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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014

Five-year POW honored in his ‘final chapter’

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SPRING HILL — George Lucardie was the 16-year-old son of Dutch dairy farmers when he was drafted as a spotter during World War II.

Savvy with radios and firearms, his role was to keep an eye out and report any unusual activity to the Dutch government. But when Japanese troops encountered him and his radio equipment, they did not see a teenager with a passion for mechanics.

“They said America had paid a spy,” said Lucardie, 88. “It was the worst thing you could have (encountered) in the world at the time. They looked like doctors.”

The next three years Lucardie spent in a Japanese prison camp where he was beaten, tortured and interrogated daily, he said.

He told his daughter, Maureen Thomas, his task at the camp was to build several miles worth of hemp rope, and prevent his spirit from becoming broken.

He was just over 18 years old in 1945 on the day he looked up and saw the Japanese flag being lowered. An Indonesian flag was raised in its place.

But 30 days after his release, he came upon the Indonesian military. Again, and for another long year, he was sent to another concentration camp where he lived on tree bark and papaya leaf soup, with the infrequent privilege of a piece of fruit.

In 1946, he returned to the 11-acre family farm to learn his father had been killed, as well as the 150 cows they once bred, and their family fortune had been seized.

“We tried hard to get through to the Dutch consulate to give him recognition for the years of service,” Thomas said. “They never gave it to him. He was heartbroken.”

With his wife, three daughters, $300 and no knowledge of English, he moved to Boston in 1962. For more than three decades he worked and provided for his daughters: Thomas, Joyce Lucardie-Rogers, and Ingrid Mahler before his wife’s passing in 2001.

Now in the care of Mahler and HPH Hospice, the Spring Hill resident of 20 years rested in a recliner chair in Mahler’s home Friday.

Suffering with diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sounds of sobbing came from the family room. Lucardie has a large family — two son-in-laws, nine grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and 12 brothers and sisters — at least 10 of whom were there.

“We’re very honored and appreciative of everything you’ve gone through in the war,” said HPH Hospice caregiver Sherri Whitford. “You’ve done a lot for America.”

Whitford and her husband, Richard Whitford, rested a plaque on his chest, which read: “Distinguished Service Award, recognizing meritorious service to the Dutch East Indies and to the world during World War II. In the face of extreme duress, your sacrifice will be long remembered.”

Thomas, Lucardie-Rogers and Mahler said their father is their rock, and that they are proud of him.

“I never expected this after so many years, and so many tortures,” Lucardie said, looking at them with moist eyes. “I thought we’d be forgotten fighting for America, but it’s not true. America remembers.”

Lucardie has accepted the Lord and is at peace in the final chapter of his life, his family said. When it closes, they expect him to save a place for them, so they can go hunting and fishing with him like they used to.

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5271

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