By Andria Barrios

Many have read stories and heard tales of civilians living in the United States during World War II, but few know what it was like to live on the Dutch colony of Indonesia during the war. A local retiree tells of his experience first-hand in his book The Seventeen Year Old Lightning.

Born in 1930, Robert Cloesmeyer was a child and the oldest of five siblings at the onset of the war against Japan. They lived on the island of Java, Indonesia. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Dutch declared war on Japan, and Robert’s father Dolf was called to war. Hard times followed for the family, also housing a grandmother at the time. They managed to survive for five years without financial income, learning to plant food, raise chickens and guard against thieves.

After the war ended, Robert moved with his brother to the Netherlands where he met his wife. They married and moved to the states soon after, where Robert got a job at the Cleveland Clinic as a biomedical engineer. He and his wife had two children. After 27 years, the two retired to Brandon in 1993.

He decided to write a book accounting his war experience around 2012.

“It took me a year to remember everything,” he explained, then 82-years-old. Nonetheless, the book was published in February of 2013.

“My father taught me to respect others, never hit a woman, always respect your parents, never be afraid and always trust the Lord to guide you through difficult times,” he said. “I wanted to share my story to discourage bullying in schools and teach children how to become better adults.”

The book contains many exciting accounts surrounding the Cloesmeyer family before, during and after the war, including when Cloesmeyer disposed five armed men in less than 20 seconds, and when his mother stood her ground against an angry mob of soldiers.

The author dedicates it to his brave family, including two of his uncles who enlisted in the British Air Force, another uncle who fought under General McArthur and his courageous father.

Order The Seventeen Year Old Lightning by calling 800-834-1803 or contacting or visiting It’s also available for Nook at for $6.

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