Our Friend Papa Dan
Of all the gringos that have made this wonderful city of Iquitos their home there is none to compare with Papa Dan, “The Real Old Man of the Jungle”.
Dan C. Buzzo was born April 7th, 1921 in Harlington, Texas. Papa Dan went to school at Schriener Military Institute, Kernelle, Texas and Esterel University, Texas until 1938 when he joined the Texas National Guard. Dan was mobilized in November 1941 and was sent by troop ship to the Philippines, stopping en-route at Pearl Harbor. Dan’s ship left Pearl Harbor on December 2nd and while in the mid-pacific the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The war with Japan began with a bang.
On New Years Eve, 1941 Dan was fighting along side the Australians in Java. In March 1942 Java surrendered, Dan became a Prisoner Of War, and was sent to Singapore, where he spent some time in the infamous Changi Prison. The film “King Rat” portrays Dan and his companions in their attempt to survive the terrible conditions in captivity.
On April 7th, 1942, on the Island of Java, the Japanese strung barb wire around a group of Allied Prisoners Of War. Confused and scared, a young soldier from Texas watched and wondered what the future held for him. He noticed that metallic disks were attached to the wire about every 50 feet or so. After awhile he ventured over to the fence to have a look at one of those tags. Stamped in the metal, it read Made In USA. So much had happened so quickly in the preceeding six months and little did he know, the worst was yet to come. April 7, 1942 was Dan Buzzo’s 21st birthday.
Dan spent the rest of the war working on the Burma Railway where 28% of the prisoners of war died from cruel neglect, starvation, or at the hands of their ruthless captors. The movie, Bridge Over The River Kwai, was loosely based on the lives of the group of Prisoners Of War that Dan Buzzo was part of.
From March 8th, 1942 until August 15th 1945, Dan and the other members of the most decorated unit from Texas in any war, The Texas Lost Battalion, were enslaved, starved, tortured, and denied medical care for 3 1/2 years.
Following the end of the war, after being promoted to staff sergeant, Dan returned to the United States to continue his studies attaining degrees in science and geology.
Dan was happy to marry his wife Peggy on October 4th, 1945.
Papa Dan worked in the oil business in Mexico, Argentina, Iran, Monrovia, Ecuador, Peru, Philippines, Mauritania, Trinidad, Colombia, and Bolivia, taking his wife and children with him. He traveled to 45 countries.
Sadly, Peggy died in Ecuador in March of 1972.
After many years working in oil Dan retired and opened Papa Dan’s Gringo Bar in Coca, Ecuador. Next he settled here in Iquitos and opened another Papa Dan’s Gringo Bar. To this day he remains the most respected gringo in Iquitos Peru.
When we asked Papa Dan, “After a full life, do you still have any ambitions?”
“Oh yes, I want to stay alive long enough to learn the true story of the J. F. Kennedy assassination”.
Among his many accomplishments, Papa Dan is one of the 50 plus founding members/owners of the Amazon Golf Course, in Iquitos Peru.
Our Friend Papa Dan.
By Mike Collis, Michael Buzzo, and Bill Grimes