Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, has selected René Diets as the 2014 Veteran of the Year.
Diets was born in Indonesia in 1924 of Dutch-Indonesian parentage. He was inducted into the Royal Dutch Navy prior to Pearl Harbor and was serving at a Naval Station in Surabaya on the Island of Java.
“It is with great honor that I recognize René Diets as the 2014 Veteran of the Year,” Williams said. “He has an active mind and strong commitment to those values that made America great.”
Diets was on a ship with the other allied forces, including Americans, headed toward Australia when the ship was intercepted by Japanese Naval Forces and taken captive. As a prisoner of war, he was taken to the port in Makassar on the Island of the Celebees and then forced into labor in the port of Nagasaki, where he was kept captive until the atomic bomb was detonated.
Diets faced many challenges while he was held captive. The most serious challenges were the issue of food and the lack of calories. The basic routine was 900 calories of rice divided into three servings a day. Diets also survived cruel and unpredictable punishment from the Japanese soldiers.
“René made sacrifices so we can enjoy the freedoms we hold so close to our hearts today,” Williams said.
After the war, Diets was transferred to an American ship followed by a transfer to a Dutch Navy Base in Australia. Because of his Dutch-Indonesian ancestry, he was able to settle in Holland where he married and had three daughters.
In 1957, Diets and his family immigrated to the United States and later settled in Ojai. He became an accountant for the Thacher School and worked there for more than 20 years before retiring. Diets is also an accomplished artist and painter. Much of his retirement is spent painting the scenes that surround him in the Ojai Valley.
— Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios is the district director for Assemblyman Das Williams.