The tough issues that The American Legion faces today in helping returning veterans with severe injuries and emotional trauma are not new. The recently published book “Daddy Came Home” by Peggy Loughner Fisher tells the story of her father’s life as a soldier captured in the Philippines in 1942 and imprisoned by the Japanese for the remainder of the war.
Fisher pulled together the first-hand accounts of the war from her father’s letters and personal documents. After Earl Loughner’s death just weeks past his 40th birthday (Oct. 6, 1956), Fisher goes on to relate the family’s struggles with the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish “service related” cause of death status for Loughner. As a prisoner of the Japanese for three and a half years fed only a starvation diet of white rice gruel, Loughner and his fellow POWs were afflicted with wet beriberi.
Through Fisher’s unceasing efforts and help from The American Legion, VA announced on Aug. 24, 1993 that former POWs suffering from ischemic heart disease caused by beriberi would be awarded compensation. Although Loughner and his fellow POWs could not avoid the health effects of the first two years of starvation, the book relates how they learned to steal food and other supplies while they labored to unload the Japanese ships on the docks in Kobe. These actions helped them to survive the war.
In 1945 there was great concern among the American high command that the Japanese would slaughter many of the Americans in captivity in Japan. Loughner’s account would have been a surprise to them: “On August 15, we learned from Koreans (fellow slave laborers) that the Japs were talking peace. Next day we broke camp, told the Japs the Americans were coming in the next morning, and if they were found with guns or ammunition they would be killed. They were afraid and gave up their guns and bayonets.”
A copy of the book can be obtained at www.daddycamehome.com