Fred Hargesheimer is a former pilot of the USAAF who was shot down over Papua New Guinea in June of 1943. He later became a philanthropist for the village which hid him from the Japanese. He currently lives in Grass Valley, California.
World War II
Fred Hargesheimer was on a photo reconnaissance mission on June 5, 1943 over the island of New Britain
, Papua New Guinea
when his plane was shot out of the sky by a Japanese fighter. After jumping out of his jammed canopy, he parachuted to safety. For the next month he fought to survive in the jungle. On the 31st day of this survival, he was found by the Lauo tribe. They sheltered him for 8 months in the village of Ea Ea, risking their lives to protect him from being found by Japanese soldiers. In February, 1944, Fred was rescued by a U. S. submarine waiting offshore. Some of the tribe members begged him to bring their children to the United States. After the war, he returned to his hometown of Rochester, Minnesota
where he raised a family of his own.
He corresponded with a missionary to learn how the tribe who kept him safe had fared, and in 1960, he returned to the island. He was told that they needed a school. In 1963, after raising funds for such a school, he returned and helped erect a simple four room schoolhouse, known as the Airmen's Memorial School. He returned many times for the next 40 years building a library as well as infrastructure for the village of Ea Ea, now known as Nantabu
. From 1970 to 1974 he and his wife Dorothee lived there. He was known by the locals as Mastah Preddi
, a corruption of Master Freddie
. In 2000, he was proclaimed "Suara Auru," or "Chief Warrior" in the native language. He returned in 2006 for his last visit. During the trip, he visited the site of his old P-38 which was recently found. He also attended the opening of a new library at the Noau school.
In 1999 he contacted the wife of the man who shot him down. He had always wondered why the pilot had never taken the time to finish him off. By then the man, known as Mitsugu Hyakutomi of Yamaguchi, Japan
was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. His wife said that her husband had always said that he could never shoot down such defenseless fliers.