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1945 - 2005

photos, by Mary Previte, née Taylor ...

May 2005 ...
WEIFANG DELEGATION visits Assemblywoman Mary Previte at the New Jersey State Capitol, May 2005, to discuss plans for the celebration of 60th anniversary of the liberation of Weihsien Concentration Camp. From left: Sui Shude, Director of Department of Translation and Interpretation, Weifang Foreign Affairs Office; Li Yue Jin, Deputy Director Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Weifang People’s Government; New Jersey Assemblywoman Mary T. Previte; Li Xiao Ming, Assistant to the Mayor of Weifang Municipal Government; Han Zi Fu, Shandong deputy to the National People's congress and Vice director of Weifang TV station.

COLLECTING MEMENTOS FOR THE WEIHSIEN EXHIBIT HALL: Deputy Director Li Yue Jin of Weifang Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and Assemblywoman Mary Previte examine photographs and mementos from Mary's collection. In visits across the United States and Canada in May, 2005, the Weifang delegation reproduced and collected hundreds of photographs and exhibits for the Weihsien Exhibit Hall and the memory book they presented to guests at the 60 anniversary celebration.

Approaching the opening ceremony, internees were welcomed by Grand March from Aida and with children waving red banners and tinseled pink and silver circles.

Former internee, James H. Taylor of Hong Kong, greets Mr. Zang, son of one of the Chinese workers who smuggled messages and news into Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center when he entered the camp to empty the cesspools.

[click here] ... GoTo: Zhang Xihong's speech ...

[click here] ... GoTo: Raymond deJaegher's story about the cesspools ... [(Ctrl-F)-cesspools]

--- Weihsien’s 60 anniversary reunion was a time for tears and a time for joy. Former internee Mary Previte from USA weeps on the shoulder of her brother, Dr. James H. Taylor of Hong Kong.

Survivors celebrate liberation

August 17, 2005

By Mary T. Previte

Push bombings and hurricanes and grief off the front page.

Today is the anniversary of our Liberation Day: August 17, 2005.

The day the American heroes came.

What does a child remember from almost three years of imprisonment in a Japanese concentration camp?

Yesterday, I remembered the gut-wrenching hunger, guard dogs, bayonet drills, prisoner numbers and badges, daily roll calls, bedbugs, flies, and unspeakable sanitation. Yesterday, I remembered the Japanese soldiers commandeering our school, marching us, shipping us, trucking us to internmemnt camp. Guards with unfettered power over 1,500 prisoners. Yesterday, I remembered my 5 1/2 years separated from my missionary parents, with warring armies keeping us apart.

But not on Liberation Day.

Today, a world away, we children (all senior citizens now) will stand in that place in China where we saw American liberators parachuting from the skies. We will gather in Weihsien, coming from the United States, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong. We will stand where winds buffeted the parachutists as they drifted down beyond the barbed wire and the barrier walls. We will tumble our memories of six gorgeous, sun-brionzed Americans. Bless them!

Someone will remember the ragamuffin crowd of scrawny prisoners stampeding through the gates -- stumbling past Japanese guards -- into the open firelds

Screaming, Dancing. Weeping. Hysterical with joy.

Teddy Pearson from Montreal will remember 21-year-old Peter Orlich, the team's radio operator, standing by a crumpled parachute in a field of corn stubble.

"I was the first to reach him," he will say. He will remember Orlich's brush-cut -- 1945 flattop -- and his glasses taped with pink "medical tape" around his temples. In 1945, the 10-year-old walked Orlich back to the camp, chattering with a hero.

My brother, Jamie, from Hong Kong -- imagine it! -- finding himself locked outside the camp. As the stampede dashed out to welcome the liberators, Jamie raced with his classmates through the wide-open gate, through he fields, running to explore the sleepy, farming town nearby. When they returned, after almost three years of being locked in, they found themselves locked out!

And, yes, someone will remember the Salvation Army Band playing a victory medley. The Salvation Army had guts. The band coupled hymns of the failth with the national anthems of America, China, England and Russia. "One of those will rescue us," members said. Every Tuesday night, right outside the Japanese commandant's office, they practiced the medley. And on Liberation Day, up on a mound by the gates, they blasted away, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" A teenager in the band crumpled to the ground and wept. We were free.

Someone will surely remember the Juicy Fruit gum the Americans gave us children. They chewed it, then passed the sticky wads from mouth to mouth.

I remember trailing these gorgeous librators around. My heart went flipflop over every one of them. I wanted to touch their skin, to sit on their laps. We begged for souvenirs, begged for their autographs, their insignia, their buttons, pieces of parachute. We cut off chunks of their hair. We begged them to sing the songs of America. They taught us "You are my sunshine." Sixty years later, I can sing it still.

Only three of our heroes are alive today -- all 85 years old. They are too frail to join us in China. Jim Moore in Dallas, we will remember you, honor you, thank you again today, and Jim Hannon in Yucca Valley, Calif., and Tad Nagaki in Alliance, Neb. Just like today, our heroes came from all across America.

O, yes, America has heroes. I know their names.


Assemblywoman Mary T. Previte writes from Haddonfield, New Jersey.

[click here] GoTo: Mary Previte's chapter ...

Children opened the 60th Anniversary Celebration with song and dance. Block 23-front, center-featured prominently throughout the celebration.

James Taylor and Mary Taylor Previte find their names engraved in marble on the monument wall.

Weihsieners Arrive ;
Mary Previte, Estella Cliff Horne, Peter Bazire, Marian Bevan Lauchlan, and Douglas Sadler - all from the Chefoo School - are welcomed to Weifang.

Media Blitz:
Former internee, Peter Bazire from U.K., is interviewed after opening ceremonies. An estimated 100 representatives TV, radio, and print media covered the 60th anniversary celebration

Honoring Eric Liddell
Mary T. Previte and James H. Taylor stand at the new Eric Liddell monument. The monument is located in a spacious park behind the hospital.
[click here] ... ... GoTo: Eric Liddell's chapter ...

Stephen Metcalf speaks:
Stephen Metcalf speaks at the Eric Liddell monument with a call for reconciliation. Liddell was a mentor to Metcalf in the camp and taught Metcalf not to hate the Japanese. Shortly before he died, Liddell gave Metcalf his running shoes. Metcalf later dedicated his life to service as a missionary to Japan. Metcalf’s book on reconciliation has sold out in Japan.
[click here] ... ... for Stephen Metcalf's speech ...

Lower School Dormitory (LSD):
Mary T. Previte visits her Lower School Dormitory that housed 13 young girls in the second floor of the hospital. From this room, on August 17, 1945, Mary saw American heroes parachuting from a low-flying B-24 bomber into gaoliang fields beyond the barrier wall. Mary says she saw no bedbugs or rats on this visit to her dormitory.

Weihsien church:
The church at Weishien’s Le Dao Yuan compound before Japanese forces turned it into an internment camp for Allied internees. Pulitzer prize-winning author, Pearl Buck, and American publishing magnate, Henry Luce, once lived on this Presbyterian missionary compound.

Block 23
Before World War II, Block 23 was a school building on the Presbyterian missionary compound called Le Dao Yuan, Courtyard of the Happy Way, in Weihsien.

Welcoming toast:
Former internee, Mary Previte, and Han Zi Fu offer toasts at the welcome banquet that launched the 60th anniversary celebration at Weifang. Mr. Han, a noted artist, was one of the co-ordiator of the event. He is Shangdong deputy to the National People’s Congress and Weifang vice director of the television station.

Monument to Heroes:
The front page of the Weifang Ribao, August 18, 2005, shows crowds swarming the monument to American liberators in the memorial park located near the hospital on the former concentration camp grounds. Names of 1, 500 former prisoners are engraved in marble at the base of this monument.

[click here] GoTo: Mary Previte's chapter for the full text of the Weifang Ribao...

SPEECH by Mary T. Previte
[click here]
Weihsien Concentration Camp Liberation, 60th Anniversary Celebration
August 17, 2005 ---

Office of Assemblywoman Mary T. Previte
Chair, Family, Women and Children's Services Committee
Sixth Legislative District

320 N. Haddon Avenue
Suite 4
Haddonfield, NJ 08033

Phone - 856.857.0777
Fax - 856.857.9887