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Late Hargesheimer helped by Bialla people

By Grace Tiden PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 30, 2010) – Full customary mourning will be accorded to the legendary former U.S. pilot the late Fred Hargesheimer by the people of Bialla in West New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea.

[PIR editor’s note: Fred Hargesheimer was a former United States Army Air Forces Pilot who later became a philanthropist.]

The World War II U.S. Army pilot who after being rescued by villagers at Nantabu during the war, built two schools for the locals years later.

Leaders in the area are planning to stage a traditional mourning event to mark the death of the person who made it possible for many locals to get an education.

The late Fred Hargesheimer died last Thursday, aged 94, in Nebraska.

News about his death reached the locals at Evase, Noau and Nantabu the same day through an email sent from the U.S. to the Hargy Oil Palm Limited located within the area.

He is our hero. He did much. Without him we would not be what we are today in terms of education, Pastor Misiel Zairere, a local leader in the area, said.

He said it was a big loss to them and many of the people especially the elderly ones were still mourning for him.

We haven’t done anything yet. We want to show our real appreciation as recipients of what he did for us. We are planning to do something traditionally, the Melanesian way, he said.

Mr. Hargesheimer was a P-38 pilot with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron during the war.

He was shot down by a Japanese fighter while on a mission over the Japanese-held island of New Britain.

He parachuted into the trackless jungle, where he barely survived for 31 days until found by local hunters.

They took him to their village and hid him from Japanese patrols, fed him and nursed him back to health from two illnesses. In February 1944, with the help of Australian commandos working behind Japanese lines, he was picked up by a US submarine.

Years later he returned to Bialla and built two schools for the locals.

He last visited the Airmen Memorial Primary School and Noau Primary School in 2007.

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