Jackson County War Hero
The War Journal of Major Damon ''Rocky''
Bidding battle Gause's war journal sought by publishers
By Jana Adams
Major Damon J. Gause's World War II story sounds like a movie plot - in fact, it may become one. To publishers worldwide, it sounds like a tale worth fighting for in an all-out bidding battle.
Within the next few weeks, the publishing rights to the Jefferson native's war-time journal is expected to be purchased for what some speculate will top $1 million. Movie rights are also being discussed for the hero's amazing story of escape and survival in the opening days of WWII.
For Gause's Jefferson family, it's been a whirlwind as months of research and dealing with the publishing world near fruition.
"My father wrote the journal prior to going back to Europe," said Damon Gause Jr., who was only 3 months old when his father died in a training accident in England.
"His journal, flags and personal effects were shipped in a trunk to my mother after his death. I was the only son, so my mother let me open the trunk from time to time and read the journal. It was loose-leaf, so I had to be careful."
After more than 50 years, Gause Jr. and his family decided to offer the journal for publication.
"I wanted to get it out to the world, to get it published as a tribute to World War II veterans and to honor the memory of my father," he said. "About 18 months ago, I started getting contacts and searching the government archives to get background information to accompany the journal, as well as my father's crash report of 1944. I have a New York City agent to represent my publishing rights and we've been getting numerous inquiries."
And getting the story out to the world has apparently been effective. A major news article about the journal and likely book appeared in the New York Post last week and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution this week. In addition, media outlets all over the world have been calling Gause Jr. about the story.
"We've had a lot of foreign interest," he said. "I've been contacted by the BBC and various news media from the different countries...My father speaks (in the journal) highly of the Filipinos who helped him escape, and the Australians are proud that he was able to make it to safety with them.
"The English tie is that he is buried at the Cambridge American cemetery about 40 miles from London. He fought on English soil and died on English soil. I wasn't sure about the Japanese interest, but the Japanese code of honor was never to surrender. In escaping them, my father lived up to their code. He is a hero to them even though he was a foe of them."
A 'POLISHED' JOURNAL
Were it not for the interest of the younger Gause, his father's story might have been just another footnote to the century's greatest cataclysm. It was early in the war when the elder Gause escaped the Philippines and made his way to Australia in what some call a "modern day Odyssey." The escape made headlines at the time and Gause and a companion traveled around the country in an effort to boost moral.
Gause escaped his Japanese captors in the Philippines by killing a sentry and swimming three miles toward safety, only to be re-captured. He escaped again, this time into the jungle with another prisoner, and sailed in a native boat 3,200 miles to safe harbor in Australia.
The details of that flight make up what is being currently called "The War Journal," although that is a temporary title that may change when the publisher is decided. Maj. Gause had titled the journal "By the Grace of God and the Filipinos."
"My father left this in a very polished form," Gause Jr. said. "I think he left it as a way of saying 'I've got this ready, but I was unable to get it done.' I think I am following on my father's wishes...My father must have had great writer potential. I'm amazed at how descriptive it was. The publisher will decide, but I want the journal to be by Major Damon J. Gause with Damon L. Gause. I may do an introduction and a tail end, but the journal will be the heart."
Not only is the journal a historical record, it is also a personal history for Gause Jr.
"I would have been old enough to read when I first saw the journal, but I didn't fully comprehend it until later, when I was a teenager and had learned more about the war," he said. "I learned more about the strength of what one man had done. I've been told it was the most successful escape in American warfare history.
"I had no other way of knowing my father, other than what my family and Jefferson people told me. My father saw me one time when I was two days old at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens. His officer, Col. Lance Call (hence the L. in Gause Jr.'s name) allowed him to slip off and visit. I was three months old when my father died."
Gause Jr. has a few photographs of the new family taken at the hospital, as well as some 30 pictures his father took during his escape with a camera given to him by a missionary. The photographs will likely be included in the journal's publication.
"The possibility of a movie is really strong, according to my agent," Gause Jr. said. "I would like to see someone with a similar mind-frame play my father. The actor Matt Damon has some similar characteristics to my father and I like his style of acting."
And although Gause Jr. was unable to say more about the contents of the journal and its possible future uses, he did say a more complete story would be available once the publisher is determined. "Things are moving quickly," he said.
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