The Daily Herald from Arlington Heights, Illinois on March 9, 2008 · Page 8
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The Daily Herald from Arlington Heights, Illinois · Page 8

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Arlington Heights, Illinois
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 9, 2008
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Page 8
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PAGES SECTION 1 DAILY HERALD WoHd ft Nation SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 2008 Paying back a war debt They saved his life, so when he got the chance, ex-pilot returned to help villagers BY CHARLES J. HANLEY A I' S/mi/il Cmny/iimtlrnt BIALLA, Papua New Guinea—The Japanese fighter caught the American pilot from behind, riddling his plane with machine-gun rounds. The left engine burst into flames. It was time to bail out. He yanked on the release lever but the cockpit canopy only half-opened. He unbuckled his seat belt, rose to shake the canopy loose and was instantly sucked out. Swinging beneath his opened parachute, he plunged toward a Pacific island jungle of thick, towering eucalyptus trees, of crocodile rivers and headhunters, into enemy territory, and into an unimagined future as a hero, "Suara Auru," Chief Warrior, to generations of islanders yet unborn. Fred Hargcshcimcr was shot down in the southwest Pacific on June 5, 1943. A lifetime later, he sits in his quiet California ranch house amid the snow and soaring sugar pines of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The light blue eyes, at age 91, can't see as well as they once did. But when he looks back over 65 years, the smiling Minnesotan sees it all clearly — the struggle to survive, the native rescuers, the Japanese patrols and narrow escapes, the mother's milk that saved him. He remembers well his return to New Britain, the people's embrace, the fundraising and building, the children taught, the adults cured, the happy years beside the Bismarck Sea with Dorothy, his wife. "I'm so grateful for getting shot out of the sky," he says. Garua Peni is grateful, too, as a member of those once- future generations here on New Britain. "I thank God from the depths of my heart for blessing me in such an abundant way when He brought Suara Auru Fred Hargesheimer," she says. The improbable story of "Mastah Preddi," a story of uncommon gratitude and the heart's uncanny ways, begins when the 27-year-old Army lieutenant crashes to the tangled underbrush of the jungle floor. Picking himself up, "Hargy" Hargesheimer found no broken bones, but felt a bloody gash on his head, the graze of a bullet or shrapnel. He cut off bits of nylon parachute for a bandage. Then he looked around. He had been on a photo- reconnaissance mission from his base on the main island of New Guinea, tracking ship movements around Japanese- occupied New Britain, a primitive, 370-mile-long crescent of hot, dark, mist-shrouded forests fringed by smoldering volcanos, 700 miles from northeastern Australia. He came down halfway up the slopes of the 4,000-foot- high Nakanai mountains, in a wilderness of torrential rains, giant ferns, venomous insects and vicious wild pigs whose tusks could kill a man. Hargesheimer checked his survival kit, finding compass, machete, extra ammunition for liis pistol, and two bars of concentrated chocolate, his only food. Day by day, he pushed agonizingly through the choking jungle, hoping for a trail or clearing. At night, he recalled, he'd lie beneath a parachute shelter, dreaming he was Paid Advertisement You've Been to 10 Back Pain Specialists And Tried 12 Treatments And You Still Have Back Pain Many doctors disagree as to what causes back pain but most agree that the most desirable way to eliminate back pain would be without drugs or surgery. A free report has just been released that reveals an amazing and virtually painless way to eliminate back pain... this treatment has been embraced by thousands of caring and competent doctors across the country. To receive a copy of the free report that explains how it works and how to find a doctor willing to see if he or she can help you, call the toll- free, 24 hour recorded message at 800-653-0528. 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Snails he found in the riverbed became his staple for weeks to come, roasted by the dozen. His daily existence in the jungle was miserable. Leeches clung to his skin. Flying insects sought out his eyes and nose. Losing weight and strength, out of matches and desperately keeping his fire going, he suffered through nightmares of dying alone in die jungle. From his youthful days as an Episcopalian lay reader, the lost pilot summoned words of hope. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want," he told him- self, over and over. From memory each day, he'd recite that 23rd Psalm to its comforting final verse, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..." And on the 31st day, he heard voices on the river. When they came to him, he cried. His salvation Villagers here on the north coast had seen the distant plane go down. Now, in an outrigger canoe on an upriver hunting trip, they had their eyes out for a pilot. Finding Hargesheimer by the riverside, Lauo, their "luluai," or chief, showed the bearded, haggard white man a note written by an Australian ASSOCIATED PRESS In this photo provided by the Hargesheimer family, First Lt. Fred Hargesheimer, right, was photographed in late 1943 at a secret Australian commando camp on Japanese-occupied New Britain island, Papua New Guinea, with Australian Wing Commander William Townsend. Their planes had been shot down, and Hargesheimer was rescued and sheltered by islanders. officer saying these villagers had saved other pilots and could be trusted. That night by the river, Lauo's party exploded with wild singing and feasting, unnerving the young American, who had been warned by See DEBT on PAGE 9 This Weekend March 8th & 9th Saturday & Sunday 9:30am-6pm DONALD E. STEPHENS CONVENTION CENTER. ROSEMONT SPAS MAJOR MANUFACTURERS COMPETING FOR YOUR BUSINESS! 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