Jerry Davich: POW’s diary closer to home, thanks to you
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org May 28, 2012 8:56PM
Rev. Gary Nagy is hoping to track down the family of WWII POW Doyle Waggoner of Shreveport, LA who used a prisoner of war food package to record addresses and recipes on scraps of paper and paper bags during his captivity. The book is displayed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hobart, Ind. Wednesday May 9, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2012 2:54PM
Thanks to a few Post-Tribune readers, the decades-old diary of a World War II prisoner of war is closer to its rightful home.
“You got done in three days what I have tried over 10 years,” said Pastor Gary Nagy of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hobart. “This was the right time and the right place with the right people. It’s remarkable.”
Last Monday’s column chronicled the sad story of Doyle Waggoner, a U.S. Navy seaman who was a POW in the Philippines. The Shreveport, La., man was tortured to death by Japanese soldiers for stealing rice, according to news accounts.
But more gruesome details of his captivity and death were unearthed by a handful of P-T readers, including local librarians and military history buffs.
Linda Herrick Swisher, public information coordinator at the Hammond Public Library, immediately jumped on this complicated genealogy project. So did Liz Thomas, a retired librarian and member of Trinity Lutheran.
I also contacted a fellow newspaper journalist in Shreveport who has joined in the search for Waggoner’s family there, so someone can sign off to donate his diary to a museum.
“In our Dec. 9, 1941, newspaper, we ran a photo of Doyle Waggoner and some family info, but I can’t find his parents here,” said John Andrew Prime, local desk editor at the Shreveport Times. “He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery so I emailed a friend who works there to get a reburial date.”
Waggoner was reportedly cremated in 1945, but his remains were apparently buried at Arlington in 1948.
Waggoner’s makeshift diary is made from a cardboard box and brown paper bag pages, strung together with leftover string and a thread of hope. It’s filled with page after page of hand-etched recipes for meals that he dreamed of eating while being held captive.
“(Waggoner) went a bit mental and used to raid the cook house at night for food,” states a witness affidavit after the war ended. “He had tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat but did not succeed.”
Waggoner was beaten and tortured, then tossed in a cell for several days.
After the 10th day, “He was lying on the bed covered in human dung and soaked with urine. He was trying to get water that was coming through a (hole) in the roof. His reasoning was entirely gone.”
The next day he was reported dead.
“Sadder than I could ever begin to imagine,” Pastor Nagy told me after reading the details. “I only hope his mom never got the gruesome details.”
Stay tuned for another update and, hopefully, the conclusion of this saga.
My recent column on region residents misusing the 911 emergency phone line caught the attention of many readers, including a few police department 911 dispatchers.
“Thank you for bringing the concept of using 211 to light,” one dispatcher said. “Unfortunately, lazy people (which there is no shortage of) will continue to use 911 as their default call, without regard for citizens who have actual emergencies.”
The day my column ran, I was shown two police reports. Both showed calls to police for similar reasons, and neither was an emergency.
“Needs help getting dog into car so she can take it to the vet,” one report stated.
“Animal defecating in his yard and he would like animal control to take a look at it and see if he could tell what kind of animal it is,” stated another report.
The dispatcher noted, “As I learned during my EMT and paramedic training, an emergency is whatever the caller perceives an emergency to be. As such, the misuse of the 911 system will continue until there are enforceable penalties.”
Interesting concept, but I don’t see it becoming a reality.
Learning to crawl
I am convinced that someday in our country, hopefully not in the distant future, we will view our ignorance, arrogance and bigotry about gay rights issues as we now view with astonishment the same ignorance, arrogance and bigotry about our shameful past. Say, about abolishing slavery, equal rights for women and civil rights for all.
Remember, there are still many Americans today — in 2012 — who are quietly convinced we should return to those “good ol’ days” of yesteryear when blacks and women were second-class citizens, and anyone who didn’t look, act and pray like them were deemed evil. Or, worse yet, subhuman.
Not only is our country still in its infancy, but so is our species. I just wonder if we’re toddlers, children or adolescents at this point.
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