Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Long Dark Road

A few weeks ago I knitted with Betty (Mrs. C.), my local knitting buddy. We talked about books and knitting projects, then I asked her about her life as an "Army brat."

Betty's father, William Edward Brougher, was a U.S. Army general commanding the 11th Division, Philippine Army and was captured by the Japanese when the American forces in Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942. From then on General Brougher was a part of a group of high-ranking prisoners of the Japanese. The Japanese moved them to Tarlac, then to Formosa, and finally to Manchuria. On August 18, 1945, the Russian army took Mukden and liberated the prisoners. While he was a prisoner of war, Betty's father wrote poetry, then self-published the poems after he returned home under title The Long Dark Road. Betty loaned me the little volume of her dad's poems and I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a copy for myself from an internet bookseller.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Special for Mrs. B.
Note: Since December 8, 1941 [and until February 22, 1944], I have not had a letter from home. As prisoners of war, we are held completely incommunicado. Written at Tarlac Prison Camp, Philippine Islands, 21 May 1942.

For Francis K., an Army wife,
Down South in U.S.A.,
We have a message for you, please,
It came by "Milky Way."

From prison camp in far Luzon
The mystic message came,
Your husband is alive and well
And loves you just the same.

He held a post of high command
With record brave and true ---
Was faithful to his duty as
He's ever been to you.

The soldier has no choice of time
When country names the day;
The soldier has no choice of goals
When duty points the way.

Such things are trite and understood
By Army girls like you,
When soldiers drink the bitter cup
Their wives must drink it, too.

His isolation is complete
By land and sea and air,
His only means of reaching you
Are thought and wish and prayer.

But "Trans-Celestial" ways are clear
On starry nights in May,
The night can turn some magic tricks
That can't be done by day.

The "Crescent Moon," a wishing ship,
That sails the trackless blue,
Has brought the news of life and hope
Direct from him to you.

The charge is just a happy smile,
So dry your tears away,
And keep tuned in for later news
The same time every day.

The message ends the usual way---
Your husband's words, you see:
"With love and kisses for you all"---
He signs it


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Blogger Tammy said...

wow! That's beautiful, and so heart-wrenching.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

I wasn't gonna say it but I just gotta... Reading his corageous words of hope and faith makes me stop and think about the brave men and women who are serving our country now (as I often do). It makes me reflect on a time when our soldiers were looked upon with such reverence and respect. And sadly, makes me wish that our soldiers today were held in such high esteem and honor so that they knew, whatever political or popular opinions might be, that the folks back home in America were supporting their courage with both prayers and words.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yes, Tammy, I agree with you!

5:50 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Oh...I loved this. So beautiful.

I have always been fascinated with WWII, and hearing this poem penned by a prisoner of war is so poignant.

Thank you for sharing it!

9:12 AM  
Blogger Jennie C. said...

Oh, how that makes me cry.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jennie, I thought of you when I read this because I know your husband is on active duty in the Army, and I know as a military wife you face the possiblity of hardship daily. You and your family are constantly in my prayers!

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How beautiful. What a loved woman and what an awesome man. Thank you for posting this.


10:02 AM  
Anonymous morgan joy said...

william brougher was my grandfather and betty campbell is my aunt. your
comments are so appreciated, my aunt is one of most unique women in the world, as was her mother and my grandfather.
my mother, betty's younger sister, died recently. she was frances, named for her mother. she is deeply missed by all who knew her.
my grandfather lives on in his words, his children, grandchildren, great grand children and great great grandchildren. i remember best how he smelled, of pipe tobacco and starched shirts. how nice that you spend time with my wonderful aunt mere.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Morgan Joy, you are blessed with a wonderful family! I adore your Aunt Betty and am so thankful to know her and get to spend time with her. You have my sympathy on the death of your mother. I met one of Betty's nieces on her way back to Germany after Frances's funeral - was that you?

I bought your grandfather's book written from his POW diaries, too, and I'm looking forward to reading that soon. I hope you're saving those memories of him somehow for the rest of your family.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi laura, no that wasn't me, that was my eldest sister linda, who lives in
heidelberg, germany. i live in albuqeurque, nm. but how wonderful tht you could meet her. i was so happy that she could see
mere and spend some time with her after mom's death.
i know it was very hard for
betty not to able to come for mom's services, but we know she was there in spirit and love. i've been
going through some of mom's things that i have, and have discovered that i
have the original typed papers from granddaddy's Long Dark Road and some of the exerpts from his diary
while in prison camp. i'll be honest, i've tried to read the diary repeatedly, but haven't been able to get through it. there's something very
painful and much too real
in my heart. you should also get "Baggy Pants and Other Stories," a grouping of short stories that he wrote. "Baggy Pants" was published in Reader's Digest back in late 1940's
and made quite an impression, hence the book that came out. in The Long
Dark Road, "My Dolly" was
written for my mother, and
a "visit from Betty", for, of course, Betty.
How wonderful to make this connection with you, i just
happened to google my grandfather's name and your site came up..... a
small world with the internet now. The next time you see my dearest aunt, please give her a hug
and kiss from her loving neice, Joy, and let her know that we're trying to figure out a time to come and see her when my cousins will be around at some point. Course I could tell her myself, but it's fun to have a friend tell you that they met a relative on-line, by accident! I know she'll be pleased that we've hooked up and i do hope to meet you at some point. maybe she'll show you my picture........
warm regards,

2:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...


I'm looking forward to meeting you when you come to visit Betty and your cousins. I'll pass the hug, kiss, and message to Betty, and enjoy her reaction! And I'll definitely ask to see a picture of you. Please e-mail me any time at LLD61(at)hotmail(dot)com.

And I'll certainly try to find a copy of Baggy Pants. I'm so glad you found me through the internet!

7:59 PM  
Blogger bjohn said...

Today I googled Gen. Brougher's name, because I found a signed copy of his book The Long Dark Road in my late father's belongings. Before I got to this site I read several excerpts and histories about the general, which gave me insight into who he was and what he went through. But finding info about this particular book (as opposed to his biography) took a little more effort. I especially enjoyed finding this site and reading the exchange between Joy and Laura. Reading about the real people related to the general brought him to life even more than the articles I read. The internet has indeed made this a smaller world. I plan to take the book home with me and enjoy it at my leisure. Thank you!

11:04 AM  

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