prisoner

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Biography Hawai‘i: Joseph Nāwahī

PBS HAWAII PRESENTS Biography Hawaii: Joseph Nawahi

 

This documentary tells the story of Hawaiian patriot Joseph Nāwahī, a teacher, surveyor, lawyer, cabinet minister, newspaper editor and artist in Hawaii who lived from 1842 to 1896. Nāwahī founded the anti-annexation political party Hui Aloha ‘Aina and died a political prisoner deemed treasonous by the American- controlled Republic of Hawaii.

 

NOVA
Escape from Nazi Alcatraz

 

Colditz Castle, a notorious prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany, was supposed to be escape-proof. But in World War II, a group of British officers dreamt up an escape plan: in a secret attic workshop, they constructed a two-man glider out of bed sheets and floorboards. The plan was to fly to freedom from the roof of the castle, but the war ended before they could put it to the test. Now a team of aero engineers and carpenters rebuilds the glider in the same attic using the same materials and use a bathtub full of concrete to catapult the glider off the roof to find out if the legendary glider plan would have succeeded.

 

FRONTLINE
Out of Gitmo

 

Produced in collaboration with NPR, FRONTLINE presents the dramatic story of a Gitmo detainee released from the controversial U.S. prison after 14 years, and the struggle over freeing prisoners once deemed international terrorists. Also in this hour, FRONTLINE works with Retro Report to explore the untold history of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Courage in Captivity: Three POWs’ Stories

 

Revisit stories from Bill Paty, Frank Padgett and Jerry Coffee and their harrowing experiences as prisoners of war.

 

Bill Paty, who served as Director of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, landed in German hands in Normandy, right before the D-Day Invasion.

 

On the other side of the world, retired Associate Justice Judge Frank Padgett parachuted into enemy territory during World War II and was held prisoner for eight months by the Japanese military.

 

Navy Captain Jerry Coffee spent seven years in captivity in North Vietnam.

 

These three stories of fortitude and faith are a testament to the strength of the human spirit and dedication to one’s country, even in the darkest of times.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 6 at 4:00 pm.

 

Courage in Captivity: Three POWs’ Stories Audio

 

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Transcript

 

I became a POW, and that was a very humbling, frustrating experience for me. One of the worst things that could have happened, that I was taken out of combat while the great men I’d been training with all this time, and they’d go on into combat without me. And I never got over that for many, many years.

 

You didn’t want to be in a Japanese military prison. So, you know, you lose weight very quickly when you’ve got maybe dysentery, and malaria, and beriberi. Beriberi … the water accumulates in your lower extremities; they swell up. You can take your thumb and put it in, and see a puka. You know. You can’t walk very far. But then again, I wasn’t doing any walking. I couldn’t walk at all; I was in the damn cell.

 

My prayers changed from, Why me, to Show me. I quit saying, Why me, God, and I started saying, Show me, God. How can I use this positively? Help me to use it to go home as a better, stronger, smarter man in every possible way that I can. To go home as a better naval officer, go home as a better American, a better citizen, a better Navy pilot, a better Christian. Every possible way, God, help me to use this time productively so that it won’t be some kind of a void or vacuum in my life. And after that change in my prayers, every single day took a new meaning.

 

Former State Land Director William Paty, retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Padgett, and retired U.S. Navy Captain Jerry Coffee all survived ordeals as prisoners of war. On this compilation edition of Long Story Short, we look back at these previous Long Story Short guests and see how they never really stopped believing that they would come home alive. Courage in Captivity, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. While prisoners of war may be valuable commodities to their captors, that does not mean they’ll be well treated or survive. Sir Winston Churchill observed that courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others. This can mostly certainly be said about three Long Story Short guests. We begin with William Woods Paty, Jr., better known as Bill. In 1945, he left college to join the Army and become a paratrooper. He soon found himself on the ground in Normandy, France on D-Day, fighting in one of the most famous battles of World War II.

 

We dropped six miles further inland than we were supposed to. And then, on top of that, we dropped right on top of a German parachute regiment that had been training right in that area. Yeah; it wasn’t a comfortable landing. Yeah.

 

What happened when you landed?

 

Well … I ran into a French milkmaid early on. And some of you heard that story. D-Day morning, all this firing is going on, we’ve had skirmishes all night long from midnight. And you could hear the big shells from the Navy cruisers offshore coming in. The Spitfires and all were all over the place. She’s milking a cow in the middle of the hedgerow. And I walk over. I told my sergeant. . . We didn’t know exactly where they were, where the Germans were, and I go to give them my best Punahou French. Which is supposed to mean, Where are the Germans around here? She doesn’t say anything; she milks the cow. But she moved her head like this, and I look, and there’s a German patrol coming down the road just above us. So, I jump up, and jump back over the hedgerow. But I think I told my sergeant that I’m gonna get us a date tonight. I said, Captain, you didn’t do too good, did you?

 

Have a date with a German regiment.

 

Yeah. And I became a POW, and that was a very humbling, frustrating experience for me. One of the worst things that could have happened, that I was taken out of combat while the great men I’d been training with all this time, and they’d go on into combat without me. I never got over that for many, many years.

 

What were conditions like for you as a POW?

 

Nothing’s good about being a POW. The Germans, in terms of handling their officers, POWs, were more lenient than they were with the enlisted. By and large, if they went hungry, we went hungry. But it could have been worse. I think the worst part was being transported in forty box cars. Forty box cars, all jammed in together. And then, they shipped us up across France and into Germany. And every time we were at a marshland yard, they changed engines. And then the Spitfires or the B47s would come down, and the sirens would go off, and there you are locked in this boxcar. That got to be a little wearing.

 

Did you worry that they’d kill you, as a POW? Or torture you?

 

No, we didn’t get any treatment like that. But if you tried to get away, they don’t get very happy about that.

 

You tried to get away.

 

Yeah.

 

What’d you try?

 

Well, first of all, coming down, actually, I was wounded. They put me in an ambulance, and the Spitfires came down and shot up the buses we were in, the wounded. And so, the Germans would jump out and get in a ditch. If you tried to get out of the bus, you’d get shot. If you stayed there, you’d get strafed. So, in the process, the bus caught fire, and I scrambled out somehow. I was ambulatory, and got away, and got to a French farmer. And they took me up and they put me way up in their little attic they had up there. But they were gonna get the French Resistance guys to come in and help take me out. But as it turned out, the German artillery unit came in there and set it up as a command post, and they searched the place, and there I was. So that wasn’t too bad; they put me back into the bus.

 

They didn’t discipline you?

 

No. No, not then. They were too busy doing that. After that, the second time was kind of a bad one.

 

What happened the second time you tried to get away?

 

Well, the second time I got out was on a discharge from the German hospital. And they had a compound there, and they had the barbed wire around the walls.

 

And what had you been treated for?

 

I had a Smizer bullet in my groin. It’s still there, by the way. And they never took it out. But be that as it may, we wanted to try to see if we could get out. And I guess there were several dozen, fifty or sixty were in the compound that had been pulled together. We had an idea that four of us would get out and make a break for it. And well, when the time came, there were only two of us, an Englishman and myself. So, we went out with blankets at night, and they had the watchtower, but the lights didn’t go on all the time. We threw the blankets over, climbed over the barbed wire, got down the and over the next one. And it gets kinda touchy there, because you’re not sure if the lights are gonna come on, they’re gonna use the machine guns. So we got over, and it was getting close to dawn by then.

 

Were you cut up by the barbed wire?

 

We had gloves we had gotten, and we also had blankets, so they were not too bad. So we hightailed it off across the field. And I guess after we’d gone a few miles, we decided we’d better try to hole up. And so, we holed up in a cowshed, and again, a French lady came by, and we gave her our best, charming Punahou French again. She said, No, wait, wait, wait. She comes back with four Germans and two police dogs.

 

So far, that Punahou French …

 

Didn’t work out too well. But we got solitary time for that, you know.

 

But solitary was the worst of it?

 

Solitary—no, they didn’t try. The Geneva Convention was observed quite well by them. But we got bread and water, and no lights. Gives you a lesson. Yeah.

 

Bill Paty didn’t give up trying to escape, and on his third try, he succeeded and made his way safely back home. On the other side of the world, Frank Padgett, a U.S. Air Force pilot, was captured and held prisoner for eight months by the Japanese military police. After losing an engine to enemy fire, he and his crew had to bail out. He was twenty-one years old.

 

When we bailed out, we weren’t sure where we were, because the navigator, when we were on the deck, he hadn’t take times and stuff because the engine was wind-milling, that propeller, he couldn’t use his instruments. So, we didn’t know where we were. Turned out, we were northwest of Hanoi.

 

So, did you fall into friendly hands at first, or not?

 

No. Well, yes and no. I was trying to walk out to China. You know, I didn’t know what the hell to do. We didn’t know that the French were alerted. The French had a thing that when they found an American plane was down, they’d go and walk up and down the roads whistling Tipperary. Nobody ever told us that.

 

That was a sign that there was a friendly person.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Come show yourself.

 

Okay; okay.

 

Did you hear Tipperary, and not respond?

 

No. No; no, I didn’t. About the second day, I was walking on a pathway between rice, and I looked, and there were all these Vietnamese following me. So, I stopped, and I spoke enough French, and they spoke enough, so that they asked me if I was hungry, and I went back to their village and they fed me. And the Japanese arrived, and I tried to run out of the village. I got outside, but it was surrounded. Fortunately, I’d laid down my pistol while I was resting, and I didn’t have it, so I didn’t try to shoot it. That’s why I lived.

 

You can laugh about it now. You not only got captured by the Japanese, but you were put in the control of the Nazi gestapo equivalent of the Japanese forces.

 

Yeah. That’s the Kempeitai. The Kempeitai was a combination of military police and gestapo, which is kind of a bad combination. Fortunately, the jail in Chalon was really military police, and the jail downtown was regular Kempeitai. That’s where you’ll see the name Nix and the other name in July of ’45. And in the French prison camp, B-24s from the 7th Air Force raided Saigon. A plane got hit; you could see it. You know, you’re out in a trench watching your American plane go over, and listening to the bombs whistle. You know, they whistle when they come down. Anyway, these two guys bailed out, and the Kempeitai got them, and they cut their heads off.

 

And I’m being treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. They beat you, and you’re back in the cell. And you know they’re coming back, and they’re gonna do it again. And it really bothers you, you know. And then, they take you out, and they take you back, and the first time they hit you … that’s it. They’ve done it, and you know they’re gonna hit you some more. That’s it; that’s it. There’s nothing you can do about it.

 

I was really intrigued by this quote in your book, with your son. It’s from an unknown person. But it says: To a prisoner of war, the enemy is everywhere; he controls your fate, your future, even your bodily functions. You’re at war at every second. You’re never given leave, and you can never leave the combat zone. Is that what it felt like?

 

Well, in a Kempeitai jail, yes.

 

You’re always on alert.

 

Well … yeah. It was a little different. They were starving us to death; okay? We wore a breech cloth, we had a blanket. The tatami pillow on it, had a six-by-eight cell, the lights were always on. They came and stared through the thing. But, you know, human beings are human beings. One of the guards was from a dairy farm in Japan, and the only thing he was interested in was getting back to Japan. So, they would come and talk to you, and they weren’t supposed to in that jail. They were not supposed to, but they did anyway.

 

So, that was a nice bit of humanity you could share. I notice when you talk about being a prisoner of war, as awful as it was, you laugh. Did you have that sense of humor when you were there?

 

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Kind of a dark humor?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

But I think that might be resilience, too.

 

Well, probably. But, you know, what are you gonna do? You can’t do anything about the circumstances, so you know, try to see if you can find anything good, okay; you know. There wasn’t in that jail. The best thing that happened was, every two or three days, you got to carry the chamber pot out and dump it in the sewer.

 

That was your excursion; right?

 

Yeah.

 

Now, you had become a Catholic when you were thirteen or fourteen. Did that faith kick in, or was that helpful to you at this time?

 

I said the Hail Mary; I said the Rosary on my knuckles every day, and I prayed that I’d get released. God apparently moves at His own speed; it took a while.

 

Frank Padgett was released from prison and sent back home when the war ended. He later served as a justice in Hawaii’s highest court. Just over twenty years later, the United States was involved in another overseas war, this time in Vietnam. Navy Captain Gerald Coffee, better known as Jerry Coffee, also was a pilot. He spent seven years and nine days in a North Vietnamese prison after his plane was shot down.

 

I had to eject at a very, very high speed, and the airplane was totally out of control, rolling rapidly. So, when I pulled the face curtain, it was about six hundred and eighty miles per hour. And you can kind of imagine the impact hitting the airstream at six-eighty. I say, you know, it was like going down H-1 in your convertible with the top down and standing up in the front seat. At six hundred miles an hour. And I was knocked unconscious immediately, but regained consciousness floating in the water. And already, some small Vietnamese boats and militia men, and army guys were there, and I was captured immediately. Right after I was captured, some airplanes from the Kitty Hawk, the carrier that I was operating from, showed up and they see the boats there, and they see my life preserver and the dye marker out here, and they think the boats are still on the way out to pick me up. And so, they figured, well, if they strafed the boats, they won’t be able to get me. But they didn’t know I was already in the boat. So, these two A-1 aircrafts strafed the boats that we were in, and I’m watching the bullets whack at the side of the boat. The Vietnamese stood up in the boats and returned their fire with their own weapons. And we got to the beach finally, and jumped out and ran across the wide sandy beach and dove behind a rice paddy dike to take cover just about the same time that an A-4 Skyhawk from the Kitty Hawk rolled in and fired a pack of rockets, which blew all those beach boats to splinters. That was my introduction to North Vietnam. Sometime in that battle, my crewman was killed. He was my navigator, and I never saw him again, and kept asking all through the prison experience, you know, about him. Have you seen him? Have you seen my crewman? And nobody ever had. And his remains were returned here through Hickam in the late 80s, as a matter of fact. And I found myself a prisoner of war, a POW. And it takes a while to, we used to say, get to know the ropes. But the ropes were how they tortured us.

 

Yeah. You know, I think people are very interested in the torture part, ‘cause we all think, Could we have withstood that? What would that be like? I mean, just the mental agony of never knowing when it was gonna happen, or what it was gonna entail. And early on, there’s this really vivid scene that you describe in your book, where you were with your broken arm and, I think, a shattered elbow, you were tied up with your arms in back.

 

That’s right; to a tree. Yeah.

 

And to a tree, and essentially, you became a game of tetherball to some Vietnamese on the ground.

 

Yes; exactly. The tree was on a hill, and the guards kept pushing me downhill, and all the weight was on my arms. I was tied to an upper branch of the tree. And I was so naïve. I mean, I was a professional naval officer, military officer, and I didn’t even realize, it didn’t really register to me that I was being brutally tortured at the time. It wasn’t until I had a chance to kinda catch my breath, and laying on a stack of hay in this stable, which was in this little village in Central North Vietnam, and I just realized, Oh, god, I’ve just been tortured.

 

Well, you mentioned that at one point, your broken arm was sort of encased in inflammation, swelling which acted like a sort of cast.

 

It was.

 

It was an untreated broken arm.

 

It was an untreated broken arm. And my hand swelled up, and I couldn’t get the red hot ring I was wearing on my finger off. So, they put me in interrogation one night, and sliced my finger open, and pulled the ring off, squeezed the blood in the lymph out. And then the next night, they took me to a military hospital and set my arm, and all the swelling went down. And they could have just taken the ring off. And they did a reasonably good job on my arm. That’s about as good as they did for their own people. But they wanted to keep us in presentable shape, at least, to be propaganda vehicles.

 

You had to be so strong, though. I mean, you were in this tiny little cell. It was just filthy, and unsanitary, and you never knew when you were gonna get called into the next session.

 

Exactly. And as you described that cell, everything that happened to you got infected because of the environment in which we were living.

 

An infection could have killed you.

 

Yeah; it could have, and did kill some men.

 

The toilet was a bucket without a cover.

 

A bucket right there; yeah.

 

In this very small space.

 

Right; right.

 

And you exercised in that tiny little space.

 

Right.

 

How many miles a day did you walk, at three steps at a time.

 

Three miles day, three steps at a time. One of the first things you do when you’re moved into a cell—and the cells did vary sometimes in size. But you’d walk it off and see how many laps it had to be for a mile. And you’d go get your exercise, and you’d do pushups on on those concrete bunks, and stay in as good a shape as possible. ‘Cause you never knew what the next day was gonna require. In some cases, guys were forced to march northward towards the Chinese border to a new prison. They weren’t hauled up there by trucks; they had to march. And images of the March of Corregidor in World War II in the Philippines comes to mind, where if you fell behind, you got killed. And so, we’d try to stay in as good a physical shape as possible.

 

What are some of the attributes that you think made each of those who survived, and later did well in life; what were of the common attributes that you all shared?

 

I think optimism. And it costs no more to be an optimist than it does a pessimist, and it’s a lot happier way to live your life, I think. But those who were the most optimistic and could translate that optimism to faith, or through faith, I think that they were the ones that were able to make the most of the experience, and learn the most, and be able to make the biggest contribution because of the experience after we returned. I think that guys who were mechanically-minded also, that could be inventive, and guys can do some of the most remarkable things, not the least of which was learning how to put our sandals, to balance them on the edge of the top of the bucket, to sit down on the sandals instead of the edge of the bucket and made a toilet seat. How come I didn’t figure this out earlier? You know.

 

Veritable luxury.

 

Oh, what a breakthrough. You know. And also because most of us were aviators. I have to say this; there’s something about military aviation that is kind of a winnowing process. And we were all college graduates, because you had to graduate from college to get your wings, whether it be Air Force or Navy. So, we were all better educated and had an appreciation for the things that you could learn by yourself, by just going inward and thinking about yourself, and thinking about the world, and thinking about what the future might hold.

 

You couldn’t be afraid to face yourself, and a lot of people have trouble with that.

 

Exactly; exactly.

 

Jerry Coffee wasn’t released from prison until the end of the war in 1973. He stayed in the Navy until he retired a dozen years later. He became a national commentator on political and military issues, a motivational speaker, and a columnist. Despite lingering health problems for their captivity, Bill Paty, Frank Padgett, and Jerry Coffee went on to have full lives. Mahalo to these men for their heroic service to our country, and for the inspiration and life lessons we gain from your courage in captivity. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

They call our name, you walk across in front of this guy, and he said, You know, you do not need to accept repatriation, you may stay in our country if you like. What? Get out of here, you know. Walk away and salute Colonel Abel, and shake his hand, and then this big Air Force major put his arm around my shoulder and said, Come on, Commander, I’ll take you out to the airplane. And we walk up. And we’re going up the ramp of the C-141, and at the top of the ramp there’s four, I’m sure, hand-selected gorgeous Air Force nurses. Go up there and hug them, and you know, they smelled so good. Got magazines and newspapers, and hot coffee, and donuts, and so on. And we’re all chattering away there, and finally we get the last guys aboard. And the pilot comes up on the intercom and he says, Come on, guys, let’s strap in; we’re ready to go. And it got quiet. And we’re all thinking, Wow, is this gonna be it? So, we strap in, and he cranks up those engines on the airplane. Cr-r-r. We’re taxiing out toward the runway. He gets on the and revs up the engines to full throttle, and pulling the brakes back, and he finally releases the brakes, and we’re rolling down this kind of rough runway. And we’re all straining against our straps saying, Come on, you beast, get airborne. Get airborne; come on, let’s go. And then they pick up speed and the nose comes up, and then we hear that hydraulic whine of the wheels going up into the wheel wells and clunk up in there. And we’re climbing on out, and the pilot comes up and says, Congratulations, gentlemen, we’re just leaving North Vietnam. And then, we believed it. And then, we cheered.

 

[END]

 



POV
The Return

 

In 2012, California amended its “Three Strikes” law, shortening the sentences of thousands of “lifers.” See this unprecedented reform through the eyes of freed prisoners, disrupted families and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law.

 

SECRETS OF THE DEAD
The Alcatraz Escape

 

The three convicts who escaped Alcatraz in rafts in 1962 were swept out to sea, never to be heard from again. Now, a team of scientists believes the escapees could have made it to dry land – but only if they left at a specific time.

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
How Should Hawai‘i House Its Prisoners?

 

Hawai‘i reportedly placed 41% of its inmates in Arizona prisons last year. Now the State says it’s getting ready to send away 250 more prisoners while it replaces push-button technology in its electronic locking system at the Halawa Correctional Facility. With this development and with the prison system considering relocating and re-envisioning the Oahu Community Correctional Center, INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I asks, How Should Hawai‘i House Its Prisoners? Daryl Huff hosts this discussion.

 

FRONTLINE
Memory of the Camps

 

A landmark historical film discovered by FRONTLINE in a museum vault decades ago has been called “Hitchcock’s lost Holocaust film.” First broadcast by FRONTLINE in 1985, the documentary shows the first horrifying footage shot as Allied troops entered the Nazi death camps. Drawing on initial editing done by famed director Alfred Hitchcock before the film was shelved 70 years ago, FRONTLINE reconstituted the forgotten reels and script and showed them in public for the first time 30 years ago.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Frank Padgett

 

Frank Padgett’s B-24 bomber was shot down over Indochina in World War II. Held prisoner by the Japanese, he was subjected to torture by one of the more abusive arms of the Japanese forces. Padgett survived the torture, disease and what was then known as “shell shock,” eventually became a lawyer in Hawaii, and was later appointed to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

 

Frank Padgett Audio

 

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Transcript

 

Of all places, you decide to go where there’s a heavy concentration of Asians.

 

Yeah.

 

After being a prisoner of war in Japan.

 

Yeah.

 

No bitterness about—

 

No; no.

–Japanese nationals?

 

No; no.

 

How did that leave you? Or did it never form?

 

It never formed. Well, because … I got bad treatment and good treatment. Okay? And so, I recognized, you know, that’s not endemic, it’s the damn system—

 

I see.

 

–that made them that way.

 

Retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Padgett was a twenty- one-year-old pilot when he was forced to ditch his plane and parachute into enemy territory during World War II. Despite spending the next nine months in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he says he never let the experience embitter him. Frank Padgett, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Born in 1923, Frank David Padgett is a member of what has come to be known as The Greatest Generation, living through the Great Depression and serving in World War II. He grew up in a small town in Indiana, where a challenge in high school started him on a remarkable life journey.

 

My father was an alcoholic. He and my grandfather sometimes practiced law together. My mother was their secretary.

 

And your parents didn’t get along, and sometimes—

 

A lot of times, they didn’t.

 

–you’d leave the house, or your mother would leave the house.

 

That’s right.

 

What was that like for you as a kid, living in this very tempestuous household, and moving around a bit when things weren’t going well?

 

You know, a kid really doesn’t take that much account of those things. I loved my father; I was unhappy when they were separated or we were separated from him. And that’s part of the reason I guess they got back together. And near as I can tell, I pretty well took all of that in stride. I was an only child.

 

You always felt loved, even though there was anger and hostility around.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah; right. My mother was my father’s second wife, and they understood … that they were excommunicated. And so, we never went to church. When I was about thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, I don’t know, I had a paper route. I started when I was eleven. And there was a woman on that route said to me, Frank, you come from an old Catholic family, and you really ought to go to church. And the rectory was about two blocks off my route, and I thought about it and finally, I went over and knocked on the door. And the priest came; it was Monsignor Becker. I didn’t know him, but small town, he knew me. And he said, What is it, Frank? And I said, Well, I think I ought to become a Catholic, Father. And he said, Well, it’s about time. [CHUCKLE] So, they gave me instructions, I took my first communion, and I became a practicing Catholic.

 

He threw down the gauntlet.

 

Yeah.

 

And when you got to Harvard, very different culture.

 

Yeah. I know, but [CHUCKLE] I was so busy trying to learn. You know, you accept things. I really didn’t have the background to be in Harvard, and I had to work like a dog, you know. [CHUCKLE]

 

You became a swimmer, a champion swimmer.

 

That surprised me, too. When I went to Harvard, before I went, my mother had a girlfriend who had a boyfriend who had gone to Dartmouth. And after I got the scholarship to Harvard, he came over and he said to me, Well, you’re gonna get there and you won’t know anybody, and you’ve got to find an activity you can get into; that’s the way you’ll make some friends. So, I went. I saw a notice that they were trying out people for the swimming team, the freshman swimming team, and I went down there. And they said, What do you swim? And I said, Well, I don’t know; what do you got the least of? And they said, Breaststroke. And I said, Okay, I’m a breaststroker. Well, I was the last kid above the cut.

 

And you had to support yourself, too; right?

 

I had a day on Tuesday as a freshman. I got to the dining hall, I think, at six-thirty and got off about eight-thirty, had a class at nine and a class at ten. Back to the dining hall at eleven-something, got off about one-thirty. On Tuesdays, had a geology field trip, and got back at five-thirty, in time to go to serve dinner. [CHUCKLE]

 

And then, you’d do your homework after that work shift.

 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

You must have been exhausted.

 

Well … yeah, I was. It was hard.

 

The United States had entered World War II while Frank Padgett was at Harvard University, and in February of 1943, he received orders to report for active duty. Padgett was nineteen years old, and still had one year to go of college.

 

The services came and cleared out the Ivy League schools pretty much, because they were gonna need officers, and so you want to get people who had got education. So, the Air Force got me.

 

Were you fired up with war spirit and wanted to protect the United States?

 

No; I wanted to get through college. I figured the war was gonna last forever, and I wanted to get through college before, you know. I finally got to be the number-one breaststroker on the swimming team. I was in four meets, and the Air Force called me up. They were short of pilots. So, I became a pilot. Got my wings at twenty-one. I was still twenty-one when we went down and I was captured.

 

What happened with you as you were on an Indochina bombing mission, and you had to bail out of your plane?

 

We were a low altitude radar bombardment plane. On the way down, we tested the bomb release thing. The bombardier had a light that showed, and I had a light on it. My light didn’t show. I didn’t abort the mission; we went ahead. We got down there, and we picked them up on the radar, and we had a great big target. And the bombardier said, Well, that looks like two ships alongside each other; I’ll drop the bombs in between and we’ll get ‘em both. The bombs didn’t go away. And the ack-ack from the ships knocked out my inboard right engine. We tried to climb back to eleven-five, which was the level we had to get to, to get back to our base in China. We got up there, and we had headwinds, and that damn propeller turned and burned, and the sparks flew. I thought that it was gonna blow up; I thought the propeller was gonna fall off. Nothing. Just kept going, and going, going. I was trying to get in touch with the base in China; I never could raise anybody. And finally, the engineer came up and said, Well, we’ve got about fifteen minutes worth of gas. And we’re at eleven thousand feet. Gas gauges were not very reliable; it could be any time. So, if you’re gonna bail out, you’d get out now, and we got out. The crew scattered up; seven got out with the underground, and four got captured. And I was one of those who got captured.

 

You fell in, I think, a dry rice paddy.

 

Yeah.

 

That’s where you landed with your parachute?

 

Yeah. Yeah; we were northwest of Hanoi.

 

So, did you fall into friendly hands at first, or not?

 

No. Well, yes and no. I was trying to walk out to China. You know, I didn’t know what the hell to do. About the second day, I was walking on a pathway between rice, and I looked, and there were all these … Vietnamese following me. So, I stopped, and I spoke enough French, and they spoke enough so that they asked me if I was hungry, and I went back to their village. They fed me, and … the Japanese arrived, and I tried to run out of the village. I got outside, but it was surrounded. Fortunately, I’d laid down my pistol while I was resting, and I didn’t have it, so I didn’t try to shoot it. That’s why I lived. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] You can laugh about it now. You not only got captured by the Japanese, but you were put in the control of the Nazi gestapo equivalent of the Japanese forces.

 

Yeah. That’s the Kempeitai. The Kempeitai was a combination of military police and gestapo, which is kind of a bad combination.

 

In your book, as it was described, the kind of torture you went through, you know, a broken nose, really serious cigarette burns. I was thinking, you know, what’s going on in your mind? And you were trying not to give any information up.

 

No; I I wasn’t trying. I couldn’t remember the name. That was a whole interrogation.

 

What’s the name of your commanding officer?

 

Yeah.

 

And you didn’t remember?

 

Couldn’t remember the group commanding officer. I knew the name of the squadron commanding—they never asked me that. They wanted the group commanding officer. The thing is, and it sounds like bravado to say it, but they beat you when you’re back in the cell. And you know they’re coming back, and they’re gonna do it again. And it really bothers you, you know. And then, they take you out, and they take you back, and the first time they hit you … that’s it. You know, they’ve done it, and you know they’re gonna hit you some more. That’s it; that’s it. There’s … nothing you can do about it.

 

I was wondering if they find out you don’t have anything to share, does that mean you get killed? Or if they think you’re withholding, do they torture you more? I mean, what’s in your mind as it happens?

 

Well, the demand was that I tell them the name of the group commander. And after three days, they took me out, and they take me over and … they take me in before this guy who’s a big shot. I don’t know what; he’s got a leather jacket on, and he’s sitting in back of a desk. He says … Sit down. I sat down. He said, Would you like some tea? And I said, Oh, yes, I would. And they brought in the tea. And then, he said, Went to Harvard? You understand, the Army tells you, you give them only your name, rank, and serial number. That isn’t so. Nobody does that. Okay? So, you know, during the course of their questioning me, I told him I’d gone—he said, You went to Harvard? I said, Yeah. He said, Well, I’m a graduate of Columbia, myself; I went to Harvard summer school in 1921. What’s this nonsense you won’t tell them the name of the group commander? I said, I can’t remember it. He told me, Well, then there’s no problem. Because he had table of [INDISTINCT]. [CHUCKLE]

 

They already knew, really, the information they were—

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

–trying to torture out of you.

 

Yeah, and that, I’m sure happens about ninety percent of the time when they’re questioning people. They already have the information.

 

You were being starved, you were subjected to terrible diseases, and you did develop three major diseases.

 

You were being starved, you were subjected to terrible diseases, and you did develop three major diseases.

 

Yeah, yeah. You didn’t want to be in a Japanese military prison. So, you know, you lose weight very quickly. And when you’ve got maybe dysentery, and malaria, and beriberi, you can’t walk very far. But then again, I wasn’t doing any walking. I couldn’t walk at all; I was in the damn cell.

 

I was really intrigued by this quote in your book, with your son. It’s from an unknown person. But it says, To a prisoner of war, the enemy is everywhere; he controls your fate, your future, even your bodily functions. You’re at war at every second. You’re never given leave, and you can never leave the combat zone. Is that what it felt like?

 

Well, in a Kempeitai jail, yes.

 

They were starving us to death; okay? We wore a breech cloth, we had a blanket, the tatami with pillow on it, had a six-by-eight cell, the lights were always on. They came and stared through the thing. But, you know, human beings are human beings. One of the guards [CHUCKLE] was from a dairy farm in Japan, and the only thing he was interested in was getting back to Japan. So, they would come and talk to you, and they weren’t supposed to in our in that jail. They were not supposed to, but they did anyway.

 

So, that was a nice bit of humanity you could share. Now, you had become a Catholic when you were thirteen or fourteen. Did that faith kick in, or was that helpful to you at this time?

 

I said the Hail Mary, I said the Rosary on my knuckles every day, and I prayed that I get released. God apparently moves at His own speed; it took a while. [CHUCKLE]

 

And yet, the American officials had essentially prepared your family to give you up for dead, because—

 

Yeah; that’s right. That’s right.

 

It certainly seemed like you were nowhere, alive.

 

General Chennault wrote a letter to my mother, which in basic effect said, Forget it. You know.

 

Yeah, saying, He will be remembered as wonderful man.

 

Yeah.

 

But basically, you’ll be remembered.

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

I notice when you talk about being a prisoner of war, as awful as it was, you laugh. Did you have that sense of humor when you were there?

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

Kind of a dark humor?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

I think that might be resilience, too.

 

Well, probably. But, you know, what are you gonna do? You can’t do anything about the circumstances, so … you know, try to see if you can find anything good … okay; you know. There wasn’t in the jail. The best thing that happened was, every two or three days, you got to carry the chamber pot out and dump it in the sewer. [CHUCKLE]

 

That was your excursion; right?

 

Yeah.

 

Frank Padgett was released from prison when the war ended. He spent several months recovering in a North Carolina hospital, where he met Sybil Pharr, a second lieutenant from Georgia who was a nurse on his ward, and who he married. After fully recuperating, he returned to Harvard and was admitted into its law school without having to finish his undergraduate degree. During his last year of studies, a professor made a recommendation to Padgett that he did not hesitate to pursue, even though it would mean moving thousands of miles away.

 

There was a professor of trust at Harvard, Barton Leach. Very famous trust professor. And he had been a colonel in the Air Force and been out here during World War II. So, I’m in my next to last or final semester, and he said, Frank, have you gotten a job yet? And I said, No. And he said, Well, you really like trust, don’t you? And I said, Yeah. He said, Well, you know, they got more trusts in Hawaii than anyplace else in the world. And he said, I can give you the names of three law firms, and you write them and see. And one responded, and Garner Anthony came up and interviewed us, and I got the job.

 

And no sooner do you get to Hawaii and pass the bar, but you are holding a banner for a Japanese group here.

 

Yeah. Well, they had this case, Garner Anthony had it, and the government had filed a bunch of interrogatories and a motion for a summary judgment. And he gave it to me, and he said, you know, Take a look at this. And I looked at it, and I said, You know, I don’t think those government attorneys know what they’re doing. So, I filed a bunch of counter interrogatories, and I carefully answered the government’s interrogatories. They didn’t answer the interrogatories I sent them. The rule at that time said ten days, or you’d admitted it. So, when we got in front of Frank McLaughlin, who was the judge, I brought that up. And he kept them on tenterhooks the whole day, and then he released; he finally said, Okay, we’ll proceed to trial, and we eventually tried the case. But that day, sitting in the courtroom was Lujo [PHONETIC], the old-time female court reporter. I think it was for the Star Bulletin. So, she heard all of this, and she was fascinated by the fact that, you know, I’m an ex-Japanese prisoner of war, and here I am with a bunch of Japanese clients. And she wrote an article on it, and the Associated Press picked it up. Yeah.

 

But your own law firm really didn’t think you’d win it.

 

No; no, they didn’t. But then, I had to go study Shintoism. I got books from the University of Hawaii Library. And I found out, you know, the government’s case, there was nothing to it. Kotohira Jinsha was put together by immigrants from three small fishing villages in Japan, and they had their own gods. The government couldn’t come within a million miles of proving Japanese domination. So, we got the temple back.

 

That was quite the entry into Hawaii and a new career.

 

Yes; yes, it was. It helped me with the local people a good deal. [CHUCKLE]

 

You came to Hawaii in ’48?

 

Yes.

 

And what was it like? What was your first impression? You’d never been here before, you took a job sight unseen.

 

Yeah. There was very little interracial social mixing in Hawaii at the start. You know. The community was very small, the people you knew. You know. [CHUCKLE] You know, we’d go to parties, and everybody had gone to Punahou.

 

So, how did you fit into that scene?

 

Well, we went to the parties, and we liked the people, but you know, you couldn’t very well reminisce with somebody. You weren’t here. [CHUCKLE] I’d get up in the morning and walk Downtown. And that was Hawaii in those days; you get out and start walking Downtown, and somebody’d come along and say, Hey, you want a ride? You know. [CHUCKLE] And one of ‘em turned out to be Kinau Wilder. I had no idea who she was, but you know.

 

And she doesn’t have any idea who you are?

 

That’s right.

 

She just said, Hey, you want a ride?

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

Oh …

 

And so, you know, it seemed like a very pleasant place.

 

And you were here to see the Democratic Revolution of 1954. The Republicans and government gave way to a Democratic majority.

 

Yeah. I think at the beginning, there were maybe five Haole Democrats in Hawaii. [CHUCKLE] I’m serious about that.

 

Really?

 

[CHUCKLE] You know.

 

So, were you sort of the maverick in your group politically?

 

Yes.

 

And did they hold that against you?

 

No.

 

Why not?

 

I have no idea.

 

Frank Padgett practiced law for thirty-two years before being appointed to the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals in 1980. His next appointment came two years later, when he was appointed to the Hawaii Supreme Court as an Associate Justice. He served on Hawaii’s highest court for ten years, until he retired.

 

When you were in practice in Honolulu, you were sometimes described as abrasive. What about when you were a judge, and you were maintaining order in your court?

 

Well, apparently, there were those who didn’t like me very much in that capacity, because … I was … impatient … with lawyers. They had all these pending cases, and somebody had to go through the briefs and make a preliminary judgment about them. And I found out that lawyers were getting extension, and extensions, and this one lawyer was particularly bad about it, and I gave him a big fine. And you got some criticism for running a newspaper story about it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE]

 

Five thousand dollars; and did it ever happen again?

 

No; I never hit anybody that hard again. Remarkably, the requests for extensions of time dropped off. [CHUCKLE]

 

What do you think was really the epitome of your career? Was it being a corporate lawyer, or was it being a judge?

 

I think being a judge.

 

Because?

 

Well, when you’re a lawyer, you’re on one side fighting like hell. When you’re a judge, you’re supposed to be able to take a look at it and reach a rational decision. You know, there’s a difference in what you do.

 

You don’t choose sides when you’re an attorney, do you? When you’re a judge, you can be …

 

Yeah.

 

You represent the people.

 

Yeah; yeah. That’s right. My favorite, of course, was the Kapiolani Park case.

 

What was that about?

 

Well, Frank Fasi wanted to lease a portion of Kapiolani Park to Burger King. And the Waikiki Residents Association was against it, and they brought a lawsuit to stop it, and the lower court allowed it. And it came to the Supreme Court. Kapiolani Park was a trust. Okay?

 

And that trust had in it a clause which said that there will be no commercial activity. Okay? That was set up way back when, in the days of the Kingdom. And, you know, everybody was saying, Well, you gotta overlook that, you gotta overlook. Well, what they forgot was, it wasn’t just that trust, but people had deeded property to Kapiolani Park to become part of the trust, with that as the agreement. Nowadays, of course, if you’re dealing with corporations, you know, you can do any damn thing you want to, and change it any time you want to. But you can’t do that with a trust.

 

So, thanks to you and the court, no Burger King in Kapiolani Park.

 

Yeah; yeah. Right.

 

You had a very long legal career. You went through periods of your life where things could have worked out really differently.

 

Looking back on it, two weeks from yesterday will be Sybil and my sixty-ninth wedding anniversary. If I hadn’t been sick and in the hospital, and she hadn’t been a nurse, we’d have never met. So, you know, in life … you play the hand you’re dealt. [CHUCKLE]

 

As part of America’s Greatest Generation, Frank Padgett was able to put the brutality of his prisoner of war experience aside to become a prominent attorney and highly respected justice in Hawaii. Mahalo to retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Padgett of Honolulu for your service to our country, and to Hawaii nei. For PBS Hawaii, and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Stort Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBShawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

You’d gotten a chance to know people.

 

Yeah.

 

And see all the commonalities.

 

Right; right.

 

So, Hawaii wasn’t the complex and forbidding place that other newcomers sometimes find it.

 

Yeah; that’s right. None of that bothered me. And, you know, in a law firm, when you’re the youngest guy, the new guy that just came in, and somebody comes, you know, you get the odds and ends, the little pieces of this and that. So, you know, one of the guys that they sent in to see me was a Filipino barber, and I was able to do some things for him, some of his legal problems. And you couldn’t have a better advertiser than a Filipino barber. [CHUCKLE]

 

[END]