Sumatra Railroad

The Sumatra Railroad, 1943-45


The Forgotten Drama

They ate starch and rats, died of exhaustion, malaria, dysentery, beri-beri and tropical ulcers. But on 15 August 1945, the same day the Japanese surrendered and the red Japanese sun finally set, the death railway from Pakan Baroe to Moeara was finished. The last spike was hammered into the railway sleeper by the Japanese themselves. A copper spike in lieu of the gold one traditionally used.
Only few of the starving survivors who had built the 220km (137.5 miles) long track through the Sumatran jungle and who were ignorant about the Japanese capitulation, witnessed the inaugural connection of the tracks constructed from the North and the South towards each other.


Click on the images below to enlarge.


POW txt

A total of 6,593 POWs were shipped out or put on transport to work on the railroad. Of these, 1,818 POWs died on or as a result of the torpedo attacks of the 'Harugiku Maru'/'Van Waerwijck' and the 'Junyo Maru' combined. 698 POWs died during the construction of the railroad.

Of the POW's who worked on the railroad, roughly 3,700 had been in the Royal Dutch Indies' Army, 855 were British. approximately 200 Australians and 10 Americans.

According to a Red Cross Report of 26 June 1946 only 23,000 of the original 120,000 'coolies' (Javanese and Chinese) transported to Sumatra were still alive after Japan's surrender (a death rate of 80.83%).

Railroad Track

Track - Click for larger image below

Track txt

Click on each and every camp on the ENLARGED image to get detailed infomation about that camp, or select from the 'list of camps' menu.


Completion of the railroad

The railroad was completed on the day the Japanese surrendered, 15 August 1945. Read more.

list of camps

Source of camp description

The list of camps contains the distance from camp 1 at Pekanbaru (excluding Camp 14A which displays the distance to Petai)


220 kms Pekanbaru to Muaro 1942-1945
In the footsteps of POW 3951 Sumatra Visit April 2015 - Pekanbaru-Padang-Pekanbaru by: Tim & Phillis Livingstone


POW Camp, Sumatra, from AWM

Liberated POW waiting for repatriation

Arrival evacuated POW in Singapore

Speech by W. Punt, survivor of Junyo Maru sinking and Pakan Baroe railroad (in Dutch)

Hell ships to Sumatra (in Dutch)

Herman Matiri received 'war medal' on behalf of his brother André Henri Mantiri who died 18 September 1944 (Junyo Maru)

Interview with George Duffy

Interview with Jack Plant, POW

Pekanbaru (Pakanbaroe) Anzac Day 70 years on

Interview with Henk Hovinga - author (in Dutch)


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©2021 This 'app' has been developed by Martijn Hovinga, the son of Henk Hovinga, author of 'The Sumatra Railroad, 1943-1945'.

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