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Mr. Augusto Adrian

The most unforgettable person I ever met.

Mr. Adrian made it possible for me to acquire the huge dugout canoes (40 feet) for the Liki Tiki projects.

Panama, May 29, 1967

Mr. Adrian called me from the Balboa YMCA, our usual meeting place, and asked me to come over. In the lobby of the YMCA he told me his life story as follows:

Augusto and his two sons in front of his house. He came to the U.S. in 1923 as an immigrant from Germany. Moved to Panama in the ‘30s. Was a spy for Germany during the Second World War. September 1942 he was caught and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Oklahoma. In time he was asked if he wanted to go back to Germany.

He said, "Yes, more than anything in the world, I want to go back to Germany."

Augusto's home on the beach. In a prisoner of war exchange, he was shipped to a Norwegian ports where the exchange took take place. Back in Berlin he was drafted in the Army then assigned to a regiment in France. He showed a sworn statement that he had to sign for his release, that he would never take up arms against the U.S. So they sent him to the Black Sea to fight the Russians aboard a navy ship.

One day the captain called him to his office and said, "You don’t take this war very serious, do you?"

Adrian said, "My home is in Piña’s Bay, Panama."

The captain said, "Ha, ha, you are not a fanatic Nazi. You are not a true German."

Adrian said with tears in his eyes, "With all my heart I am a true German. With all my heart I am for the Nazi cause."

The captain said, "You don’t salute like a fanatic Nazi."

During the next few days, Adrian practiced the Nazi salute. Back in the captain’s office, Adrian put so much enthusiasm behind his salute the captain said, "You are more than a fanatic Nazi, you are a threat to this outfit. I am a man of a kind heart and we will watch you."

The captain’s "attitude charge" was grounds for execution.

In a few days, a high ranking officer came aboard. It was Adrian who was to greet him at the gangway. Adrian said, "I put all I had into the Hi-O-Hitler salute. The other officers gave a modest salute. The officer returned the old Kiser salute. I made a fool of myself."

While stationed on the Black Sea, he took leave inland. He met some fellows of another outfit in a bar. He said, "Something told me not to talk anymore."

Adrian just looked out the window listening to the conversation. Someone said something about the V-1 or buzz bomb. Its capabilities are fantastic. One blew-up on the launch pad and killed many people.

Soon men in long black coats came into the bar and asked the men for their ID. Adrian was from a different outfit and said he just arrived. They let him go. He heard the men were executed the next day.

Near the end of the war, he was in Berlin. The Russians were closing in and could hear the cannons. He knew he had to get out of Berlin now. If the Russians capture him and find out where he was fighting, he would be a dead man.

He went to a high ranking friend and asked for a way out of Germany. His friend gave him a pass that would get him on the train and a blank pass with stamps and a signature. He could fill it out as needed.

He rushed to the train station when two guards stuck rifles in his stomach and asked, "Where are you going?"

Adrian said, "I am carrying secret mail and showed them his pass."

They let him in the station.

The station was the worst suffering of humanity he had ever seen. Men with arms and legs missing. Men, women, and children starving to death.

His train pulled into the station. It was jammed packed with people hanging unto the roof. Children crying, men groaning with pain. He saw a open window with a big lady taking up two seats.

He asked, "Will the honorable lady please move over and give a desperate man a seat."

She said, "No."

Then Adrian put his pistol to her ribs and told her to move over. She did. Adrian said, "I don’t know how I did it. I climbed up the side of the railroad car and crawled through the window into the lady’s lap."

He got off in his old home town which was near the advancing American Army. His relatives are strong Nazi’s. Soon the American Army came rolling through town. The first vehicles had two machine guns with men who had very stern faces and pointing them at any possible trouble. Adrian and his relatives were along the street with everyone else watching. Soon a G.I. handed him a chocolate bar. They hadn’t seen chocolate in years. Then he felt better.

Soon someone said, "Don’t eat it, it is poison."

Adrian asked, "Why would a G.I. want to poison us?"

He ate it and no one else would.

Soon a G.I. came to Adrian with sweat poring down his face, shoved a rifle in his stomach, with quivering hands on the trigger and in a quivering voice asked, "Are you a Nazi?"

In English he replied, "I am an American citizen and showed him his papers." Continuing, "I went to the U.S. in 1923."

The G.I. turned him over to an officer. After talking for a while, the officer asked for something to eat.

Adrian said, "We don’t have anything to eat. No one in this town has anything to eat."

The officer sent for some food, enough to last Adrian’s family for a week. Then with a piece of chalk, he wrote on the side of the house "Off Limits" and signed his name.

Adrian became home sick for the serenity of his Piña Bay home in Panama. Life in Germany is a nonlife. He got permission to travel back to Berlin to try and get papers to leave the country. He looked up an American officer named Mr. Wine who happened to be a Jew.

Mr. Wine said, "You made this mess and you are going to stay."

Adrian went back home, put on a short leather pants, put coffee, cigarettes and a camera in a nap sack and started walking to the Austria boarder and Italy. One evening he was eating in a cafe and talked to a man with a car. Adrian said, "I have coffee and cigarettes for you if you can get me to the Austria boarder."

The man said, "OK" and was able to drive through all the check points.

After dark, Adrian started walking across the boarder, keeping an eye on the searchlight that lit the area every 30 seconds. Soon he heard, "Hands up!"

Adrian said, "I have no arms."

The guards asked, "What are you doing here?"

Adrian said, "I want to go back home to Panama."

The guards said, "We will put you in jail and send you back to Berlin."

While in jail, the wife of the commander came to visit the prisoners. Adrian found a chance to tell her his story. When he finished she said, "My husband is a cruel man, I will try and persuade him to let you go."

The next day, Adrian was let out of jail. They asked him, "Do you have any money?"

Adrian said, "No, I only have this camera."

The guard gave him $15 in Austrian money for the camera, then told him to go the square in the center of town. There a mail truck pulled by horses will stop. A man will blow a trumpet and two police officers will appear. Present yourself to them.

Everything happened just as the guards said it would.

The police officer said, "Climb aboard."

The mail truck took Adrian far enough into Austria to move freely.

Adrian finally arrived at a seaport in Italy and found a Likes Line ship. He called to an officer on deck and asked to come aboard. The officer said, "Yes."

When aboard, the captain was curious as to what he wanted, sense the war had only been over a few weeks.

Adrian said, "I want to do some work for something to eat."

They put him to work and made him part of the crew. A few days latter, two policemen came and took him to the immigration office. The immigration officer told him, "You entered Italy illegally and must go back to Germany."

Adrian speaking in Spanish said, "I want to go back home to Panama."

The startled officer asked, "You speak Spanish too?"

Adrian said, "Yes, and that his home is in Panama and that the Americans in Germany would not give me a pass to leave. So I had to come illegally."

The officer said, "I will give you a visa for ten days. You have to be out of Italy by then or go back to Germany."

Mr. Adrian thanked him warmly, then wired his sister in Panama for boat passage money. In ten days he received the money and found a ship going to Panama.

When in Panama, the customs officer told Adrian, "You cannot get off the ship, you must go back to Germany. You left illegally and you have no visa for Panama."

Adrian asked, "Can I see my sister?"

The request was granted. He told his sister his story and she told the President of Panama who was a friend of the family. The President gave Adrian Panamanian citizenship papers. He was now home and no one can make him leave.

Augusto Adrian and His Women

Adrian married an Indian girl and had two boys by her. One day she ran off with another man for a while. When she came back, he would not take her back. The relationship was over.

Some time later, an Indian man paddled his canoe to Adrian’s house on Piña Bay and said, "I have a gift for you. I want you to have my daughter. She married a young Indian man a short time ago. While drunk one night, he tried to kill her. Will you take her?"

Adrian said he will take care of her for a while and sent his hired help, Pablo with the Indian man to bring the girl back. The girl was left at the mouth of the Piña River about a mile away.

Darkness fell and they were not back yet. Pablo’s canoe was very small. Adrian worried about the canoe, could it hold two people or if it rolled over could she swim? The moon was full and soon he saw a canoe in the moon light. It was Pablo with the young woman.

When she walked ashore, Adrian said, "She was the most beautiful Indian girl he had ever seen. Her figure was shapely. I went wild over her."

The next day he took her to Jaque to show her off to his friends. They said, "You finally got another one. She is beautiful, how did you get her?"

Adrian took the girl to Panama City for her first visit to a city. She did not like it and he sent her back on the next boat.

Soon, the Indian girl’s husband had left the tribe, so it was safe for her to go back home.

Bartering With the Indians

Since the Spaniards, Indians have hid their gold, even to this day. Mr. Adrian gained the confidence of an Indian Chief. He showed Adrian a large bag of gold coins dated in the ‘1800s. The chief was willing to sell ten of them if the terms were right. The chief wanted a carbide lamp, salt, shotgun and shells for the shotgun plus twenty silver dollars for each coin.

Mr. Adrian went to Panama City and bought all the items. Back at Piña Bay, he asked the manager of the Club de Pesca to take him thirty miles down the coast to the Indian village. The manager used one of his flying bridge fishing boats. When the Indians saw this boat they ran into the jungle, they never had seen anything like it before. Adrian hollered for them to come out. They never showed their faces and they never trusted him again.

At another Indian tribe, the chief died of a snake bite and his wife wanted to sell off their gold. Adrian bought ten gold coins dated 1917 for ten silver dollars each. She showed him many more coins and some gold art crafts. Her price was high.

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