Ordinary graduate; extraordinary impact
According to author T. Martin Bennett, good deeds done in the shadow of humility can have a monumental impact on the lives of others.
This was true, Bennett says, of Keuka College Class of 1944 graduate Margaret “Peggy” Covell Struble, whose quiet life of service ultimately had a transformative impact on Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Imperial Japanese Navy bomber pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The true story of how the lives of the Covell family, Fuchida, and American POW Jake DeShazer intersected and impacted one another are told in detail in Bennett’s nonfiction novel “Wounded Tiger.”
Nearly nine years of research across two continents went into the book, and Bennett will travel to the Keuka College campus to offer a presentation on “Wounded Tiger,” at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 17 in Hegeman Hall, Room 109. The presentation, which is free and open to the public, takes place during the College’s Green & Gold Celebration Weekend Oct. 16-18. This year also marks the 125th anniversary of Keuka College.
“Peggy was, in many ways, a very ordinary person who made some extraordinarily big choices with no idea about the impact it would make. She made the right choices, and they were monumentally good,” Bennett describes.
According to Bennett’s research, Fuchida had “a complete change of mind and heart,” thanks to the faithful example of Peggy Covell Struble and American Jake DeShazer, a bombardier who was part of the Doolittle air raid against Japan, but was captured in China as a POW.
Struck by what he calls “an epic story” that was “very visual, and very cinematic,” Bennett began researching Fuchida, Covell and DeShazer. “It only got better. I looked for primary source documents and people close to the survivors and asked them who else I should talk to.”
“It’s a story of hope and inspiration and it’s universal,” he adds. “If it were fiction, people would just roll their eyes and say ‘That’s ridiculous; it’s simply too far out to be true.’ Except it really happened and Peggy was the fulcrum of change in this international global conflict stemming from the Pacific War.”
“She never intended to do anything great. She just tried to help people,” Bennett says. “She wasn’t interested in any publicity for herself, which makes her story even better. She was a catalyst.”
According to Bennett and “Wounded Tiger,” Peggy Covell Struble lived out a deep faith, refusing to speak ill of the Japanese people even after her missionary parents— who raised her in Yokohama, Japan and later, the Philippines—were martyred by Japanese soldiers during the war. Along with fellow missionaries, the Covells were killed as suspected spies in December 1943 in the mountains of the Philippines where they fled just after the start of the war. They never knew their daughter graduated from college.
Nonetheless, Peggy demonstrated love to Japanese POWs as she served in a military hospital in Utah where she encountered Fuchida’s flight engineer. Hearing of her example and that of Jake DeShazer after the war, Fuchida could no longer hold contempt against Americans, which led to radical changes in his own life.
“What I tell people is that Peggy’s life had a huge impact, but you have an advantage over her. She’s not here and you are,” Bennett explains, referring to her passing in June of 1995. “People want to do good, and I think this story can be a huge inspiration to them.”
His Saturday presentation will include a showing of a movie “trailer” concept for “Wounded Tiger,” as Bennett has met with prospective investors to develop the companion screenplay into an independent film. The presentation will conclude with questions and a book signing, and copies of “Wounded Tiger” will be available for purchase then and at the campus bookstore.
With a Japanese translation finished and a Chinese translation in the works, Bennett is hard at work on updates for a second printing; all are targeted for release in 2016. Alumni with memories of Peggy Covell Struble are encouraged to attend the 11:30 a.m. presentation Sat. Oct. 17 in Hegeman Hall during Green & Gold Weekend. Bennett will also participate in a memorial service for alumni held on Sunday morning at Norton Chapel.
For more information on Bennett, the multiple facets of the “Wounded Tiger” project or copies of the book in print or E-book formats, visit www.woundedtiger.com.