On 2 September 1945, “Tiger of Malaya” General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Imperial Japan surrendered his forces in the presence of British Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival and other senior officers in the Philippines by handing over his samurai sword to the victorious Allies.
Just a few years earlier, it was Percival who surrendered the forces under his command in Singapore on 15 February 1942 to Yamashita, who was also carrying the same sword with him. UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the Fall of Singapore the “worst disaster and the largest capitulation in British history”.
Yamashita’s sword will soon be on public display for the first time outside the US since it arrived in West Point in 1945, when General Douglas MacArthur gave it to the US Military Academy there. Made between 1640 and 1680, the sword is one of the star artefacts to be showcased at a major World War II exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.
Also on display at the Witness to War: Remembering 1942 exhibition is the personal diary of war hero Major-General Lim Bo Seng and a 25-pounder field gun, which was the standard field artillery weapon of British and Commonwealth forces during the war.
The museum’s curators said Witness to War is the most ambitious World War II-themed exhibition ever organised in Singapore, with more than 140 artefacts sourced from 10 overseas museums and institutions.
A key aim of the exhibition is to present the history of World War II and the Fall of Singapore from a broader international context, weaving in multi-faceted narratives from state players to individual soldiers and civilians caught in the conflict.
Among the civilians who were interviewed for the exhibition are Madam Leow Oon Geok and Dr Lim Whye Geok, children of Major-General Lim, who recounted their memories of the head of Force 136, a Sino-British guerilla task force. The war hero died after he was tortured by the Japanese secret police Kempeitai in 1944.
The exhibition is accompanied by programmes including guided tours, recreation of wartime recipes, war-related artistic works and talks on the war by historians.
Witness to War is open to the public from 23 September 2017 to 25 March 2018. For more details, visit here.
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