Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Crossing Paths of Holger Larsen Holm and the H.M.S. Wizard

HMS Wizard Magic Circle Mild AleIt is Christmas Eve 2007 and it was a little over 62 years ago that the paths of my father, Holger Larsen Holm and that of the British destroyer H.M.S. Wizard crossed paths. Our business is making wine and selling winemaking supplies and homebrewing supplies so my blogs just have to be about beer brewing ingredients or wine making equipment but this blog is about a not so long ago war, heroes and eventually, beer.

Holger Larsen Holm was born in October 1916 to Peter Holm and Karoline Swensen Holm. Peter and Karoline immigrated to Iowa from Denmark in the early part of the 20th Century and purchased an 80 acre farm in northeast Grundy County, Iowa about 3 miles southwest of New Hartford. Peter and Karoline were always known as Bestefa and Bestamor to me (Grandpa and Grandma in Dane). There children were Martin, Mary, Carl, Peter, Eva and my father, Holger.

In early 1941 my father enlisted in the United States Army. He traveled to Fort Des Moines for his physical and thought he would be home for a little while waiting to ship out. Instead, with no chance to say good-bye he was placed on a troop train and was on his way to San Francisco where he boarded the S.S. Republic and sailed for the Philippine Islands.

Holger (aka Dad) took his basic training in the Philippines and was assigned to Battery C (Chicago) of the 60th Coast Artillery and was duty stationed on Morrison Hill (hence the name of one of our beer brewing ingredients kits known as Morrison Hill Pale Ale) on Corregidor Island. It was an island paradise until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7 (Dad always said it was December 8 where he was at!), 1941. The war came quickly to the Philippines and to Corregidor with the Bataan Peninsula surrendering in early April 1942 and Corregidor surrendering in early May. Dad spent time in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps at Cabanatuan, Bilibid and Palawan in the Philippines and in 1944 was put aboard the Hell Ship Canadian Inventor and sailed for Mogi, Japan. From there Dad was sent to Nagoya Camp No. 3 at Funatsu, Japan where he spent the remainder of the war as a slave laborer at a Japanese zinc mine.

With the war's end in August of 1945 the camp was liberated and the prisoners were taken by train to Nagoya harbor on the east coast of Japan. After a brief physical the now ex-prisoners (about half Americans and the other half British and Australians) were issued new clothing, placed aboard a U.S. Navy barge and taken out into Nagoya harbor where Dad's path crossed with that of the H.M.S. Wizard.

The Wizard had been charged with transporting the ex-prisoners to Tokyo. The ex-P.O.W.'s were taken aboard the Wizard and were immediately told to strip and throw their new clothes into the harbor. Lice! Dad was very unhappy with losing his new clothes. After delousing the men were issued a new set of clothes (extra clothing given to them by the crew of the Wizard). They were then taken below to the mess. Dad said they started eating breakfast at 0930 and 12 hours later they were still eating breakfast with many getting quite ill from the overindulgence.

After sailing to Tokyo the prisoners were taken ashore and Dad's trip home via Guam began. Imagine the joy of the family back home as the first word they received of Dad's survival of the war came with a phone call to his brother Martin when he docked in San Francisco.

Several years ago I was surfing the web and found a website built by Roger Mansell which was a compilation of information about all of the Japanese P.O.W. camps. Nagoya Camp No. 3 at Funatsu (click on the link for photos and information at the Mansell website) was listed but that was it. I e-mailed Roger to tell him that I enjoyed his site but was disappointed that there was no information posted about Funatsu. Roger promptly replied and I soon was e-mailing what information I had to him.

And soon my path would cross with H.M.S. Wizard. A couple of years after the information I had provided to Roger was posted on the web I received an e-mail from Great Britain. A member of the H.M.S. Wizard reunion society had seen the website, contacted Roger to get my e-mail address, and had printed copies of the website and had shown them at a reunion meeting. He wanted my address because a lady from Wales wanted to correspond with me and did not have the internet.

Shortly I received a letter from this lady from Wales and so I now gained a friend. Adeline Medford's husband had been a crewman on the Wizard and this initial contact has made us pen pals and we have written back and forth many times over the past five or six years.

When my wife and I started our new wine making and beer brewing supplies store in 2004 I soon started developing beer recipes for homebrew ingredients kits that I sell. I began naming a few of them in honor of my Dad's war experiences with the first being Morrison Hill Pale Ale (a clone of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) and when I started looking for a name for the second home brew ingredients kit I looked to Adeline and the Wizard reunion society. The second brewing ingredients kit was named by the Wizard group as HMS Wizard Magic Circle Mild Ale.

Adeline forwarded to me a blazer patch (pictured above) and when she informed me that she had read my letter to the reunion society that a beer had been named in their honor and that I was going to ship the ingredients to Britain so all could have a beer on me she said that it was moved and seconded and I was unanimously voted in as an honorary member of the H.M.S. Wizard Society. She also said that my being honored so probably had more to do with free beer than with the service of my father or her husband! Thanks, Ady!

Anyway, the home brewing ingredients will soon be on their way to Wales so that when the next reunion meeting is held in April 2008 a toast can be made to my Dad and to all the brave men who fought in World War II and especially to the crew of the H.M.S. Wizard.

BlueStem Winery offers a complete line of wine making equipment, winemaking supplies and ingredients for making wine along with all of the homebrewing equipment, home brewing supplies and home brew ingredients you need to make your own H.M.S. Wizard Magic Circle Mild Ale, Morrison Hill Pale Ale or any other recipe that you choose to make (or you can purchase the home brew ingredients kits we call BlueStems Best from the BlueStem Winery website.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this brief account of the crossing of paths of an Iowa farm boy turned American soldier and that of the Royal Navy destroyer H.M.S. Wizard. If you desire to read additional information about what my Dad and so many others endured, click on this link and also search for information about the atrocities committed by the Japanese on the island of Palawan (this link will tell you about Glenn McDole of Des Moines, Iowa, who was a friend of my Dad's at Palawan and after the war) where approximately 150 soldiers, sailors and Marines were murdered. Fortunately, my father had been transported out of this camp several months before these brave Americans were murdered by the Japanese.

Are you making wine this winter? Would you like to get into wine making this winter? BlueStem Winery has all of the wine making supplies and winemaking equipment you need and our WinExpert and Cellar Craft wine ingredient kits are the very best! We have sold WinExpert ingredient kits from the day we opened our store and just about six months ago we started offering the Cellar Craft wine kits. There are none better! Excellent products with easy to understand instructions and the wine (with a little patience!) ages into some of the best wine you can imagine.

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