Thursday, July 4, 2013

And long may she wave ...

Marlene Terry

On this special day and as  promised we're sharing a few thoughts and comments from a veteran of World War II. Not the kind of vet who was serving in the Armed Forces at the time but one who earned that status from the U.S. Congress after being incarcerated as a civilian contractor and held as prisoner of war for nearly four years.

In 1941 J.O. Young was working on Wake Island as a carpenter for the Morrison Knudson Company. Here are his remembrances of the happenings of that time:

Photo by Greg Kreller, IPT: J.O. Young

"Four hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941," J.O. said, "the Japanese attacked Wake Island. We civilians fought along side the US Marines stationed there. There was just no way we questioned if we should. We just did it. And on Dec. 21, the Japanese Navy finally overran the island and captured those of us who survived.
"As dawn broke across the lagoon, the Stars and Stripes was flying, but shortly thereafter, it was lowered and in its place was hoisted a white bed sheet, denoting our surrender. The sheet was then replaced by the Japanese flag, The Rising Sun.
"Later in the day we, as prisoners of war, were marched past the barracks that had been commandeered as the command post for the Japanese soldiers. There was our American Flag, wadded up in a ball and being used as a door stop."

During the ensuing weeks and months, other interviews and chats with J.O. told of the sufferings and sacrifices of those prisoners who were moved from Wake Island to other Japanese POW camps throughout the war. 
One such sacrifice involved the unraveling of their own socks so the yarn could be used as a makeshift binding thread that sewed together strips of fabric taken from their clothes, blankets and towels, in order to create an American Flag.
"It was crude and we had to keep it hidden most of the time," J.O. told me. "But it was a huge reminder of who we were and what we held most dear. ... It helped us all to make it through.
"What was indelibly impressed on my mind during that time was that when 'Old Glory' does not fly, there is no freedom!"

...  Hope all of our Flags are up and flying today. ... And long may she wave!

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