American Ex-Prisoners of War
A not-for-profit, Congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organization advocating for former prisoners of war and their families.

Established April 14, 1942

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Nonn, Leo
Leo Nonn, POW
Leo Nonn, Civilian Life
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Date Liberated
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After the War ...
Leo Nonn was born on May 21, 1918 in Granite City, Illinois. He grew up working in the local steel mill and doing farm labor. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression and credited those two years with preparing him for the trials to come.

In 1938 he hopped freight trains west, with stops in Texas to work at a Catholic Hospital and New Mexico to help build Conchas Dam. He arrived in Los Angeles, staying at the Union Rescue Mission until he could find work. He attended night school at Polytechnic High and Sawyer Business College while helping build airplanes at Douglas Aircraft.

In 1941 he enlisted as a civilian canteen clerk assigned to Wake Island. When war broke out he volunteered with the Marines to defend the island. He fought bravely and helped hold off the Japanese for 16 days, marking the first morale boost for Americans in WWII.

Lee was taken prisoner when the island was surrendered and transported to Shanghai, China, aboard the Hell ship Nitta Maru. He endured cold, hunger and brutality during his captivity for the duration of the war. After his liberation he married Lorraine, raising a family of 9 children while working in the dairy and food business. He loved people, a good joke, deep sea fishing, camping and reading. His greatest love was his family and keeping them near.