Patriots Point to host symposium on internees, POWs

MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Patriots Point Institute Naval & Maritime Museum will hold a special symposium later this month called, "Internment in Times of War."

The program will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, January 25 at 10 a.m. in the USS Yorktown's Smokey Stover Theater and is free and open to the public.

It is the third in Patriots Point's WWII 70th anniversary series, "Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things" and will be streamed live into Charleston County School District classrooms and on the Patriots Point website.

In conjunction with this symposium, Patriots Point will unveil a new exhibit entitled, "American Interment." The exhibit will feature a replica of a Hanoi Hilton cell, POW items that belonged to CDR Alfred Howard – including pajamas, plastic drinking cup, bowl and spoon, and other artifacts from symposium participants.

Moderated by veteran journalist Warren Peper, this educational program will begin at 10 a.m. on January 25 in the USS Yorktown's Smokey Stover Theater. A distinguished panel of speakers will provide guests with an opportunity to learn about the personal struggles, challenges and triumphs faced during their time as internees and prisoners of war. Also in attendance will be representatives from the Lowcountry Chapter of American Ex-POWs – all former prisoners of war themselves.

"We are honored to present such a distinguished panel of speakers," said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. "Each panelist persevered despite unfathomable hardships and emerged a stronger person – we can all learn a valuable lesson from their tenacity."

Panelists include:

  • Joe Engel: Holocaust survivor

Mr. Engel was a prisoner at Auschwitz, where he worked as a brick layer. He was forced to watch as hundreds of others were tragically put to death. During the Death March, he escaped from a transport train to Czechoslovakia, where he joined up with the resistance. He was liberated by the Red Army in March, 1945. Mr. Engel who lives in Charleston, SC and endeavors to keep the memories of those who perished alive by speaking to young people and other groups.

  • Ned Montgomery: Veteran and son of POW who gave his life during WWII

Mr. Montgomery and his family lived in the Philippines while his father served as a member of the United States Army's 45th Infantry. In May 1941, when war tensions began to rise with Japan, Ned and his mother and sister returned home to Mount Pleasant, SC. Ned's father was among the last of those who were captured by Japanese forces in Bataan. Although he survived two ship sinkings and the Bataan Death March, Ned's father succumbed to pneumonia on February 5, 1945. Ned went on to attend The Citadel, where he graduated in 1955 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. He lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC with his wife and volunteers at Patriots Point.

  • Mary Murakami: Japanese-American internee at age 16

During WWII, Ms. Murakami and her family were evacuated from San Francisco, California and sent to Topaz Internment Camp in Topaz, Arizona. During her internment, Mary completed her High School education. Following her release, she co-authored a book about her experiences, Blossoms in the Desert: Topaz Class of 1945. Today, Mary lives with her husband in Maryland and travels speaking to young people through the Japanese-American Veterans Association.

  • William Funchess: Korean Prisoner of War for 3 years

Mr. Funchess was held prisoner of war by the Chinese and North Korea governments from November 4, 1950 - September 6, 1953. During his time in captivity, he suffered from scabies, hepatitis and night blindness and lost four teeth. In 1997, he wrote and published the book, Korea P.O.W. – A Thousand Days of Torment. Today, he lives near his alma mater, Clemson University, where he graduated from in 1948.

  • Quincy Collins: Vietnam Prisoner of War for more than 7 years

Col. (Ret) Collins was on a mission to destroy a bridge 80 miles southwest of Hanoi when he was shot down, suffering head and back injuries, along with a severe leg injury, which left his femur broken in three places. During his seven and a half years in captivity in prison cells in and around the infamous "Hanoi Hilton," Col. Collins endured torture, despicable food and little medical treatment. Today, he is the founder and past Chairman of the Carolinas Freedom Foundation and is now Chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg World War II Memorial Foundation and was recently recognized by the Citadel as a "Distinguished Graduate."