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"Lest We Forget" Film Production Project

"Life is pretty when you are free." Gustav Potthoff, former WWII POW and museum volunteer

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The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum Volunteers raised funds to complete the film production "Lest We Forget" based on museum volunteer and former POW Gustav Potthoff's time as a W.W.II slave labor prison camp survivor. This production strives to remember and honor the POWs who worked and died alongside him on the Burma-Thailand "Death Railway" and the "Bridge over the River Kwai."

WFYI film crew at the museum with Gustav Potthoff

WFYI Indianapolis Public Television Station brought Gustav's story to completion with the expertise of Emmy-Award winning producer Kim Jacobs. WFYI  has agreed to provide a significant amount of in-kind service to help with the production completion. The Heartland Film Festival has also expressed an interest in the film. All the film footage has been taken both here in Indiana and in Thailand on site of the former Death Railway and the "Bridge over the River Kwai" location.

Museum Volunteer and WWII POW, Gus Potthoff was featured in a documentary on WFYI Indianapolis Public Broadcasting TV station, Wednesday December 27, 2006. The documentary, "Lest We Forget", a personal recollection as a survivor of the Japanese slave labor camp that was responsible for the building of the notorious Bridge over the River Kwai. Gus pictured here with his wife and daughter along with Columbus, Indiana Mayor Fred Armstrong at a Preview Party. Gus' art work conveys the memories of that time. Mayor Armstrong, a Vietnam combat veteran, presented Gus a certificate, proclaiming Gus Potthoff Day.

Film Preview Party


Photos at the reception and after the screening of Gus' documentary.

These are examples of the type of art Gus creates. The painting on the left is of the Bridge over the River Kwai and on the right is of the last POW camp at which he was held and liberated.


A profile of Gustav Potthoff

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A photograph of Gustav Potthoff in Thailand, December 1945 after he gained his freedom from a Japanese POW camp, on the left side of photo leaning against a Centurion Tank taken in Holland with NATO in 1956 and a recent photo at the museum. The photo on the top is Gus upon his return to Thailand and the place he was held POW. Gus was with a film crew that was producing a documentary about Gus and the POW's who were forced to work on the Hell Fire Pass and the Bridge over the River Kwai rail road. 

Gustav Potthoff was born in Indonesia, Indies and in 1941 enlisted in the Netherlands Army Tank Battalion in Bandoeng Java as a corps technical mechanic. After the war with Japan started, he became a Japanese prison of war. One of the POW camps where Gus was held captive was at the infamous Bridge at the River Kwai. Gus gained his freedom in 1945 when the war was over. In January 1946 Gus was recalled to active duty during the Indonesia Conflict. He remained in Indonesia until 1955 when he went to the Netherlands as a tank repair mechanic NCO until his retirement from the military in 1962. He then came to (in Gus' words) "United States of America of the Brave" where he went to work for Cummins in 1965 till his retirement in 1987. Gus wrote, "Now is the time, back to the war in my art painting again of the rising sun of Japan in canvas about the Burma-Thailand Railway." "For my friends, I promise to do something for who we leave behind in the jungle of Burma-Thailand." Some of Gus' painting are on display at the museum and in the museum in Thailand.

His duties at the museum include special projects, tour guide, and in general, lifting the spirits of those who know him. During the weekly work sessions at the museum Gus is "standing by for orders."

Gus on location in Thailand with film crew

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Museum Volunteer Gustav Potthoff returned to South East Asia with a film crew to the place of his captivity during World War II, the infamous Hell Fire Pass and Bridge over the River Kwai where so many POW's perished under brutal and inhumane treatment by their captors. The photo on the left is Gus with one of the film crew, the second photo is a one elephant powered mode of transportation, the photo is of Gus, his wife and some of the film crew in Thailand and the two photos on the right are of the real Bridge over the River Kwai. According to Gus, the original wooden bridge that would have been to the left of the current bridge was bombed in 1942 and they were forced to build the concrete and metal bridge which was also bombed by American B-24 Bombers and the center span was knocked out during the war.

Webmasters Note: Gus is a true gentleman and is very special to us at the museum and to the community. I feel privileged to know him and honored to be considered his friend.

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Copyright 2000-2012 Last modified:
January 16, 2012