Subject: Weihsien camp - Haddonfield woman finds the last of her seven
daring heroes ...
Date: May 31, 2015 9:02:58 PM EDT
My older brother, Peter, was on a similar OSS mission – (Code
Name Sparrow) – that went to Shanghai on Aug 19, 1945. Other
OSS missions went to Peking (Beijing) (Code Name Magpie) to
rescue some of the Doolittle flyers; to Hainan Island (Code Name
to rescue Australian PWs; to Mukden (Code Name Cardinal) to
rescue Gen Wainwright.
" Haddonfield woman finds the last of her seven daring heroes "
Nearly 70 years ago, Mary Previte was liberated from a Japanese
prison camp in China during World War II by a daring group of
seven rescuers she called her heroes.
Over the years, she managed to find them all, one by one, until
there was only one name remaining on her must-find list.
It took 18 years for Previte to locate the last man - Wang Cheng-
Han, who was the Chinese interpreter for the liberation team. They
were reunited last month when they spoke by telephone.
She called the twist of fate a miracle - with a little help from the
Internet and Wang's doting grandson, who connected Previte to cherished family-history stories told by his grandfather growing up
Former New Jersey Assemblywoman Mary Previte of Haddonfield
was just a child, the daughter of missionaries, when she spent
nearly four years in a Japanese prison camp. She says finding her
seventh rescuer, a Chinese translator, was a twist of fate.
(ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
"It's miraculous when you think about it," Previte, 82, of
Haddonfield, said in an interview. "I never dreamed it would
Previte and her rescuer, whom she knew as Eddie Wang, chatted
for about an hour through an interpreter. She had lots of questions
about that fateful day, but mainly wanted to express her gratitude.
"I thanked God for letting me live long enough to find him and say
thank you," she said. "It is such an astonishment."
Previte would like to meet with Wang in person, possibly at the
camp's 70th anniversary international reunion this summer in
Weifang, in the central Shandong province. He has been invited by
the Chinese government.
Finding Wang was especially bittersweet because he is the only
surviving member of the liberation group. She made contact with
four others in the late 1990s, and found the widows of two others.
Wang, now 90, retired, and living in China, was surprised to hear
from Previte, said his grandson, Daniel Wang, who lives in
"He takes his story as an important part of my family history," the
grandson said. "He wants me to know and to remember it."
Wang Chen-Han and six other paratroopers, whom Previte
described as "seven heroes dropping from the sky," liberated the
Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center on Aug. 17, 1945.
The men rescued Previte, who was 12, her grandfather, her three
siblings, and about 1,400 others who had been imprisoned at the
camp. Her family spent nearly four years there in captivity.
Previte's missionary parents had left her and her siblings at a
boarding school in China in 1940. Her grandfather, Herbert Hudson
Taylor, a retired missionary living on the grounds, was also
interned. The parents resumed their work until the end of the war.
The Japanese army captured the school shortly after the Dec. 7,
1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. About 200 students and teachers,
mostly Europeans, were sent to the prison camp.
The detainees endured horrible living and working conditions -
cramped quarters, extreme temperatures, poor sanitary conditions,
and unappetizing food. They were also forced to work.
Previte said the captives were sustained by their strong faith. They
sang hymns and recited Scripture, especially Psalm 27, which
begins "Wait on the Lord."
"We were anchored with these words of faith," she said.
When the U.S. rescue planes arrived, the captives had no idea that
the Japanese had surrendered and that the war was over. It was
the first time that Eddie Wang, then 20, parachuted from a B-24, his grandson said.
"He was quite worried about jumping from the plane," said Daniel
Wang, 32. "He risked his life."
The men had met days before the assignment, which was
commissioned by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the
forerunner to the CIA.
Because Japanese guards were standing at the camp with guns
loaded, the men landed in a nearby cornfield to carry out the "Duck
Mission" to liberate the camp. The jubilant prisoners pushed past
guards and a Salvation Army band played "The Star-Spangled
Leopold Pander, of Belgium, was 4 when the camp was liberated.
He recalls very little about his imprisonment, but vividly remembers
"Everybody running all over the place that very day the Americans
came to liberate us from the claws of our captors," he wrote by email.
"That special day was printed in my subconscious."
After the liberation, the former captives were reunited with loved
ones and settled around the world. Many have died.
Wang married, became an engineer, and had three sons. He lives
in Guizhou province in China with his only remaining son.
Previte eventually became an English teacher, raised a daughter,
ran the Camden County Youth Center in Blackwood, and served
eight years in the state Assembly.
In 1997, she began trying to track down the rescuers. She found
them easily, except Wang. She located Stanley Staiger, the
mission's commanding officer, in Reno; Tad Nagaki in Alliance,
Neb.; James Moore in Dallas; and James Hannon in Yucca Valley,
Calif. She found the widow of Raymond Hanchulak in Bear Creek,
Pa., and Peter Orlich's widow in Queens, N.Y.
Previte had almost given up any hope of finding Wang until she
was recently contacted by his grandson. Daniel Wang found
Previte's name on a Weihsien camp website started by Pander.
"Last hero found," her daughter, Alice, told her.
Daniel Wang had promised to help his grandfather track down the
American soldiers. Eddie Wang kept the names of the men in a
notebook and recorded details about the mission, his grandson
"It's an amazing story. He was just a normal person doing an
honorable thing," said Daniel Wang. "I'm very proud of him."