Ephraim widow tells husband’s story of survival as POW during WWII
Sam Penrod, Deseret News
EPHRAIM — As Gwen McGarry visits the grave of her husband, she can't help but think of what he went through as a prisoner of war.
“The beatings and not knowing who would be next, I think that was very difficult. And then there was always the hunger, always the hunger,” she said.
She has written his story, “I Am Coming Home," using notes and the Bible that her husband, Wendell McGarry, used as a journal. It details how he survived in World War II Japanese prison camps.
He was an Army medic captured in the Philippine Islands on Corregidor in 1942 and liberated in 1945. He died in 2004. He spent three years as a POW in the Philippines and never shared in detail what happened to him. However, in his later years he decided it was his duty to share with younger generations the price of freedom.
Gwen McGarry began taking notes. “I began carrying a notebook with me, and even a little tape recorder I used. When he wasn't looking, I would record some of the things he'd said,” she said.
She decided to tell her husband’s story in a book using his makeshift journal, the Bible his mother gave him before the war that he concealed from the enemy.
One entry reads: “Today, Oct. 23, the Japanese took an American out to measure him for his grave.”
Nancee Ott first saw her father's Bible when she was a little girl. It detailed how his faith, fellow soldiers, and thoughts of his family gave him hope.
“I mean he was only in his 20s, and he wasn't sure if he was ever going to make it through the war,” Ott said, “and so these passages have a young man's view of trying to talk to his mom.”
The father she knew was a kind, thoughtful man. She believes it's what makes his story valuable.
“It doesn't matter what horrendous experiences that you might go through. If you can learn from it ... it can make you stronger and it can make you a better person and you don't have to hold anger and hatred in your heart,” Ott said.
“My father never had anger or hatred for the Japanese people.”
Don Tibbs, himself a veteran of World War II, said he couldn't put the manuscript down because he really knew his friend.
“I think he's the closest friend of my life, but he would not talk about it,” Tibbs said. “I wept, frankly I wept, because I could feel what he felt and I knew it was true, and I was proud of him.”
McGarry arrived home to Salt Lake City with his mother in March 1945.
“It makes you so grateful you are an American citizen, that you have the freedom and are able to live as good as we live,” Gwen McGarry said.
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