Sunday, May 27, 2018

Congress acknowledges the POWs who died in Hiroshima


of Massachusetts 
in the House of Representatives 
Thursday, May 24, 2018 

Ms. TSONGAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to your attention a unique monument that is about to be installed in my district on Memorial Day. On May 28th a ceremony will be held at the Centralville Memorial Park in Lowell, Massachusetts to place a memorial stone in honor of the 12 American Army and Naval aviators who died as POWs from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Participating in the remembrance will be Mr. Shigeaki Mori from Japan, a Hiroshima survivor (a hibakusha) who has devoted nearly half his life to identifying these men and notifying their families of their fate. 

One of the POWs was 19-year-old Navy Airman 3rd-class Norman Brissette from Lowell, Massachusetts. He was among the 12 American airmen who survived the downing of four planes while on missions over Hiroshima and Kure on July 28, 1945. At the memorial ceremony, the Brissette family and friends will be joined by the family of another Hiroshima POW Army Air Corps Staff Sgt. Ralph J. Neal from Corbin, Kentucky. Both families were featured in the documentary film, Paper Lanterns, about Mr. Mori's quest to honor the memory and bravery of these American POWs. 

Mr. Mori was eight years old when he survived the bombing of Hiroshima, then a military city. His elementary school became a temporary hospital and soon a crematory. As an adult, haunted by the horror and doubting the official number of 800 dead, Mr. Mori sought to find out how many people had died at his school. The actual number was 2,300. During his research, he also discovered that 12 American POWs were among the 100,000 who perished in Hiroshima. 

The Americans were prisoners of the Kempeitai and held in Hiroshima's Chugoku Military Police Headquarters near the atomic blast's epicenter. Mr. Mori has spent decades identifying these Americans and locating their surviving family members in the United States. With the family's permission, he had the names of each of the 12 airman inscribed in Hiroshima's Register of the Names of the Fallen Atomic Bomb Victims. In July 1998, Mr. Mori placed a memorial plaque to the men on the building that was their prison. It is the only memorial in Hiroshima dedicated to the Americans killed there. 

On May 27, 2016 President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima. After the ceremony, the President hugged a tearful Mr. Mori and thanked him for his work on behalf of the American POWs. The image of President Obama and embracing Mr. Mori has come to define friendship and reconciliation between the United States and Japan. 

I welcome Mr. Mori and his wife Kayoko to my district and thank them for their dedication to peace and to making a world free of nuclear weapons. As President Obama said at Hiroshima, ``we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.'' This is what the Moris have done.

N.B. by editor: These airmen would have soon been executed if they had not been killed by the atomic bomb. The most senior among them, 1st. Lt. Thomas Cartwright, pilot of the Lonesome Lady was sent to Tokyo. Since mid-April 1945, Japanese military authorities had ordered that only pilots and senior officers were to be sent to Tokyo for interrogation. Others were to be "suitably disposed of."

See this website UNDER THE ATOMIC BOMB: AMERICAN POWS IN HIROSHIMA for more of the story of the men and their planes. It is a translation of Mr. Mori's book on his quest.

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