During WWII, Hellfire Pass was a notorious Japanese railway construction site. There, Allied prisoners were forced to work at night in grueling conditions, illuminated by the glow of hundreds of burning fires.
It was one of the most accomplished engineering feats of World War II, but also one of the cruelest. The Thai-Burma Railway, built to supply Japan's invasion of India, cut through mountains and jungles and required over 600 bridges, including the legendary bridge over the River Kwai. But the mission came at the expense of thousands of Allied POWs who were forced to build it. This is the story of the construction of this 258-mile railway, including the notorious Hellfire Pass, through the accounts of veterans who lived to tell the tale.
Access even more free Smithsonian Channel full episodes and documentaries online through participating TV providers.
Find out if your television provider carries Smithsonian Channel.
Don't panic! It's simple to upgrade to the latest version of one of these browsers:
Don't panic! To get the best possible experience on smithsonianchannel.com we recommend you upgrade your operating system.
For the best possible site experience, please use Chrome for Android.
Add username "SmithsonianChan" on Snapchat for fun and fascinating facts. We'll be sharing spontaneous photos and videos as inspiration strikes.