In an earlier post I mentioned that I was intrigued by General W.E. Brougher who had written of his internment in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. He was described as someone whose “looks, personality, and ways made him one of the most attractive and interesting men at Fort McKinley. Handsome – indeed, dashing – in facial features, he was short but well-built. Since college days he had been interested in creative writing, and he published poems and stories in numerous periodicals during the years between world wars. He also possessed a wide knowledge of classical literature…. A polished orator and a conversationalist with a lively sense of humor, he became an active leader in civic and social affairs wherever he was stationed. He was accomplished in several sports and was also a devout Christian who displayed an unusual concern for his men’s welfare.”
In April of 1945 he wrote: Just think! Three years ago today [we were captured]! If we had known it was going to be three years, could we have faced it? Next to the ability to forget, perhaps the most beneficent provision of Providence for our protection is lack of foresight. If we could not forget it or if we could foresee too much, we would go crazy.
His poem, “A Rusting Sword”, is a prayer expressing his frustration at wasting away as a prisoner. Here is the last stanza:
How long, Oh Lord, how long? While ships delay
My precious years round out, my powers decay.
My birthright lost, by ruthless time’s decree,
To lads who learned their alphabet from me!
A rusting sword upon a garbage heap,
God give me grace to smile when I would weep.
Eternal Justice! Judge of right and wrong!
Does Thou still live? How long, Oh Lord, how long?
In addition to his courage and faith, I was fascinated by his persistence in reading and writing under dire circumstances. He read Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Thoreau, Charles Darwin, Hugh Walpole, Robert Louis Stevenson, Agatha Christie, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Aldous Huxley, among others. Books he enjoyed were Rob Roy, Horatio Hornblower, and Plutarch’s Lives, along with biographies and plays. His favorite novel was Hervey Allen’s The Forest and the Fort (New York Times Best Seller in 1943) which I've never heard of, but will look into. Brougher’s book of short stories, Baggy Pants, is next on my list of books to order.