All of McGregor turned out to welcome Larry McGuire when he returned to his home town, after 40 months of indignities and cruelties in a Japanese prison camp. McGuire, right, is presented with a membership in the McGregor post of the American Legion by Adjutant Harvey Haltmeyer, left, as the former Jap prisoner stepped from his car as it entered the city.
Larry McGuire, who suffered the cruelties of a Japanese prison camp for 40 months, returned home Saturday to a city which turned out to welcome him with flying flags and cheers.
When the car in which he was riding with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter McGuire, and his sisters, Helen and Pat, came over the Mississippi river bridge from Prairie du Chien, Wis., where he arrived by train, a waiting crowd from McGregor surrounded his car and forced him to get out. Here Legionaires, with Adjutant Harvey Haltmeyer, presented him with a membership in the local Legion post, before a long precession of cars escorted the returned aviator to the flag-bedecked Main street, with groups of young and old waving and cheering welcome from the curb.
McGuire had come home after 40 months in a Jap prison. Despite three and a half years' suffering the incredible brutality of a people "who are not human beings" - the words are McGuire's - he was home, sound in body and mind. "All in one piece," he put it.
He was a bombardier at Clark field, Manila, when the Japanese took over and destroyed all the bombing planes which were grounded, he said, becuase no word of a declaration of war had come. A small ship offered a chance for some of the airmen to escape. They drew lots. The lucky number fell to McGuire's squadron. Hardly were they at sea, before two enemy planes flew over and dropped bombs. fifty of the men jumped overboard and were killed by concussion when the bombs struck the water. The vessel was damaged and was forced to put in at Mindanao. There the crews were when the island commander, Gen. Sharp, received from Gen. Wainwright the order to surrender.
McGuire, with several hundred of the others, was crowded in the hold of a Jap ship, and held there for 40 days on a starvation diet, until they landed in Tokyo bay. He had been in prison in the Tokyo area since then until the day of mad joy when Gen. Stassen and his men released them. The most beautiful sight he ever saw, he declared, was the burning of Tokyo.
The worst that has been said of the Japs treatment of prisoners is all true - McGuire knows only too well. He was beaten many times - regularly at first, he said, when they tried to get information. A club was used. If a victim fell under it, he was kicked in the stomach by the thick wooden shoes the guards wore.
All day, every day while he was a prisoner, except for three months when he sweated in a steel mill, where most of the other workers contracted tuberculosis, he carried bags of rice on his back in loading operations. Bags weighed 200 pounds.
At night the prisoners had boards for beds, one above the other to the ceiling. Bedding included two filthy and thin blankets of pressed paper. Bed bugs at night added to the torments of lice and fleas, by day, McGuire said. They were given no soap, often thirsted for water that had been turned off out of sheer cruelty. Their food three times a day was fish head soup and barley. Occasionally they could steal a little rice.
In the first few months, occasionally a prisoner would escape to the hills, but each time this happened, the Japs shot 10 of the group he had been with. "So we got together," McGuire explained, "and agreed among ourselves never to try to get away." He suffered dysentery and an attack of pellagra, but even with these kept at work. "It was the end if one gave up. The sick wee put at once on half rations."
The prisoners picked up quite a bit of the Japanese language, and learned about the war by overhearing the enemy guards talking to each other. He has a photograph the Japs took of him to use in "treating the prisoners well" propaganda. They dressed him up, but they didn't get a smile into the picture. The rage and hate he felt at being posed shows in the face.
He tells of the heartbreaking experience, just at the end of their prison days, when their camp was bombed in an American attack. It was unavoidable. The enemy had seen to that. They had located the camp near aircraft factories and steel mills. Twenty of the prisoners were killed.
After Sgt. McGuire was taken under American military control, he was hospitalized at Okinawa, Manila, and San Francisco. His weight has climbed from 110 to 140 pounds. He had only the weekend at home, then left to report to Vaughan general hospital, Chicago, for further observation and build-up.
~Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Wednesday, October 24, 1945
~transcribed by S. Ferrall
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