ESAM was pleased to host two very interesting guest speakers at our January and February monthly breakfasts. Associated Press reporter Chris Carola gave the January breakfast presentation and local author Larry Lewis gave the February presentation.
In January, the breakfast attendees were treated to the fascinating story of “The Man Who Captured Tojo.” Chris Carola told the story of US Army Lt. John “Jack” Wilpers of Saratoga Springs. At the close of World War II, Wilpers was among the men who captured Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and played a key role in keeping him alive after a failed suicide attempt so that he could later stand trial for war crimes (see photo). Carola also explained his multi-year quest to interview Wilpers, which finally happened due to a chance meeting with Wilpers’ son near Cape Cod: both men were wearing the same Saratoga Race Track hat, struck up a conversation, and Carola discovered he was the son of the man he had tried to interview for years! After such a coincidence, Wilpers granted the interview and shared his amazing role in history.
Local author and retired GE chemist Larry Lewis told February breakfast goers about his new book, Sadie’s Boys, the poignant story of his grandmother Sadie’s efforts to get her two missing sons back during World War II. Larry’s father Ben Lewis was in the infantry in Europe and became a prisoner of war. Larry recounted his harrowing winter march from POW camp to POW camp at the close of the war. Ben survived his ordeal. Sadly, his older brother Charlie was not as fortunate. A navigator on a B17 in the Pacific, Charlie’s plane was attacked on a mission over the Japanese–held island of New Britain. Four of the crew managed to bail out, but the plane crashed in the jungle with Charlie still inside. Three of the four survivors died as POWs. Although the wreckage of the plane has been found, Charlie Lewis is still listed as MIA.
ESAM is grateful to Chris and Larry for sharing their World War II stories!