Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Rev. Edward Nagel



Edward Nagel graduated from McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio. He then earned his diploma from Otterbein College in 1934 and went on to earn an M.A. from Ohio State University and a theological degree from Bonebrake Theological Seminary. He also studied psychology and religious education at Yale in preparation for becoming a missionary. He married Leora Lautzenheiser, a Kent State graduate who attended the same church, on August 29, 1937.

The Nagels arrived in the Philippines in 1939 and were assigned to Lubuagan, Kalinga, as missionaries. They were teaching at a high school academy in 1941 when World War II began, and Ed was invited to be a chaplain by the commander of the nearby U.S. Army staging area. Nagel became the only chaplain in U.S. military history to be dubbed a 2nd Lieutenant, which occurred mistakenly, as most chaplains entered service as first lieutenants or captains.

As war came to the Philippines, Ed became a Japanese prisoner of war and was interned at Cabanatuan, while Leora was held at Camp Holmes and then at Bilibid Prison in Manila. During this time, Leora received word from her husband that she should meet him in Manila after the war so that they might continue serving as missionaries.

At Cabanatuan, Ed continued to help those in need. He shared what little food and water he was given, and he also provided spiritual aid. He even took pictures of the chaplains with a smuggled camera. He was transferred to Bilibid in October 1944 to board the Oryoku Maru on December 13. When the hellship was struck by an American bomb on the 15th, the prisoners had to swim to shore; during this process, Ed was shot in his right hip by a Japanese machine gunner, but he didn't stop swimming. The survivors then spent five days on tennis courts before being taken to San Fernando, Pampanga and then onward to San Fernando, La Union by rail. From there they were marched to the beach, where they remained for two days and nights before being loaded onto one of two ships. Some went onto the Enoura Maru, while the rest, Nagel among them, were placed aboard the Brazil Maru. When the Enoura was later bombed in Formosa, its passengers were transferred to the Brazil, which continued on to Moji, Japan.

Although Ed had survived the hellship voyage, he succumbed to pneumonia on February 2, 1945. His wife Leora survived the war, being released from Manila in February 1945 and returning to the United States in May. She then served as a promotional secretary for the Women's Division of the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Dayton, Ohio. She passed away on December 11, 1999 at the age of 91.