For two children of World War II POWs, a heartfelt journey

A story I wrote about two Pennsylvanians whose fathers were prisoners of the Japanese ran in Sunday’s edition of The Morning Call of Allentown, my former employer.

Szczepanski family

The Szczepanskis (from left) Catherine, Rick, Tom and Joe at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado on Easter Sunday 1958. Another son, Michael, was born in 1964.

Dawne Clay and Rick Szczepanski are retirees who belong to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society. They’ve spent many years trying to understand what troubled their fathers, both now deceased.

Dawne’s dad, Wayne Miller, grew up on a Berks County farm. Rick’s dad, Joe Szczepanski, was from coal country, Luzerne County. Both joined the Army Air Corps, which became the Army Air Forces. They were captured in 1942 in the Philippines and held until the end of the war — Wayne in Manchuria, Joe in Japan. Their experiences haunted them.

Last year, Dawne and Rick went to Japan as guests of its government through the Japan POW Friendship Program, which strives for reconciliation and healing.

I’d written about Rick before, in 2009, several years after he got deeply interested in his father’s life. I ended that piece by saying Rick hoped to go to the Far East someday to follow his dad’s path. Ten years later, he called and said, “I’m going to Japan.” I told him that when he came back, I could do a follow-up for the newspaper.

Wayne Miller in wartime.

Wayne Miller in wartime. In 2010, just before he died, he received a Silver Star for gallantry on Corregidor.

After Rick returned, he told me that a woman who lives in the area was also on the trip, and he put me in touch with her. That was Dawne. I decided to interview both for a story that would run around the time of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Japanese surrender ending World War II. That’s how it played out.

Here’s the link:

I hope you like the story.

One response to “For two children of World War II POWs, a heartfelt journey

  1. Hi David… I saw your article today on the Chrysler building. Bravo! What a great piece of historical sleuthing. This issue had gnawed at me for years, going back to my days as General Manager, Public Affairs at Bethlehem Steel Corp. when I was in charge of Corporate Communications. I wanted to share some information with you on how I think the Bethlehem/Chrysler Building myth grew over the years, but I couldn’t find your email. I’m at the Industrial Archives & Library now, in Bethlehem. I think we may have spoken on the phone recently. I’ll fill in my email below.


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