Many years ago, back when I first started my work of finding and contacting the former Taiwan POWs, Gnr. Ken Pett of the 80th Anti-Tank Reg’t. told me in a letter how that when he was evacuated from Keelung in September 1945 on the aircraft carrier USS Santee, one of the American sailors had given him a little blue Gideon’s New Testament to help and comfort him.
He was so grateful for that act of kindness and had cherished the Testament all those years, and in gratitude and respect he wanted to try to find that sailor who had signed the testament and thank him. So he asked for my help in locating its owner - AOM3c Kenneth Scott of Tulsa Oklahoma.
Testament given to Ken Pett by Kenneth Scott aboard the USS Santee - September 1945
Try as I may for a long time, I could never track down sailor Scott. and so we finally had to give up on our quest. Later Ken (Pett) presented me with the Testament for our POW museum collection, and now whenever I visit schools or speak at events or have artifact displays, I always have the Testament on display and tell its story, to show the compassion and kindness that one sailor had for the POWs.
Then in 2014 as I worked on our POW archives – sorting and cataloguing all the documents and artifacts, I came across files from two other men who had also received Testaments from Kenneth Scott. This piqued my interest and as it had been years since my first search, I decided to try Googling his name to see if by any chance he might come up on some ship’s list or whatever.
Well much to my surprise his name did come up but not in the way I had expected. I found sadly a funeral announcement and obituary stating that he had recently passed away on December 28, 2013.
At the bottom of the announcement was the name of Kenneth’s church in Hot Springs Arkansas where he had lived, so I wrote to the pastor and told him who I was and the story of the Testament. The pastor put me in touch with Kenneth’s daughters and several heart-warming emails followed.
His daughter Patricia told me that he had never talked much about the war and had never mentioned giving away the Testaments to the POWs, but this was characteristic of her dad – a selfless, humble and caring Christian man. The family, the pastor and Kenneth’s church were thrilled with this story and it just shows the influence that we can have in our lives by doing good for others, even though we may never know the results in our lifetime. Kenneth’s name and legacy live on because of those acts of kindness on the USS Santee nearly 70 years ago.
It is unfortunate that we were unable to find Kenneth Scott before he passed away as it would have been wonderful if the “two Kens” could have been in touch. I contacted Ken Pett through his son Mike Heather and they have been in touch with Ken Scott’s family, so in the end there has been some closure for this amazing story.
This is just another example of the wonderful way in which researching and sharing the POWs’ story touches lives and brings people together from all over the world and we are glad to have a part in that.
AOM3c Kenneth Scott in 1941 and 2013
Note: I had also found out a number of years ago that Chaplain Gordon MacInnes on the USS Block Island also gave away New Testaments to some of the POWs aboard that ship on the journey from Taiwan to Manila.