A musician and accountant, Nicholas Devaux, who lives in St. Lucia is behind the Log Book Project that has brought so many World War II stories together.
Let's start from the beginning. Devaux's father, Cyril Devaux, was a pilot in World War II for the Royal Air Force. He had to log all his flights in a book. Like many veterans, Cyril never talked about his service and Nicholas never asked. He found his dad's book when he was about 11, not thinking much of it but he did hold on to it.
Over the years, Nicholas became fascinated with World War II and one day was inspired to get a signature in the book. In 2016, he saw an article about a man named Kaname Harada. Harada was an accomplished Japanese pilot who was at Pearl Harbor and became a peace advocate. "It disturbed him how much violence he had witnessed, and he just felt war was not the answer, doesn’t solve anything," said Devaux. He added, "I just thought, 'Wow! Imagine if I could get this guy to sign my dad's book.'"
He sent the book to Japan with a friend. He didn't look for a local veteran he decided he was going to find Mr. Harada and get his signature. That's who inspired him. He didn't tell any of his family members about this until much later.
Harada died before he could sign the book. Nicholas hopes one day to get his daughter to sign on his behalf. At the time, Nicholas was devastated. It was around the same time President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima and met survivors of the atomic bomb. One of the survivors President Obama met was Shigeaki Mori. Devaux saw this and looked him up.
"Mori was ten years old walking to school sixth of August 1945, blown off a bridge, into a river and survives," said Devaux.
Years later, when a monument was put up with all the names of the Japanese people who died in the attack, Mori decided the Americans who were there deserved to be named too.
"So he sets about trying to figure out the identities of these men," said Devaux. "Eventually he found all of the families of these American POWs who had died and now all of their names are on that memorial in Hiroshima in Japan because of this man."
Mori became Devaux's first signature. "He signed it in English very simply two words, Shigeaki Mori. He signed the book. It was like, 'Yay!' And then that was a watershed moment, the whole world opened up to me. And at that point I thought, 'What other amazing stories are out there?' And that’s how it’s been since that day," said Devaux.
There are now more than 100 signatures, each with a different story, with representation from around the globe.
"There’s all sorts of people who contributed to this war in ways you’ve never heard of, from places you’ve never heard of," said Devaux.
The book came to Maryland for William Keyes to sign after Devaux saw a story we did on him in 2019. Keyes served on the 4341st Quartermaster Corps and the 761st Tank Battalion during World War II.
"When you read about 761st, I don’t see any of them being alive. So when you’re feed popped up and I see Mr. Keyes, I was like a heat seeking missile. I went straight in and found you," said Devaux.
We received the book and took it to Mr. Keyes who explained his connection to the 761st.
"It happened when we were in Germany and they needed extra gunmen for one of the things because I knew about the 50-caliber machine gun and they were happy to get rid of me because I raised so much hell all the time," said Mr. Keyes. He was assigned to the 4341st and temporarily was part of the 761st and then went back to the 4341st.
Before signing the book, he first looked through it. He immediately saw someone he knew, Charles McGee, a Tuskegee airman. Then he noticed all the different nationalities represented.
"This is a German guy down here. Japanese. Russian. It's a hell of a book he's got there and I can understand his concern for it."
For Keyes' signature Devaux had one request. That he sign on the same page as Nesse Godin. Godin is a Holocaust survivor and Keyes helped liberate concentration camps. As soon as Godin was mentioned, Keyes grabbed the Washingtonian magazine where they were featured in the same spread. Then he gladly signed on the same page and drew a pair of keys.
Then it was time for the book to go to its next destination in Michigan to Wallace Correll. Learn more about Correll's story, this book in general, who's signed it and where it's heading next.
Want to learn more? Watch WMAR-2 News' Erin MacPherson's conversation with Nicholas Devaux.