940. Everything was going well until the Japanese war broke out. Like many others I was picked up and put in a concentration camp.
"Some of us had a terrible time. All my elderly friends were lust. When the war was over in 1945 we should not have survived because for some years we were completely lost. Nobody knew anything about "At that time the Japanese did not want any prisoners so we were lucky to survive. Many did not. They changed us from place to place so that we were completely isolated and they told us we would never see our friends again.
"There was no Red Cross and we received no news. We did not know what was happening in Europe. As the Japanese gave us no food for three years we were forced to scavenge and we also grew some vegetables. It is tropical country and things grow very quickly.
"We also ate mushrooms and tree fungus, but we had to be careful of these. We were very glad to get snakes, and some cats disappeared. Our bishop had a cat. One day there was no eat, so we knew there had been a party in the camp.
"No huts were provided for us, so we lived in a jungle that we cut down. For protection we tunnelled into the hills and the younger ones among us dug night and day. Many of us could have escaped, hut if we did our elderly friends would have been shot.
Of his own torture Bishop Durkin would not speak. but he said: "I saw terrible tortures. By comparison with others I got off lightly. It is a sad story.
"Two of our priests and three nuns were thrown into the sea from a Japanese destroyer, and seven more were put on a launch which was blown up. Some priest friends of mine were beheaded. When the war was over we found their heads.
"We were told we were to be killed on August 22. and we were resigned to it. But after August 15 we saw that the bombing and the raids had stopped and felt there was something strange when there was no .nooling. On the evening of August 16 the commandant in charge told us the war was over and we were free.
"He advised us nat to move around until the Australians came in, which they did three weeks later. During those weeks we got proper food for the first time in three years. Many of our people died from lack of medical care and from starvation. It was much later we heard that the atom bomb, which saved us, had been drooped.