Who is Lester Lacy? As a prisoner of the Japanese during WWII, Mr. Lacy kept a small journal where he wrote his war experiences.
Lester Lacy, of Bland, Missouri, entered the service as a member of the Army Air Corps on 15 December 1939, and was eventually assigned to the 27th Material Squadron, Nichols Field, Rizal, Philippines Islands, just south of Manila. During the war, the 20th Air Base Group, as well as Troop F of the US Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment, were also stationed at Nichols. It was here that Lacy found himself when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on 8 December 1941. According to a document in the collection, Lacy made the infamous Bataan Death March, and was held in Camp O’Donnell until 6 July 1942, before being moved to Cabanatuan, where he was held until 12 December 1943. A letter in the collection from Dr. J.H. Bahrenburg, dated 8 April 1947, apparently in response to an inquiry by Lacy regarding his bouts with malaria, discusses a bit of life in the camp from a doctor’s point of view, and contains the passage “We still serve no rice in our house.”
By 22 August 1944, Lacy had been shipped to Japan, to Camp 10-D outside Tokyo. He would remain there until 4 June 1945 before being sent to Camp 10-B in Ashio, Japan. It was in Ashio where Lacy and those imprisoned with him saw the war come to an end.
What makes the journal so remarkable, other than the fact that it exists, is that most of the entries he wrote were in verse. Poems such as “The Philippines — As a Recruit Sees It,” “My Time in Hell,” and “The Man From Bataan” provide great insight to the everyday existence of life on Bataan prior to capture, as well as the sense of frustration which became increasingly apparent as the men began to realize that there was simply no help coming. Altogether the journal contains eleven poems, a detailed listing of personnel in Lacy’s unit and whether they were killed or imprisoned and sent back to Japan, and addresses of 30 men he was imprisoned with, including one John Hardy, and a J. Baker, both from England. The last entry in the journal is poignant and different than the others because of it’s simplicity; it reads; “All work, for us prisoners finished today, Aug. 15, 1945, 12:20 noon. I had just knocked off for rice, when everyone was sent to the shack we called the Rest House. We all wondered what the dope was, some seemed to think the war was over, some thought someone had got caught doing a good deed. But today is the 17th and all the rest are almost certain the war is over. We all hope. At last we know it’s over. Uncle is here 3 1/2 years of Living Hell is over.
Upon his return to the US and convalescence, Lacy married Ms. Alice McKinnon, who had served during the war in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). By 1950, he found himself in uniform again, and had a distinguished career in the US Air Force, serving in Thule, Greenland, Incirlik, Turkey, and eventually Bien Hoa, Republic of Vietnam during the late 1960’s. In 1971, he retired from the Air Force as a Senior Master Sergeant, and passed away in 1977, with burial at Ft. Bliss National Cemetery. Alice passed away in El Paso in 2008.
Here are two of the verses Mr. Lacy wrote:
“The Man From Bataan”
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