Fred Hargesheimer, 94, a World War II Army pilot whose rescue by Pacific islanders led to a life of giving back as a builder of schools and teacher of children, died Thursday in Lincoln, Neb.
On June 5, 1943, Mr. Hargesheimer, a P-38 pilot with the Eighth Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, was shot down by a Japanese fighter while on a mission over the Japanese-held island of New Britain in the southwest Pacific. He parachuted into the trackless jungle, where he barely survived for 31 days until found by local hunters.
They hid him from Japanese patrols for seven months, fed him, and nursed him back to health from two illnesses. In February 1944, with the help of Australian commandos, he was picked up by a U.S. submarine.
After returning to the United States, Mr. Hargesheimer began a sales career with a Minnesota forerunner of computer-maker Sperry Rand, his lifelong employer. But he said he could not forget the Nakanai people, whom he considered his saviors.
After revisiting the village of Ea Ea in 1960, he came home, raised $15,000 over three years, "most of it $5 and $10 gifts," and then returned with 17-year-old son Richard in 1963 to contract for the building of the villagers' first school.
In the decades to come, Mr. Hargesheimer's U.S. fund-raising and determination built a clinic, another school and libraries in Ea Ea, renamed Nantabu, and surrounding villages.
In 1970, their three children grown, Mr. Hargesheimer and his late wife, Dorothy, moved to New Britain, today an out-island of the nation of Papua New Guinea, and taught the village children themselves for four years.
On his last visit, in 2006, Mr. Hargesheimer was helicoptered into the jungle and carried in a chair by Nakanai men to view the newly found wreckage of his World War II plane. - AP