WWII veteran nursed to health in Philippines returns the gesture 70 years later

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As a merchant mariner in the Philippines near the end of World War II, Edward Sorock suffered a serious leg injury when a boom collapsed aboard the S.S. Frederick Bouchard, the Liberty ship he served on carrying ammunition to U.S. troops.


"All of a sudden they start shouting, ‘Get out of the way,’ " said Sorock, 90, who lives in Fair Lawn with his wife of 67 years, Francine. "I didn’t know anything was wrong, it just hurt like hell."

At the hospital on Leyte Island, in the city of Tacloban, Sorock said his doctors were American, but the orderlies who bathed him, changed his bedclothes and made him comfortable were Filipinos.

"They were the ones who really took care of me when I was in the hospital," said Sorock, a retired geography teacher from Wayne Valley High School. "They were very thoughtful, kind, gentle."

So when Sorock read about the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, which leveled much of Tacloban and Leyte, he said he felt he had to do something to return the kindness he received from Filipino strangers nearly 70 years ago, and told his wife to send a check to the Red Cross.

"One hundred dollars is not going to be a payback," Sorock said. "That’s the best I can do."

Sorock, a father of two and grandfather of three, said he later learned that his son, aware of the older man’s war injury, had made a separate contribution in his father’s name.

With sustained winds close to 200 mph, Haiyan is one of the fiercest typhoons on record ever to make landfall anywhere. Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday put the death toll between 2,000 and 2,500 from Friday’s storm and the subsequent ocean surge.

The storm shook New Jersey, where there are more than 100,000 ethnic Filipinos, according to the 2010 Census, including 17,000 in Jersey City, one of the largest Filipino communities in the country.

Diane Concannon, a spokeswoman for the North Jersey Region of the American Red Cross, said people seeking to contact loved ones in the Philippines can get help from their local Red Cross chapter.

In addition to forwarding collections from a special Pacific Storm Fund set up to aid typhoon victims, Concannon said the American Red Cross sent communications and disaster relief specialists to the Philippines to aid in the response.

While Sorock is hardly alone among New Jerseyans to reach out to Filipinos because of a personal connection, his gesture stands out for the time that’s passed since his experience in the Philippines.


"I just thought it was so moving," said Concannon, who was contacted by Sorock on Monday after he saw her quoted in The Star-Ledger. "The fact that for 70 years he held that desire in his heart," she said. "A 90-year-old gentleman. And a veteran, on Veterans Day."