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Aikin Home » Veterans Remember » About The Owens Manuscript

About The Owens Manuscript

Posted 10.04.06 at 9:42 AM

Several years ago I assigned my U.S. History students at Paris Junior College oral history projects for extra credit work. The topics students could collect oral histories on ranged widely from the Second World War, to Vietnam, and Civil Rights.

One student brought me this manuscript as part of his project with the request that it be placed in the College Archives. The document was especially exciting for me to read since I was from the same hometown as the manuscript’s author, Jack Owens (photo at right), and remembered him for the exquisite truck farmed produce he grew. As a child growing up in the small Northeast Texas town of Blossom, I was aware Mr. Owens had suffered unspeakable horrors in the Second World War. I had also learned of the “Big War” from my grandmother’s scrapbook that included war era ration stamps and v-mail sent to her from my great-uncles who had fought in Europe.

The stories of far away Pacific battles my middle school history teacher, a veteran of the Pacific Theater with buxom war era girls tattooed on his upper arms, told his students had also fostered my early interest in the Second World War. It was a war that touched and transformed my little hometown as it did hometowns across the nation. Sons and daughters of many Blossom families traveled the country and the world in service or worked as citizen civilians to support the war effort at home. Each had done their part for the war effort.

Jack Owens was one of those Blossom sons whose service and sacrifice was well known locally. I never knew then the details of Mr. Owens torturous trek on the Bataan Death March and his prisoner of war experience that followed since it was spoken about only in hushed tones by grownups and not considered a fitting topic for little girls. As so often is the case, the true story of what Mr. Owens had been subjected to at the hands of his Japanese captors turns out to be many times more horrific and remarkable than my childish imagination could concoct.

Mr. Owens’ story is an important original source, and preserving his story became an important mission for me and my students. The copy of the manuscript was fragile, brittle, and torn in places and needed to be digitally preserved. Photo copies were carefully made of each page, and the pages manually typed into Microsoft Word or Works. The typing of the manuscript was done by students enrolled in my history classes at Paris Junior College over the course of several semesters in 2004-2005. Their names are listed below this editor’s note. Every attempt was made by these diligent students to recreate the original manuscript as Mr. Owens had wr

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