Ferdinand Berley

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 29 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5214
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

US Navy surgeon who survived Japanese POW camps

It was September 1945 and Ferdinand “Fred” Berley was on a US Navy ship heading home. Japan had surrendered; the second world war was over. Unlike other soldiers on the ship, Berley was not in the mood to celebrate. He hardly talked.

“I remember they would have movies, and I would be crying over in a corner someplace,” Berley later said. “There would be tears running down, and I’d just be sobbing by myself.”1

Berley, a navy medical officer, had spent nearly three and a half years as a prisoner of war (POW) in six Japanese camps, often in horrific conditions. Prisoners were beaten severely and died from disease and starvation. In one camp the rice “was nothing more than just the sweepings off the floor,” Berley recalled. “It contained pebbles, rat turds, and things like that.” When the war ended the 5’6” Berley weighed 112 pounds. “I never gave up hope,” he said.

Navy historian Jan Herman, who interviewed Berley for an oral history project in 19951 and …

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