What This World War II Vet Said To A Little Girl Shows Why His Is The 'Greatest Generation'

He spent nearly four years as a POW, but he'd make the same choices today.

A photograph of Canadian World War II veteran and former POW Ralph MacLean posted by his grandson on Reddit is going viral. 

Steven Pridgen, who goes by thenewguy89, posted the picture of the 93-year-old MacLean, who spent nearly four years as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp, talking to a little girl after speaking to her class about his experiences during the war. 


The girl asked MacLean if he would do it again. "Yes," he said. "For you."

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In a short essay written for the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association, MacLean talks about joining the Canadian Royal Rifles at 19, only to be taken prisoner in Hong Kong on Christmas Day, 1941.

MacLean spent the next three years and eight months in a Japanese POW camp before being released in August 1945. "To me it was a very traumatic and frightening part of my life," MacLean writes, "and remains almost as vivid as when it happened."

The Globe and Mail reports that MacLean went on to marry Phyllis Dee, who was among a throng of well-wishers welcoming veterans home as his train to Quebec stopped in Calgary. 

His grandson, Steven Pridgen, writes that the two had three children: a son and two daughters. The Globe and Mail describes how one of MacLean's daughters, Diane, went on to marry Stanley Sakamoto, a Japanese man whose parents had been interned in Vancouver during the war, losing everything they had. 

Neither MacLean nor the Sakamotos bore any animus towards each other, their children, or their grandchildren. MacLean's grandson Mark Sakamoto wrote a book entitled Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents about his grandparents on both sides and their experiences before, during, and after the war.

"I used to think of forgiveness as transactional," Sakamoto told the Globe and Mail. "I harmed you, you harmed me, let's shake hands and go our separate ways ... The way my grandparents came about it is that they didn't want to pass those injurious years onto their children. They needed to fundamentally cleanse their hearts so that their kids didn't feel the burdens of those transgressions."

Mr. MacLean is currently preparing for a trip back to Hong Kong this December. 

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