About George W. Pearcy

About the author: George Washington Pearcy (1915 — 1944). Lieutenant, U.S.A. served in Bataan, P.O.W. in Cabanatuan Prison Camp No. 1.

A January 9, 2017 blog entry in American POWS of Japan mentions that,

The son of a prominent St. Louis attorney, he [Pearcy] had a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, according to the Library of Congress.

A February 23, 2016 blog entry in the Folklife Today blog of the American Folklife Center & Veterans History Project relates that,

Pearcy was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1940, after completing his law degree and taking ROTC training at Washington University. He applied for active duty, and served at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before shipping out to the Philippines in January 1941. He initially served at Corregidor with the 60th Coast Artillery, and then Clark Field, where he trained as an aerial observer with the 2nd Observation Squadron of the Army Air Forces. In July 1941, Pearcy was reassigned to the Army Air Forces, and was later transferred to Nichols Field, where he was stationed at the outbreak of World War II…

At the outbreak of World War II, Pearcy served as an infantry officer at Bataan and Corregidor. But in May 1942, he was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and held for 29 months at Bilibid Prison, Cabanatuan Prison, and Davao Penal Colony…

Sadly, on October 24, 1944, Pearcy was killed when the Arisan maru was torpedoed by a U.S. submarine.

About the diary: Found in the George Washington Pearcy Collection, Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. There are nine items in the diaries section of the papers. Of these, four have been used in The Philippine Diary Project:

  1. Typed copy of Lt. George W. Pearcy’s diary 10/5 to 10/25/1942
  2. Typed copy of Lt. George W. Pearcy’s diary 10/26 to 11/18/1942
  3. Typed copy of Lt. George W. Pearcy’s diary 10/8/1940 to 2/24/1944
  4. Typed extracts from the diaries of George W. Pearcy [1941-1944]

The entry in the American Folklife Center blog linked to above, provides the history of the diary:

Though he [Pearcy] was imprisoned, and suffering a variety of ailments, including malaria, dysentery and beriberi, Pearcy’s efforts to document his experience continued. Using any scrap paper he could find—canned food labels, hospital forms, maps—Pearcy kept diaries with brief notes about his experiences, rosters of men in camp, and plans for the future. This was surely a risky move, as diaries were generally forbidden in Japanese prison camps.

In 1944, despite poor health, Pearcy was forced to board the Arisan maru, a prison ship, for transport to Japan. Prior to his departure, Pearcy secretly gave a portion of his papers to Lieutenant Robert F. Augur, a fellow prisoner at Bilibid Prison, who was confined to the prison hospital and would not be making the trip to Japan. Augur agreed to return the papers to Pearcy after the war, if possible. According to Pearcy’s nephews, family lore suggests that Pearcy divided his papers into two parts, and gave half each to two prisoners who were not to be transported to Japan, with the hope that they would eventually be able to return the papers to him.

A 2017 feature in Stars and Stripes relates that,

In March 1945, after Augur was freed, he sent the diary to Pearcy’s parents, Frances and Claude Pearcy, in St. Louis.

He and Pearcy had been buddies, Augur wrote them. Before Pearcy was to board the ship to Japan, “George left a few of his papers with me and asked that I try to get them out for him.”

Augur warned Pearcy’s parents that, reading the diaries, they would see that “George has had a pretty rough time of it.”

He “was in poor condition at the time and should never have made the trip,” Augur wrote. But the enemy forced him, and many others, to go.

Augur thought Pearcy could make it.

“I do hope and pray that you have either already had word from him . . . or will soon have a message telling of his safe arrival,” Augur wrote.

Neither Augur nor Pearcy’s parents knew it, but Pearcy had been dead for five months.

In 2015, the Pearcy family donated his papers to the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress.