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A VHP Mystery, Solved

 

Portrait of Robert F. Augur, likely taken at Fort Mills, Corregidor, February 1941.

Portrait of Robert F. Augur, likely taken at Fort Mills, Corregidor, February 1941.

Do you believe in fate? If not, the story of a new Veterans History Project (VHP) acquisition may change your mind…

As readers of Folklife Today may recall, this past February, VHP archivist Rachel Telford wrote a blog post about the newly received George Washington Pearcy collection. At the time of the donation, the Pearcy collection, made up of original manuscript material relating to his experiences as a prisoner of war (POW) in the Pacific Theater during World War II, was the only VHP collection of its kind. Little did we know what was about to happen…

In her blog post, Telford described the journey that Pearcy’s diary had taken to reach his family. Toward the end of the war, prior to boarding a prison ship bound for Japan, Pearcy asked his friend and comrade Robert Augur—who stayed behind at Old Bilibid Prison—to help transport his letters and papers homeward. After Augur’s liberation, he followed through on his promise to his friend, mailing Mr. and Mrs. Pearcy their son’s papers and letters. The Pearcy collection contains two letters that he sent to the Pearcy family to accompany these materials—but beyond these letters, we knew nothing about Augur.

Thanks to Telford’s blog post, this piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. In March, one of Augur’s relatives found the blog post through a routine Google search, and submitted a comment. To the shock and delight of the VHP staff—myself included!—we read that like Pearcy, Augur also kept a diary during his time as a prisoner of war. Would the Veterans History Project be interested in receiving this diary, queried the Augur family, along with other original photographs, letters, and military papers?

The answer, of course, was an enthusiastic “yes!” To make a long story short, on April 27, 2016, in a donation ceremony in Portland, Oregon, VHP received Robert F. Augur’s original manuscript collection. The addition of this collection to our archive means that VHP now houses two original diaries pertaining to Pacific POWs—and the stories of these diaries are inextricably connected to one another.

Augur’s story is riveting in its own right, so we’ll explore it fully in an upcoming blog post, as well as tell you about some of the coincidences that have occurred during the process of this donation. It’s enough to give you chills, I promise.

In the meantime, you can read back through the original blog post, along with the comment from Robert Augur’s family member, Chuck Charnquist. Stay tuned for the full story, coming soon!

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