Johan Albert Rusche – Mobilisation War Cross

The Mobilisation War Cross was established on August 11, 1948 by royal decree of Queen Wilhelmina.  It is a Dutch medal awarded for service for the Kingdom of the Netherlands during World War II.

Johan Albert Rusche

Born: September 27, 1907
Solo (Surakarta), Indonesia
His parents were Albert and Diena Rusche.
He was the last of their 12 children.

Johan grew up in The Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. He lived in Solo (Surakarta) in the West and Central part of the island of Java, the stronghold of the Dutch occupancy. He worked at the Rusche family businesses. He was known as Joop or Joopie Slim. “Slim” is the Dutch word for smart!

He joined the KNIL in the Aerial Photography sector.

Young Johan and family in Amsterdam after WWI
Johan loved his car, De Kikker (The Frog)

June 24, 1938  Johan Albert Rusche (age 31)  and Constance Anna Herrebrugh (age 24) are engaged.

Joined the KNIL – Koninkluk Nederlandsch Indisch Leger
(Royal Netherlands East Indies Army)

April 10, 1941  Marriage to Constance Anna Herrebrugh.

March 9, 1942  The Netherlands surrenders the Dutch East Indies to Japan.
                            Johan goes in hiding for almost 5 months and then was captured by the Japanese.

Prisoner Of War

July 29, 1942    Captured as Prisoner of War of the Japanese Empire. He was a POW for 1,215 days!

Interment Camp Record

August 1942  – Johan was assigned to the Java Party 23. These Dutch POWs included 1,600 from the 10th Battalion camp and 700 from the Kampong Makassar camp near Batavia.  Kampong Makassar  was started by the Japanese army as a POW camp for allied military captives, and consisted of sheds made of bamboo and atap (palmleaf roofing).  The camp served for most of the war as a POW staging post before these unfortunate souls were sent to slave labor destinations elsewhere in SE Asia.

September 1944  – Johan and the rest of the Java Party 23 POW were prepared to be shipped to be slave laborers to work on the Pekanbaru Death Railway.

September 16 – 18, 1944

The Junyo Maru

  The Junyo Maru was a Japaneses “Hell Ship“. These ships transported POWs and Javanese natives in closely cramped quarters. The conditions on board were truly inhuman with no room to move, packed like sardines. The ship was was fitted with extra decks of bamboo, subdivided into cages to keep the prisoners in. They frequently had to remove the dead by passing the bodies overhead or just live with them next to you. There was a latrine in the rear of the boat but the lines were long and took forever to get there through the human mass that most of it was done where they stood.

    Johan was transported on the Junyo Maru with the POW Java Party 23 to work on the Pekanbaru Death Railway. It was escorted by two small gun-boats. Two days out of the Batavia harbor, on September 18th, 1944 at around 5:30pm, the Junyo Maru was struck by several torpedoes from the British submarine HMS Tradewind. The British had no idea there were prisoners onboard and contrary to the Geneva Convention,  Japan did not fly a red cross to signify POWs onboard.

The worst single shipwreck in the Pacific Theater
5,620 Prisoners lost their lives in the sinking.
723 Survived.

Johan’s story:
Johan said he found himself in shark infested waters through the night and into the next day. He said the gunboats would pick up survivors but only if you could climb up the rope they would send down to you in the water. With hands soaked for 24 hours in water, he climbed aboard one of the boats. He said you had to remain silent and awake. If anyone tried to sleep they were kicked overboard.

The Pekanbaru Death Railway in Sumatra

The surviving prisoners were transported by truck and train to Pakan Baroe to work on  The Pekanbaru Death Railway. It has been said that the 723 POWs who were rescued were “only to be put to work in conditions, perhaps worse then their comrades who died!”

The Pekanbaru Death Railway, also referred to as the  Sumatra Railway, was a railway project of the Imperial Japanese Army in Sumatra during the World War II. It was designed to connect Pekanbaru to Muaro in an effort to strengthen the military and logistical infrastructure for coal and troop shipments. The 220 km long railway would connect the Strait of Malacca, via the Siak River to Pekanbaru, to Padang via an existing railway from Muaro.

Johan’s story:

Dad had many horrendous stories about the POW camps.

From trying to finding anything to eat on daily work trips, anything that moved he said! Of course, no cooking so everything was raw. They were given less than 800 calories a day in rice. Everyone was emaciated, sick and dying. There was a POW Black Market and he traded cigarettes for food.

Justice was cruel. If anyone was caught stealing they were asked which hand did they steal it with and then chopped it off. He said, no one would steal!

After a section of rail was completed, the POW’s had to take the first trip over newly constructed rail.  

August 6 & 9, 1945  The United States drops Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

August 15, 1945   The railway was completed and was only ever used to transport prisoners of war out of the area but quickly became overgrown by the jungle.
Same Day   Victory over Japan Day Japan Surrenders.

August 20, 1945  Work parties cease. Japanese camp management burn all administration records.
Wing Commander Davis announces the Japaneses surrender.
August 25, 1945  The Allied liberating team, British Special Operations Executive ‘SOE Force 136‘ entered Pakan Baroe by parachute.

September 2, 1945   Japan surrenders to US General Douglass MacArthur and the Allies.

September 8 & 13, 1945  First food airdrops start then the first medicine airdrops.
September 25, 1945  The ‘SOE Force 136‘ arranged food, quarters and medical supplies for the tens of thousands of POW and internees.
October 6, 1945  POW camps close down.
November 25, 1945  Last POWs depart from Pakan Baroe (now Pekanbaru) by airplane.

Out of the 723 POWs that survived the sinking of the ship Junyo Maru, where almost 6,000 lives were lost, only 96 survived after the war!
Johan was amongst the 96!

Post-war Indonesia 1945-1950


Johan becomes a teacher at the Electrical Technical School in Bandung. Teachers and professors are among the few Dutch Nationalists that remain in Indonesia.

In Indonesia’s strive for independence, violence increased toward the former Dutch occupiers that had remained.

July 11, 1949  Johan and Conny had their first child.
Joyce Margriet Rusche

, 1950   Flee from Indonesia take refuge back in The Netherlands.

1950-1960 The Netherlands

March 29, 1956
Arthur Denis Rusche was born in Den Haag

March 17, 1959 
Peggy Minke Rusche-Cook was born in Den Haag

The United States of America

On February 20, 1961 the family arrived in New York City via The Holland American Steamship SS Ryndam Johan (54), Conny (47), Joyce (14), Arthur (5) and Peggy (2).

Through the World Council of Churches, The First Baptist Church of Olympia Washington sponsored the family to the United States. Johan and Conny were granted K-13 Visas (Dutch National Refugee from Indonesia) and the family as K-14 (Children of Dutch National Refugee from Indonesia).


K-12 & K-14 Visas
S.S. Ryndam

Johan worked many odd jobs when getting restarted in America. He washed cars and along with Conny cleaned office buildings. He then learned transistor technology and opened his own radio and TV repair business inside Modern TV of Olympia, Washington.

He liked to travel and take the family camping around the Olympics and to the ocean. Paradise at Mt Rainier was a frequent trip!

He liked playing Chess, his pipe and taking 8mm movies and was always in for a good Rijsttafel met veel sambal! He attended many of the early Seattle Sounders matches with Art in Memorial Stadium.

His cars were a Ford Station Wagon, Plymouth Fury, Mazda RX-4 Wagon

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Thank you for honoring our father for the great deeds and tremendous suffering he had to endure.
Joyce Margriet Woodard, Arthur Denis Rusche and Peggy Minke Rusche-Cook

Also surviving are Joyce’s children, Tanya Marisa Emerick and Ryan James Chester
and her grandchildren of Ryan, Michael Schuyler Chester And Lucy Mullin.
Peggy’s children, Lauren Ashley Cook and Graham Alexander (Alex) Cook.

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