In the early 1960s, a salesman for the U.S. Plywood company paid
calls to the Lively Lumber and Glass Company in Palestine, Texas.
The man was tall, broad-shouldered, fair in coloring, and friendly.
He spoke with a slight accent. Although I never had a chance to
meet him, I spoke with someone who worked at the Lively Company
at that time.
The salesman had been a German POW at Camp
Fannin near Tyler,
Texas, during World War II. After the war, he emigrated from Germany
to the United States and ended up working for a company located
in the same area where he had been imprisoned.
Now how often has this scenario happened in the course of human
history? A POW immigrates back to his captors?
Why did he make this decision? Was it because he received kind treatment?
Was it because Germany had crashed and burned and he could see opportunity
in the States?
"Entreat me not to leave thee…Your people shall be my people." (Ruth
1:16NKJ). Maybe he just knew a good thing when they saw it.
I have told this story to several people whose reaction was, "Don't
make too much of this one man's decision. America is far from perfect.
Consider the internment of Japanese-American citizens in the same
OK, I will.
MAN 2: I spoke with a man whose Japanese-American grandparents
were rounded up and tossed into a camp where their first child was
born. The father in this small family was kept in solitary confinement
much of the time and rarely got to see his family. In addition,
their worldly accumulations were confiscated and never returned.
After the war, the couple could have gone to Japan where they had
family, but going back would have been worse than staying, they
For many years, the man ran a small store and made wise stock-market
investments, which enabled him to send to Harvard the child who
had been born in the camp.
On a ship headed for war in Europe, an American GI received a telegram
that there was "trouble" with his wife and he must come home. For
a moment he thought about jumping overboard and trying to swim to
shore. This "trouble" had happened before.
In and out of battle in France, he was deeply burdened by the question,
"Who will raise my kids if I die in battle?" Crazy with apprehension,
he saw a small shed and went inside for a moment alone to "talk
to Jesus." As he prayed he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder, although
no human was there. At the same time, a voice spoke inside his heart,
"You will not die. You will go home and raise your kids." From that
moment, all fear dissolved.
Now at age 81, he rolls up the sleeve of his shirt to show me a
scar. Two days after his encounter in the shed, a piece of shrapnel
cut the artery in his right arm. He lay unconscious in a field all
night and should have died.
He did come home and raise his kids, eventually to have more kids
with a new wife who has been a joy. His job was as foreman over
a large ranch near Oakwood, Texas.
For over fifty years, he wondered who had given him first aid in
the field in France and taken him for medical help. One day he came
across a book written by a fellow soldier. In it was an account
of his own wounding, his night lying in the field, and the name
of his rescuer. Answers at last.
What do the German ex-POW, the Japanese American in the internment
camp, and the American GI have in common?
In booming postwar America, each of them started over. With hard
work all prospered and provided for their families in safety and
freedom. Even our co-victor Britain was so damaged that rationing
went on for years after the war. At the risk of appearing chauvinistic,
I have to admit that America in the middle part of the twentieth
century was a roaring place to be.
War II Chronicles
of East Texas" Column