Nick Devaux and Lars McKee’s World War II Log Book Project
Our friends Lars McKee from Sweden and Nick Devaux from St. Lucia update us with stories from their record-breaking Log Book Project.
The Log Book Project, initiated by Nicholas Devaux in 2016, has become a profound testament to the experiences of over 200 World War II veterans across the globe. This extraordinary flight log book, once belonging to Devaux’s father, Cyril, a Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot from St. Lucia, serves as a tangible reminder of the sacrifices made for peace.
Cyril Devaux, like many young men from British colonies, joined the war effort. However, he seldom spoke about his wartime experiences. It was only when Nicholas Devaux, at the age of 11, stumbled upon the logbook in his mother’s cabinet that the journey of The Log Book Project began. Filled with his father’s impeccably neat handwriting detailing training maneuvers and missions, the logbook also contained captivating photos of aircraft that fascinated the young Devaux.
In 2016, inspired by the story of Harada Kaname, one of the last surviving Zero fighter pilots and a post-war peace activist, Devaux embarked on a mission to collect signatures from individuals with profound World War II experiences. Although Harada passed away before signing, the project found its first signatory in Shigeaki Mori, a Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor. The logbook’s return to St. Lucia with Mori’s signature marked a deeply moving moment for Devaux.
The project gained momentum as Devaux, recognizing the urgency to collect stories, orchestrated the logbook’s journey across continents. The signatories, whose average age was close to 100, included veterans from both sides of the war, spanning various fronts and roles such as kamikaze pilots, nurses, and spies. Devaux’s unconventional approach involved physically sending the logbook to each signatory rather than relying on digital means. This choice, he explains, adds a personal touch and brings the log book to life.
A dedicated website, thelogbookproject.com, complements the physical logbook, allowing for global tracking, publication of signatories’ backstories, and connection among veterans.
During a business trip to Tokyo in November 2022, Devaux had the opportunity to add more signatures to the logbook. His encounters included meeting 96-year-old Odachi Kazuo, a former kamikaze pilot who reflected on the naivety of youth and the tragedy of war. Devaux also visited the Wadatsumi no Koe Museum, run by 93-year-old Okada Hiroyuki, who lived through the US bombing of Tokyo and emphasized the importance of understanding each other’s history and culture.
The logbook bears witness to poignant moments, such as Devaux’s meeting with Lester Schrenk, a US Air Force ball turret gunner, and Hans Hermann Muller, the German fighter pilot who spared Schrenk’s B17 bomber during a mission over Denmark. Their story of forgiveness and reconciliation profoundly impacted Devaux and became part of The Log Book Project.
The conversation is enriched by Jim Belcher, whose father, James Belcher Sr., was a survivor of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35). The Indianapolis delivered components for the atomic bomb that was later dropped on Hiroshima.
After completing this secret mission, the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945, and sank in the Philippine Sea. Jim’s father was adrift in shark-infested waters for several days, along with fellow crew members. The survivors faced dehydration, exposure, and shark attacks, with many succumbing to these perils.
The rescue of the remaining crew occurred days later, after they were spotted by a routine air patrol. James Belcher Sr. carried the burden of survivor’s guilt and trauma throughout his life. The lack of mental health support for veterans during that time meant that individuals like Belcher Sr. had to grapple with their psychological struggles largely on their own.
Toyoko Belcher, James Belcher Sr.’s wife, played a significant role in supporting him through the aftermath of the USS Indianapolis sinking. She herself was a Nagasaki survivor whom Jim met in Japan after the war. They fell in love, and she stood by him during the challenging post-war years as he coped with the trauma, guilt, and the difficulties that arose from those experiences.
The Veterans Breakfast Club’s Veterans Day VET-A-THON is a 12-hour online program bringing veterans from around the nation together to share their stories of service with the public. You’ll hear from veterans from every walk of life and branch of service, from World War II to the present. Guest hosts from across the globe will help share Veterans’ stories, military history, GI humor, Armed Forces trivia, and information for veteran and military families.