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About Lucy Hardee Olsen

About the author: Lucy Helen Hardee Olsen (April 23, 1896 –June 24, 1985). Her obituary reads,

Mrs. Lucy Hardee Olsen, who was a prisoner of war in the Philippines for 37 months during World War II, died Friday morning in Hillcrest Convalescent Center after a long illness. She was 88.

She was captured in January 1942 by the Japanese and was held captive until February 1945 in the Santo Thomas Interment Camp in the Philippines, along with her husband and two children.

One of her daughters, Esten, died while at the prison camp from tubercular meningitis.
The remaining family was rescued by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, but during the rescue, one of Mrs. Olsen’s legs was seriously injured by an exploding shell. She was awarded the Purple Heart.

Mrs. Olsen had secretly kept a diary during that time on little scraps of paper. It was later published and titled My War Diary.

She was born in Virgilina, Va., and moved to Stem as a child. She attended Granville County schools and Salem College.

Mrs. Olsen was a teacher in Granville County schools for many years, taught in Fort Benning, Ga., and later, from 1929 to 1931, taught in a American school in the Philippines. The family then lived in Manila.

She lived in Durham for the past 35 years, was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the King’s Daughters, and was a former member of the Forest Hills Garden Club.

About the diary: The diary covers the period December 7, 1941 to February 3, 1945. The copy of the diary is from Winthrop University, Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections (Accession 87 – M38 (51)), and was donated to the Archives by Lucy Hardee Olsen on March 23,1977. A digitized copy has been made available online in a Digital Commons @ Winthrop University page. This is the version used in The Philippine Diary Project.

The Winthrop University site summarizes the story of the diary as follows:

Mrs. Olsen had secretly kept a diary during that time on little scraps of paper. It was later published and titled My War Diary.”…

The Lucy Hardee Olsen War Diary consists of a photograph, newspaper clippings, and a diary titled My War Diary, which was written from December 7, 1941 to February 3, 1945. A typed copy was presented to Mrs. Olsen on the occasion of her eightieth birthday. It is a diary of her experiences as an American held in occupation in the Philippine Islands during the Second World War.

The diary contains two types of entries. Some are properly dated, particularly from December 8, 1941 to January 7, 1942. The rest can be gleaned from dates mentioned in what otherwise is a continuous narrative. For these, the dates indicated are used as the date of the entry.