Patriots Point Institute Naval & Maritime Museum hosted a special symposium entitled, “Internment in Times of War.” It was the third in Patriots Point’s WWII 70th anniversary series, “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.” Moderated by veteran journalist Warren Peper, this educational program was presented to a full house in the USS Yorktown’s Smokey Stover Theater and was streamed live into Charleston County School District classrooms and on the Patriots Point website (www.patriotspoint.org).
A distinguished panel of speakers provided guests with an opportunity to learn about the personal struggles, challenges and triumphs faced during their time as internees and prisoners of war. Also in attendance were representatives from the Lowcountry Chapter of American Ex-POWs – all former prisoners of war themselves.
“We were honored to present such a distinguished panel of speakers,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. “Each panelist persevered despite unfathomable hardships and emerged a stronger person – we can all learn a valuable lesson from their tenacity.”
• Joe Engel: Holocaust survivor
Mr. Engel was a prisoner at Auschwitz, where he worked as a brick layer. He was forced to watch as hundreds of others were tragically put to death. During the Death March, he escaped from a transport train to Czechoslovakia, where he joined up with the resistance. He was liberated by the Red Army in March, 1945. Mr. Engel who lives in Charleston, SC and endeavors to keep the memories of those who perished alive by speaking to young people and other groups.
• Ned Montgomery: Veteran and son of POW who gave his life during WWII
Mr. Montgomery and his family lived in the Philippines while his father served as a member of the United States Army’s 45th Infantry. In May 1941, when war tensions began to rise with Japan, Ned and his mother and sister returned home to Mount Pleasant, SC. Ned’s father was among the last of those who were captured by Japanese forces in Bataan. Although he survived two ship sinkings and the Bataan Death March, Ned’s father succumbed to pneumonia on February 5, 1945. Ned went on to attend The Citadel, where he graduated in 1955 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. He lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC with his wife and volunteers at Patriots Point.
• Mary Murakami: Japanese-American internee at age 16
During WWII, Ms. Murakami and her family were evacuated from San Francisco, California and sent to Topaz Internment Camp in Topaz, Arizona. During her internment, Mary completed her High School education. Following her release, she co-authored a book about her experiences, Blossoms in the Desert: Topaz Class of 1945. Today, Mary lives with her husband in Maryland and travels speaking to young people through the Japanese-American Veterans Association.
• William Funchess: Korean Prisoner of War for 3 years
Mr. Funchess was held prisoner of war by the Chinese and North Korea governments from November 4, 1950 – September 6, 1953. During his time in captivity, he suffered from scabies, hepatitis and night blindness and lost four teeth. In 1997, he wrote and published the book, Korea P.O.W. – A Thousand Days of Torment. Today, he lives near his alma mater, Clemson University, where he graduated from in 1948.
• Quincy Collins: Vietnam Prisoner of War for more than 7 years
Col. (Ret) Collins was on a mission to destroy a bridge 80 miles southwest of Hanoi when he was shot down, suffering head and back injuries, along with a severe leg injury, which left his femur broken in three places. During his seven and a half years in captivity in prison cells in and around the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” Col. Collins endured torture, despicable food and little medical treatment. Today, he is the founder and past Chairman of the Carolinas Freedom Foundation and is now Chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg World War II Memorial Foundation and was recently recognized by the Citadel as a “Distinguished Graduate.”
In conjunction with this symposium, Patriots Point unveiled a new exhibit entitled, “American Interment.” The exhibit features a replica of a Hanoi Hilton cell, POW items that belonged to CDR Alfred Howard – including pajamas, plastic drinking cup, bowl and spoon, and other artifacts from symposium participants.