- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Maj. George Intile, an 83-year-old retired Army pilot, rested in a wheelchair with his cane across his knees and scanned the groups of tourists and veterans from his spot under the Pacific Arch at the National World War II Memorial on Saturday morning.

Surrounded by his 16 children and grandchildren, who were armed with videorecorders and tiny cameras, every eye watched for Barbara-Ann Gamboa Lewis.

To most there, she was only a character in their father’s stories, but to the retired major, she was the little girl he had befriended in the Philippines more than a half-century ago.

They first met on a Manila evening in 1945, near the end of World War II. Ten years old at the time, Barbara-Ann was playing “kick the can” in front of her house with some neighborhood children, when two American soldiers approached. She left the game to go talk with them.

Maj. Intile, a young first lieutenant with the Army Air Corps at the time, and his captain were surprised by her good English and asked to meet her parents. He became friends with the family and often brought canned goods over for supper.

Maj. Intile’s sister, Karen, was about Barbara-Ann’s age. The two girls exchanged letters, and Karen sent Barbara-Ann packages through her brother.

Living in the Philippines for three years of Japanese occupation during the war was a rough life for a child, Maj. Intile said before they were reunited. “She was so bright. She stood out from the crowd,” he said. “It was terrible that she had to go through all that.”

“She loved the airplanes,” he said. The young pilot let her sit in the cockpit while he taxied around the runway and taught her about the different parts of the aircraft. He was careful not to let her fly in the plane, but he did what he could to further her interest in planes.

“She was a gifted girl,” he said. “She had a lofty mind.”

Two months passed, by which time the atomic bombs had been dropped and the war was over. Maj. Intile was transferred to Japan and later went home to the U.S.; the little girl remained in the Philippines.

Decades later, in 2004, John Intili, who is among some family members who spell their name differently from Maj. Intile, and his three brothers entered their father’s name in the National WWII Memorial Registry.

Returning home to New Jersey from his first visit to the WWII Memorial, Mr. Intili was told that a woman had called his office while he was out and left a rather unusual message.

“I went into my private office and sat down to listen to the message, and what I heard astounded me,” Mr. Intili said. “The voice was that of an elderly Filipino woman who was very gentle and polite.” She said she had “befriended a young Army Air Corps pilot as a 10-year-old girl in the Philippines 60 years ago, and had been searching for him ever since, to no avail.”

Mrs. Lewis once found a “George Intile,” only to be told he had died. But in 2004, on a whim, Mrs. Lewis looked up “George Intile” in the WWII Memorial database and found his name. Seeing that Mr. Intili was the one who had entered his father’s name in the database, she found the son’s contact information via the Internet.

On the recording, she explained that she had emigrated to the United States, married an American and became an environmental engineer at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. She had never forgotten the kindness shown to her by the American pilot, she said.

After the son and his wife shared the message with the World War II veteran, he “knew right away who it was,” Mr. Intili said.

Maj. Intile’s family and Mrs. Lewis arranged to meet under the Pacific Arch at the World War II Memorial at 11 a.m. Saturday.

As the retired pilot waited for Mrs. Lewis to arrive, he laughed with his children and grandchildren, repeatedly checked the time and swapped stories with other Army veterans visiting the memorial.

The circle of people around Maj. Intile finally opened to reveal a smiling woman hurrying towards him. Mrs. Lewis dropped her luggage at her feet and ran to Maj. Intile. The family formed a tight semicircle around the two old friends who hugged, dabbed their grinning faces with tissues and quickly caught up after 60 years.

“I tried to find you, and they said you had died,” she said, with moist eyes.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” Maj. Intile said with a chuckle. “You’re still that little girl.”

She presented the family with a tin of Philippine cookies and gave Maj. Intile a handcrafted wooden model airplane, on which she had painted his name with the dates he served in the Philippines on the side. He gave her a set of U.S. silver dollar coins, and his sons brought out wartime photographs of their father to share with Mrs. Lewis.

In 2000, Mrs. Lewis published a book for her grandchildren about her memories of being a young Filipina during World War II called “Pocket Stones.”

“I noticed in all the literature from the Philippines, there was nothing about children,” she said. She dedicated a chapter to “Lieutenant George Intile” and promised to send copies to the large Intile family. The book is available on Amazon.com.

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