It seems logical to ask the question as to whether or not being a POW in WWII had any long-lasting effects. The short answer is simply NO. Except for an unfortunate few, the liberated POWs seemed to go on to live long and productive lives.
Because so many of the ARMY POWs were from Texas and ANCESTRY.com has digitized the Death Certificate records from that State, we can get glimpse at what happened to the POWs within a few years of their re-patriation. 23 of the liberated POWs died what I would consider ‘early’ in life; that is before age 50. Of those, the 16 who died within a decade are discussed above.
On the other side of the equation, 49 of the survivors lived to over 90 years of age; the oldest died at 104! Another 110, lived into their 80s; 103 into their 70s; 92 – 60s; with 78 dying before they reached 60yo.
So, on balance, I’d suggest that these ex-POWs have fared very well in the age race!
We have cause of death data for 146 of the ARMY members who died beyond 1956. Of those, 15 died in various accidents; 23 of cancer and 70 of cardio-pulmonary diseases with 12 of miscellaneous other causes.
Perhaps 26 succumbed to illnesses that could reasonably be tracked back to their POW experience. The official cause of death for Walter Farmer (on 7 NOV 58; age 40) was Beri-beri heart disease. Three others: Lewis Jeter (21 JUN 61; age 43); James Rumbeck (16 JAN 67; age 50) and Elmer Richards (3 MAR 75; age 55) show their COD as Cardio-vascular disease, but one has to wonder if that may not have had its origins in the Pacific due to their ages. Roy Hammonds died on 24 SEP 64 at age 46 of pneumonia suspected to have been due to Tuberculosis. Eleven ranging in age from 41 to 85 died of complications of alcoholism. Their average age was 60. Eleven others committed suicide; average age 64 ranging from 43 to 91. It would seem that 11 suicides compared to 15 accidental deaths is weighted towards these men suffering adjustment or deep psychological effects from their POW years even though it took quite a few years – decades even – to catch up to them.
Causes of death among the Army Vets as of 2022
Of the liberated US ARMY personnel, we have known causes of death for 277. Approximately 10% (29) died of causes that can be more or less directly related to their time as POWs. Five are listed as having died of Beri-beri heart disease. One is listed as succumbing to the lingering effects of malnutrition. Twelve committed suicide within a few years of their return. Another 11 suffered on for years and succumbed to alcohol-related diseases.
A surprising number (23) died accidentally and 1 by homicide. The remainder succumbed to the usual variety of natural causes: 119 of cardio-vascular diseases; 59 to cancer; 12 to pulmonary diseases and 9 to stroke. Diabetes claimed LTC Tharp and SGT Don Williamson. As of 2022, three survivors remain; all having hit the century mark!
One reason why this information is available is that Texas has digitized many of its death certificates. Since a large number of the former TXNG lived out their lives in Texas, their records are more complete than for the Navy Veterans.