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Quest for whereabouts led to different countries

Indies expatriate posthumously decorated for wartime heroism

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LEIDEN, the Netherlands - A Dutchman who risked his life in a Japanese camp in the Dutch East Indies during World War II, was decorated for his actions fifty years after his death. Willem Kok's son officially received the Resistance Star East Asia in a ceremony at the Bronbeek Military Retirement Home near Arnhem.

Mr. Kok had been awarded the decoration in 1951, but authorities had been unable to locate the whereabouts of the former instrument maker. Only recently, it became known that Kok had lived in the Netherlands since 1951. At the time, it was assumed that he either still lived in the former Dutch East Indies or had emigrated to Australia. An intensive search for the man even had embassy personnel look for Mr. Kok in New Zealand, in Indonesia and in Canada. Willem Kok was unaware he had been decorated by Queen Juliana.

Working at the X-ray department of the hospital in Tjimahi's subdivision of Baros near Bandung (there were twelve camps in Tjimahi), Willem Kok managed to assemble a radio receiver, concealing it behind a wall in one of the rooms. He listened to Radio Oranje and the BBC, and was able to convey news of the war and the approaching Allies to his fellow internees, thus 'lifting the spirits in the camp.' Willem Kok was 53 when he died.

Genealogist Martin Spaans, who wrote a booklet about some 470 people who between 1949 and 1954 received the Dutch Resistance Star East Asia, tracked down Mr. Kok's post-war whereabouts.