to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

7.3 Ex-POW deaths

It might be surprising to learn that the vast majority of these POWs were able to re-integrate into society, marry, make careers and live long and happy lives.  A handful, however, died within a decade of liberation. One, ENS John Bell Stivers, actually died at St. Albans Naval Hospital barely two months after liberation. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and hospitalized at the Nakorn Pathom Hospital. He was rather quickly evacuated to Calcutta then to New York but died of a Glioblastoma on 7 OCT 45.

Between DEC 1947 and NOV 1954, 15 other ex-POWs died. Of those, as many as 7 died of causes directly related to their POW time. Oddly enough, 5 others died accidentally; 4 in auto accidents and 1 by an accidental GSW. Chief Boatswains Mate Herman Hiett was the next ex-POW to die via an auto accident in DEC 1947 – apparently while still on Active Duty. Three others died in auto accidents between JUN 46 and SEP 52. The first, Howard Plant of Taylor TX, just 4 months after his military discharge in FEB 46. According to his death certificate, Angrus Winn of Abilene, died of an accidental GSW at age 36. Chief Boatswains Mate Melvin Starr also died while still on active duty, on 8 MAY 50 (age 40) but his cause of death is not listed in available records.

Of those whose cause of death is seemingly directly related to their POW time, 3 died of TB: Walter Skinner (24 AUG 46; age24); Walter Starnader (12DEC 45; age 25); Stanley Barnes (13 JAN 48; age 29) and possibly even Chief Yeoman Irving Peters who died of acute pneumonia also while on active duty at age 29. His obituary states that his pneumonia was thought to be a direct result of his ordeal as a POW. Barely a month after he was converted from AAF to USAF, Sgt Oris Mygland is recorded as dying of the general effects of malnutrition on 29 OCT 47 (age 29). Also at age 29, Alton Blackwelder committed suicide by GSW in Wichita Falls TX 14 MAR 46; Salome Arroya age 34 died in Sinton TX of a perforated ulcer and general effects of alcoholism.

The two remaining ex-POWs who died within decade of liberation seemingly died of more natural causes. Earl Weiss’ cause of death at age 34 is listed as ruptured aortic aneurysm (15 MAY 53); no mention is made of it being related to his POW time. The last man on this list is COL Blucher Tharp himself. He is listed as dying of diabetes of one year’s duration on 12 NOV 54. He had retired from the ARMY in MAY 52, so lived barely 2 ½ years afterward. He was 62 years old.

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