Westporter to recount jungle hideout during WW II
The recession of the last two years had little effect on Mary McKay Maynard; few hardships at this point in her eventful life could slow down this energetic 77-year-old.
Although she lives in a comfortable Westport home, Maynard knows from first-hand experience that she could manage quite well in adverse circumstances. She spent two years hiding in the jungles of Mindanao, the second largest and easternmost island of the Philippines. Mindanao, known as the Land of Promise, lived up to that name promising life, protection and eventually freedom for the band of 35 civilians, including Maynard and her parents, who hid there from the occupying Japanese forces during World War II.
Maynard and the others learned to do without many things. They became resourceful using what little was available to them to survive until they were rescued by the U.S. Navy. Her father, a mining engineer who had taken the family to the Philippines where he was the manager of a gold mine, made sandals for Mary and her mother out of old tires and inner tubes.
"I think they still have Mindanao mud on them," Maynard said as she removed the shoes from a box during a Wednesday interview.
Maynard recounts her childhood during wartime in her book, "My Faraway Home: An American Family's WW II Tale of Adventure and Survival in the Jungles of the Philippines," first published in 2001. She will share some of those adventures, including their dramatic rescue on the USS Narwhal, an active duty submarine, during an appearance at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Pequot Library in Fairfield. Refreshments and a book-signing will follow the program.
There were so many horrible stories from the war, but Maynard was spared and her childhood was not marred by the violence of war. She played with native children and fished in the streams. "I never saw the Japanese and I never saw gunfire," she said.
"It's a good read, even when you know the story," said Howard Maynard, who admits it makes him emotional. "It gets me every time I hear it," he said, thinking of the hardships and dangers his wife faced in her youth. They battled heat, hunger and natural disasters such as fire and typhoons. She was never aware of the price on their heads placed there by the Japanese.
As far as Mary McKay Maynard knew, "We were living at the Waldorf," at least compared with many other civilians, some of whom were interned in camps, some of whom were killed. "The Filipinos liked us. We had supplies," she said, and they never betrayed them to the Japanese.
"You think about murder and mayhem and terror. I wrote the book to show there were some bucolic parts of the war," she said.
All the while, Maynard and her parents worried about her teenage brother, Robert, who was in boarding school near Manila. They were reunited several years later.
"I thank the people of the Philippines for protecting Mary," said Howard Maynard.
And the people of the Philippines thanked Mary, too, when she returned there to a hero's welcome three years ago. They were grateful that she praised them for their protection.
For more information visit www.pequotlibrary.org, or call 203-259-0346.