WWII pilot who forever repaid rescuers dies at 94

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Dec 23, 2010.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    From today's Yahoo news. What a guy!

    WWII pilot who forever repaid rescuers dies at 94 - Yahoo! News


    By TIMBERLY ROSS and CHARLES HANLEY, Associated Press Timberly Ross And Charles Hanley, Associated Press – 3 mins ago

    LINCOLN, Nebraska – Fred Hargesheimer, a World War II Army pilot whose rescue by Pacific islanders led to a life of giving back as a builder of schools and teacher of children, died Thursday morning. He was 94. Richard Hargesheimer said his father had been suffering from poor health and passed away in Lincoln.

    On June 5, 1943, Hargesheimer, a P-38 pilot with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, was shot down by a Japanese fighter while on a mission over the Japanese-held island of New Britain in the southwest Pacific. He parachuted into the trackless jungle, where he barely survived for 31 days until found by local hunters.

    They took him to their coastal village and for seven months hid him from Japanese patrols, fed him and nursed him back to health from two illnesses. In February 1944, with the help of Australian commandos working behind Japanese lines, he was picked up by a U.S. submarine off a New Britain beach.

    After returning to the U.S. following the war, Hargesheimer got married and began a sales career with a Minnesota forerunner of computer maker Sperry Rand, his lifelong employer. But he said he couldn't forget the Nakanai people, who he considered his saviors.

    The more he thought about it, he later said, "the more I realized what a debt I had to try to repay."

    After revisiting the village of Ea Ea in 1960, he came home, raised $15,000 over three years, "most of it $5 and $10 gifts," and then returned with 17-year-old son Richard in 1963 to contract for the building of the villagers' first school.

    In the decades to come, Hargesheimer's U.S. fundraising and determination built a clinic, another school and libraries in Ea Ea, renamed Nantabu, and surrounding villages.

    In 1970, their three children grown, Hargesheimer and his late wife, Dorothy, moved to New Britain, today an out-island of the nation of Papua New Guinea, and taught the village children themselves for four years. The Nantabu school's experimental plot of oil palm even helped create a local economy, a large plantation with jobs for impoverished villagers.

    On his last visit, in 2006, Hargesheimer was helicoptered into the jungle and carried in a chair by Nakanai men to view the newly found wreckage of his World War II plane. Six years earlier, on another visit, he was proclaimed "Suara Auru," "Chief Warrior" of the Nakanai.

    "The people were very happy. They'll always remember what Mr. Fred Hargesheimer has done for our people," said Ismael Saua, 69, a former teacher at the Nantabu school.

    "These people were responsible for saving my life," Hargesheimer told The Associated Press in a 2008 interview. "How could I ever repay it?"

    Besides Richard, of Lincoln, Hargesheimer, a Rochester, Minnesota, native, is survived by another son, Eric, of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and a daughter, Carol, of Woodbury, Minnesota; by a sister, Mary Louise Gibson of Grass Valley, California; and by eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

    Richard Hargesheimer said no services are planned.
     

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  2. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    What a fantastic story! Talk about an attitude of gratitude!

    :salute::salute::salute::salute::salute:
     
  3. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    freakin' amazing!!


    :salute::salute::salute::salute::salute:
     
  4. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Where do we find such men?
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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  6. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    A very noble man.
    :salute: :salute: :salute: :salute: :salute:
     
  7. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Fantastic - a man who knew and appreciated the value of life.
     
  8. Vic Balshaw

    Vic Balshaw Well-Known Member

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    What a great story for Christmas Eve a man who never forgot, he will be a sad loss to his adopted people.
    :salute: :salute: :salute: :salute: :salute:
     
  9. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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  10. TheMustangRider

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    What a touching story, a genuine example of gratitude.
     
  11. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Just fricken awesome!
    :salute: :salute: :salute: :salute:
     
  12. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    excellent story....
     
  13. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  14. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Once again... fact is better than fiction. Great post.
     
  15. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    What a great honorable man! :salute:
     
  16. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I read that story and got chocked up - outstanding!!!!! :salute:
     
  17. slaterat

    slaterat Member

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    An amazing story of a man with great character.
     
  18. P40NUT

    P40NUT Member

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    A true hero. Great post.
     
  19. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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  20. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Very inspiring story.
     
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