Henry Lee was born in Pasadena, California in 1915. A Lieutenant in the 31st Infantry Regiment, Lee was posted to the Philippine Islands in early 1940 and captured by the Japanese after the fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942. He survived the Bataan death march and was incarcerated in the Cabanatuan POW camp. During his time in camp he composed a number of poems which he recorded in a small notebook.

In late December 1944 Lee and 1618 others were put on a transport ship to be sent to Japan as slave labour. Before leaving he hastily concealed his diary and volume of poems under his prison hut and left word with fellow prisoners in his barracks to have his writings dug up if they were ever liberated.  On 13 December 1944 Lee and his comrades boarded the unmarked prison ship Oryoko Maru which was attacked and sunk by US Navy planes the following night: 278 US servicemen did not survive. On 27 December the remaining captives were loaded onto the freighter Enoura Maru, bound for Japan. At 9 a.m. on 9 January 1945 the ship was attacked and sunk by US planes, an attack during which Henry Lee was killed.

On 30 January, 1945 a daring raid was undertaken by the 6th Ranger Battalion on the POW camp at Cabanatuan. Alerted by a prisoner that documents might be buried there combat photographer John Leuddeke discovered Lee’s notebooks and poems. He was so impressed by the poems that he forwarded copies to the editors of the Saturday Evening Post. Nine of Lee’s poems appeared in the 24 November 1945 issue of the Post; his poem and letters were published as Nothing But Praise in 1945.

Henry Lee’s Poems