Largo, FL (August 27, 2014) National POW/MIA Recognition Day is being observed on Friday, September 19th. This annual event honors prisoners of war, the nation’s missing and their families. The Armed Forces History Museum is proud to present two POW guest speakers. Due to the Recognition Day falling on a Friday, the museum has chosen to host these two heroes on Saturday, September 20th at noon to ensure that as many guests as possible will be available to listen to their stories of plights and triumphs – recognition that these two POW’s so rightly deserve.
Saturday, September 20th is also the museum’s Chili Cook-off and Classic Car Show running from 11am to 2pm. The event features chili sampling, classic cars, a Budweiser beer truck, cupcake truck, military vehicle rides, museum tours and a live DJ from Rhino Cubes. At noon, guests will be invited into the museum’s Officers’ Club to hear the stories of WWII POW Bill Harvey and Korean POW Bill Allen.
2nd Lt. William H. Harvey
2nd Lt. William H. Harvey of the 722nd Squadron was the bombardier when the B-24 “Maiden USA” was shot down on April 25th, 1944 during a raid on Varese, Italy. Six crew members were killed, four were taken as POW’s. Bill bailed out wounded, evaded for a short time, but was captured and taken to Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Poland. In January 1945, the POW’s were forced marched in a blinding snow storm then taken to Nurnburg. In April 1945, they were again forced marched, this time to Moosburg, Germany. Bill and the camp were liberated on April 29th, 1945.
Recalled for Korea on August 15th, 1950, Bill flew 52 missions in an A/B-26 aircraft of the 34th Sgd. 17th Bomb Group as a bombardier/navigator. He retired as a Major and joined Boston University. He retired from BU as the Associate Dean of the School of Public Communication.
Bill’s decorations include two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, Air Force Commendation Medal, three Distinguished Unit Citations, a Purple Heart Medal, and a POW Medal, among many others. Bill now resides at Pinecrest Place in Largo, FL. While at Pinecrest, Bill met a gentleman by the name of Arthur Butler. Little did Bill know that he had met Arthur quite briefly during WWII, as Arthur’s unit was liberating the prison camp where Bill was held captive. In 1945, Arthur cut a hole in the fence of a WWII prison camp, which actually freed Bill. Decades later, they now live on the same floor at Pinecrest Place. The museum requested Arthur’s presence at this POW/MIA Recognition Day speaking engagement however, Arthur’s health does not permit him to join us.
Sgt. William M. Allen
Sgt. William M. Allen’s military life began shortly after graduation in July of 1949, when he enlisted in the army. When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 15th, 1950, the 24th Infantry Division, to which Bill was assigned, was sent. On January 1st, 1951, Bill was captured by the Chinese military troops and marched to a POW camp located on the Yalu River on the Chinese and North Korean border. He was just 19 years old and was held there until August 11th, 1953.
While in service, Bill received the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Japanese Occupation Medal, National Defense Medal, South Korean Defense Medal (2 silver stars), the United Nations Defense Medal and the United Nation Service Medal.
Bill is also the author of the book “My Old Box of Memories”, in which he describes his 31 months as a prisoner of war. The book is available at the Armed Forces History Museum as well as wherever Bill makes appearances.
Today, Bill is a guest speaker and volunteer at the Armed Forces History Museum where he speaks of his life as a POW. He is also involved in working with men and women returning from combat in a program called “Out Reach” at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa. This program supports those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The program educates these brave warriors on the lifelong effects of PTSD, not only on themselves, but their families as well. Bill’s speaking engagements enlighten people about the struggles associated with being a POW. Bill now resides in Tierra Verde, FL.
Tickets for the Chili Cook-off and Classic Car Show are $20 for adults and $15 for youths 4-12, and include admission to the POW speaking engagement at noon. They are available on line at armedforcesmuseum.com, by calling 727.539.8371 or in person at the museum.