Luther Prunty’s Red Blanket, Symbol of Gratitude after World War II

A Blanket of Gratitude

Photo courtesy of Wichita Falls Times Record News

A red blanket of comfort followed Luther Prunty through the hell of WWII Japanese concentration camp survival. As he nears the century mark of life, home in Jacksboro, Texas, he still treasures the same blanket.

At one time the Chinese  red blanket offered him the simple protection of not being considered AWOL, when over-extending his leave in Singapore.  The blanket which hid him from American MP’s as he returned to base, became a symbol of the extreme of protection and courage necessary for survival of all that came after, at the hands of the Japanese:

Defeat in the Philippines

Defeat in Surabaya, Java, Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies)

The first Japanese Concentration camp on Indonesia, the Bicycle Camp, where brutal starvation and beatings were every day occurrences.

The moves to other camps.

The deaths of friends.

Illness.

The Japanese death-ship transports to other Japanese Labor Camps

The infamous torture of working on the “Railway of Death,” the  Burma Railroad in Thailand.Railway of Death, Burma, courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Thus the red blanket, looking whole and well-kept in the Wichita Falls, Texas Times Record News article, survived as the symbol of survival which amazes Prunty to this day.

And perhaps he survived with such gratitude, and teaches us about sacrifice and gratitude because he recognized the symbol of the blanket. Symbol gives us a way to put the wordless into words. One symbol can be a touchstone for a war’s worth of experience, or anyone’s experience. good and bad.

My Dutch Oma was also a survivor of Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia, as is Prunty. I recognized the symbol at last in a previous post, remembering when Oma was like a comforter—a blanket of comfort to me when I was sick. I realized that she, the trauma survivor, helped me in the middle of the night, as she must have once helped my father/aunt/uncle when they were sick in the camps.

What is symbol, or archetypal symbol?

“A symbol is a representation of a greater reality. The symbol is not the reality but points to it. In order to grasp the truth of a symbol one must not look “at” it but through it to the greater reality that awaits discovery by the one who has eyes to see and ears to hear. (Matt 11:15).” (Job and Shawchuck A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p. 7)

We place ourselves underneath the words (or underneath the symbol) to seek the meaning. (Jayne Price, Contemplative Retreat Facilitator, Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center)

Carl G. Jung would say… archetype or symbol, has great power, can become our life story. One way to think of the power of universal symbol (archetype) is the word numinous, defined as the ability to give birth to deep intense spirituality, intuition, guidance and emotion.

For Luther Prunty  his red blanket became a symbol.

A symbol of small and enormous Grace as being wool, it didn’t harbor lice, and being taken from him in one of the camps, it miraculously returned. by Murray Griffin, 1945

A symbol of comfort as he and, a fellow POW, Ed Worthington languished on it near death in the days before liberation.

A symbol of Texans sticking together, and helping each other, so at least some could survive.

A symbol of the grim discovery that maggots could clean out infected jungle wounds.

A symbol, when dirty and stained, of each sacrifice and bloodshed that helped some to live and saw others die.

A symbol, when clean and seemingly unharmed, of remembrance as he still holds it years after his homecoming to Jacksboro, Texas.

Please check the article, and see if you answer the same, as Luther’s  friends… Prunty has been known to ask why he was the one to survive when so many of his buddies perished. The only answer, friends say, was so he could be thanked again and again.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. (Philippians 1:3-4, NIV)

and here a picture of ordinary life back home in Texas….Don’t we all have some kind of image like this of home? A small downtown street such as this one? For me home is green fields, the smell of manure (hopefully in the distance!), misty rain, anything like my Beppe and Pake’s dairy farm in The Netherlands.

Courtes of eldr.com. Luther and Dorthy Prunty, 2007

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One Response to “ “Luther Prunty’s Red Blanket, Symbol of Gratitude after World War II”

  1. Sandra Smith says:

    So glad to meet you and your family last week. Thank you for all you have done to make this a better place. May God bless you and your family.

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