Pitcairn native writes book about father's World War II captivity
Pitcairn native Peggy Loughner Fisher said her father seldom spoke about his years as a prisoner of war.
She felt the effects of his captivity, nonetheless, because of his early death and the confusion and anger she suffered as a result.
Aug. 15 will mark the 70th anniversary of Army Cpl. Earl Loughner's return from captivity in Japan — the central event in a book, “Daddy Came Home,” that Fisher self-published in May. The release of Fisher's book coincides with a recent public apology she and others affected by Japanese treatment of POWs during World War II received.
Fisher's father, who served in the 803rd Aviation Engineer Battalion, was captured in April 1942 when U.S. ground forces capitulated to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.
Fisher, 66, who now lives in Grove City, attended a public apology last month by Hikaru Kimura, a senior executive at Mitsubishi Materials Co., for prisoners being forced to work in a predecessor company's mines. The event was at the National American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum Education and Research Center in Wellsburg, W.Va.
Fisher described the apology as therapeutic.
“He came back and had to return to a normal life after three and a half years of hell,” she said.
She used military records, and a newspaper interview with Loughner shortly after the war to write the book.
After he left military service, Loughner returned to Pitcairn and his wife, Doretha, to meet his son, Earl Douglas Loughner, 3, for the first time. He became a driver for the town's post office and volunteered as president of Fire Co. No. 2.
Loughner died of a heart attack in 1956 at age 40, when Fisher was 7. Fisher said beriberi, a disease caused mainly by thiamine deficiency, likely contributed to his death. Her father contracted the disease, which can cause heart failure, in captivity, she said.
While he worked on the docks in Kobe, Japan, Loughner was forced to sleep in an unheated warehouse. Along with beriberi, he contracted malaria and dysentery, Fisher said.
His captors occasionally forced him to stand at attention for hours, Fisher said, and he endured beatings. Toward the end of the war, when U.S. forces bombed the port city, guards forced prisoners to lie down and watch as bombs fell toward them, she said.
“When he died, the funeral director told my family that his body was the most brutalized body that they had ever seen,” Fisher said.
Dan Sneider, an associate director of research at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, said Japanese officials have been reluctant to acknowledge use of forced labor — which included nationals from China, Korea and other countries Japan invaded, as well as Allied prisoners — during World War II.
Mitsubishi Materials recently became the first Japanese company to apologize for the use of forced labor during the war. The company's predecessor, Mitsubishi Mining Co., forced Allied prisoners and other foreign nationals to work in its mines.
The event in Wellsburg came two days after Mitsubishi officials publicly apologized to a former POW at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
“The issue of forced labor is still a fairly sensitive one, and Mitsubishi is the only one of the companies that has done this,” Sneider said.
Fisher said she didn't set out to write a book about her father until January, when she saw “Unbroken.” The film is about former Olympic runner and bomber crewman Louis Zamperini, who spent about two years in Japanese prison camps.
She said events in the film paralleled details of her father's life. Fisher, who retired late last year from running her own photography company, took a few months to finish and publish her 76-page book. Delegates from Mitsubishi took 10 copies with them when she met them at the museum, she said. Copies are available at daddycamehome.com. Downloads cost $7.95. Hard copies are $9.95 plus shipping.
Gideon Bradshaw is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.