Posted on August 16th, 2017 by:

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Military historian and former naval officer, Bruce Campbell recognized an old army jacket while he was looking over the racks of a thrift store in Spokane, Washington. He realized it was the jacket of a officer and what’s more, it had a name in it: COL. A. L. SHREVE.

wwii uniform pow returned

picture credit : Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS

Campbell researched the uniform for three days until he found a match. Colonel. Arthur Lee Shreve Jr., born in Baltimore in 1897. He was a pilot in World War I, then served in the Philippines during World War II where he became a prisoner of the Japanese. Shreve later served as chief of the Maryland Military District at Fort Meade during the Korean War and died in 1969.

Campbell also found the website of Heather Shreve, the Colonel’s granddaughter, who for the past 3 ½ years has researched and documented the life of her grandfather, publishing his wartime diaries and giving speeches about him and his service.

Although Shreve’s grandfather died when she was six, she said learning about her grandfather’s past has been “life altering.” It gave her a new career after she lost a business during the recession. She said his story has also given her strength as a single mother.

He saved me,” she said. “Just hearing his story makes you stronger, too.”

On July 14 – two days shy of what would have been the colonel’s 120th birthday – Campbell contacted Shreve and offered her the uniform.

This uniform had to go home. It’s where it belonged.” said Campbell.

Shreve, 53, who self-published a book on her grandfather’s exploits, “The Colonel’s Way” said the surprise from Campbell touched her deeply. “I was just stunned,” she said. “Seventy years it’s been floating out there. To me, it’s just wonderful to have an actual piece of clothing that he wore.”

Shreve had no idea how the uniform went from Maryland to Washington state or who in her family would have gotten rid of it.

Campbell added insignia and authentic parts of uniform from his personal collection. He added a 1945 officer’s cotton dress shirt, Colonel’s eagles, a tie worn by an officer who had served in the Philippines and then steam pressed the jacket in accordance with 1947 regulations. Campbell also offered to locate the medals and ribbons her grandfather wore.

“I hope that these can help you get a better feel for what it would have looked like in person,” he wrote in a letter he sent with the uniform.

Shreve sent Campbell a copy of her first book about her grandfather, which includes diary entries he made in secret from 1941 through 1945 when he was a prisoner of the Japanese. The entries were later used as evidence by the Army’s war crimes office.

Once the uniform is fully assembled, Shreve said, it will be displayed in her living room with the rest of her grandfather’s war mementos. Shreve said it will watch over her and her children.
“It’s going to see the success of my next novel, I hope, it’ll see my children. My son is thinking about the military, so maybe it will see him going into the military.”

Shreve said she plans to thank Campbell for his efforts in the acknowledgments of her next book, “Once A Colonel,” a novel based on her grandfather’s life.

Campbell hopes to meet Shreve in Maryland one day. “We share a common interest in history, and it’s easy to talk to people who enjoy the same things and have the same respect for this” he said.
Campbell said he’s glad he came across the uniform and was able to unite it with the colonel’s granddaughter. “This feels like winning the lottery to me,” he said.

For Further Reading Check Out:

The Colonel’s Way: The Secret Diaries of a P.O.W., Philippines 1941-1945

Prisoners of the Japanese: Pows of World War II in the Pacific

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