Joyce and I drove from Denver, where we're celebrating our Lord's birth with her family, to Nebraska to interview Tad Nagaki, one of seven paratroopers who liberated the internment camp where Eric Liddell died. Tad will be 90 years old next month and is still farming!
We connected with him through Mary Previte, the great-granddaughter of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. She was a member of the New Jersey State Congress and was asked to speak at a Memorial Day service for the China-Berma Veterans Association. She had been a 12-year old girl in the internment camp, when the seven paratroopers dropped into a field nearby. That was Tad's second jump. The first was in active duty over Burma. They didn't know how many Japanese guards there would be facing them, but after 1,500 internees rushed the gate, the guards lowered their weapons and went back to their barracks.
After telling that story to the veterans Mary asked, "Are any of my heroes here today?" The room went silent. That began a search which connected her to all six American jumpers or their widows. The one Chinese jumper, Eddie Wong, is believed to be in China, if still alive. Tad was the first living member of the team that Mary contacted.
We connected with Mary through her brother, the late Rev. Jim Hudson Taylor, III. He saw my play, Beyond the Chariots in Hong Kong in 2006, which was set up through fellow George Fox grad Brian Van Tassell. Rev. Taylor was also in the internment camp, and the first thing he said after I finished my play was, "It was softball. We didn't have enough room to play baseball." I changed the script.
Here are some articles we found in preparing for the interview:
Soldier Becomes 'Armored Angel' Freeing Prisoners
Find dozens of more articles by visiting Weihsien-Paintings.org and searching for "Tad Nagaki".