From the Washington Post today, a story of World War II diaries of friendship, suffering, death now preserved at the Library of Congress.
In September 1944, after two years of suffering in POW camps in the Philippines, U.S. Army Lt. George Washington Pearcy was being transferred to one of Japan’s “hell ships,” bound for captivity in the enemy’s home islands.
Before he left, he entrusted his diary to a fellow prisoner who was staying behind. Pearcy had written the diary on the backs of tin-can labels and other scraps of paper, and he wanted to make sure it survived him.
He gave it to Lt. Robert F. Augur, a friend who had lost a leg in the fighting at Corregidor in 1942 and who kept a small journal of his own.
Pearcy, 29, was killed a few weeks later when the prison ship Arisan Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine. Augur, 34, survived the war, made his way home, and brought his friend’s diary with him.
Now, almost 75 years later, the Library of Congress has acquired both men’s writings and posted them online, along with family correspondence.
To keep his diaries, Pearcy used a pencil and “wrote in tiny script on material that included labels of cans that had contained pork and beans, chili con carne or mackerel…. To pass the time, he kept lists — of people he met, foods he ate, expressions he heard and things he wanted to do when he got home. ‘Buy record player and start collection,’ he wrote.’Buy complete set of pocket books to read in idle moments and going to and from work . . . Talk to Pop about buying farm . . . Write officers of Bataan Corregidor campaign and ask them to write back experiences — humorous, pathetic, realistic, and must be true.’
These important papers, documenting family and individual history influenced by major world events, are preserved in the Veterans History Project at LC. “The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”
Do you have information about a loved one’s service uncovered during your genealogy research? Do you want to know more about family members’ military service? For more information about participating in or using the Veterans History Project, visit this link in my blog. For guidelines on how to conduct an interview with a family member who served, visit this link. And to search the VHP database, click here.
As for Lt. Pearcy and Lt. Augur, and how the World War II diaries of friendship, suffering, death came to be preserved at the Library of Congress, click here.
I couldn’t feel more strongly about preserving your relatives’ voices and contributions regarding their military service for the United States. The archivists at VHP do incredible work preserving and making available this information. Please consider contributing content and/or funds.