Downed WWII U.S. flier spent 65 years repaying New Guinea residents who helped him survive by giving them and future generations a better life.
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.
65 years later
Fred Hargesheimer 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.
Please click over and read the rest of the story. It’s a beautiful story. A story about The Greatest Generation, a story about what makes America great. Fred Hargesheimer is a man, like so many other Americans, who saw a need, and rolled up their sleeves to do something about it.
The world isn’t fixed by government programs, or by handouts. It’s fixed by all the Fred Hargesheimer’s of the world, who see a need, and rally people together. Free people, loosed with the power of education, working in a free economy, can do more to lift people out of poverty, and clean the environment, than any programs that by their very nature, restrict human liberty. Under today’s environment, this man’s dream may never have happened. Labor rules, child labor laws, taxes, you name it, the government will restrict it. In its place, they’ll put a handout program. Drop food in for these people, leave them in their primitive state, because our modern way is eviillllle and bad for Mother Gaia, don’t you know.