How an Atomic Bomb Survivor Refused to Allow 12 U.S POWs to be Forgotten
When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, it was long believed that no American lives were lost; it has only recently come to light that 12 American prisoners of war were also among the casualties. On Monday, October 16, at 7 p.m., Assumption College will host the first, and only scheduled screening in Central Massachusetts of Paper Lanterns, a documentary that explores the 35-year journey of a Hiroshima survivor and his lifelong quest to find the families of the 12 POWs – including one from Lowell – who were interred in Japan at the time of the bombing.
Paper Lanterns is the inspiration of Barry Frechette, who served as executive producer and co-director of the film. Frechette will provide brief commentary prior to the screening, which will take place in Kennedy 112 on the Assumption College Campus, 500 Salisbury St.
On August 6, 1945, among the more than 100,000 individuals who lost their lives in the bombing of Hiroshima were 12 American POWs, including Normand Brissette, Ralph Neal and 10 other U.S. airmen. Shigeaki Mori, a young Japanese boy, witnessed the blast and although he survived, was forever changed by the events of that day. According to the film’s description, Mori “would go on to document the events of that day and the thousands that were lost. Through his research, he would find evidence of the 12 American POWs, and would spend over 35 years tracking down their stories. Not as enemies, but as humans that suffered in one of history’s most tragic events.”
The film documents Mori’s quest to uncover the stories of the U.S. POWs, beginning in Lowell, home of Brissette; then to Harrodsburg, KY, where Neal’s family lives; and lastly to Hiroshima. This unique storytelling helps show how the war impacted families in both countries, and how one man can rise above the hatred of war and heal the wounds of loss and death.
Along with Frechette, Paper Lanterns was co-directed by Boston-based filmmaker Max Esposito, who also served as cinematographer. Music for the film, which was recorded in the historic EastWest Studios in Hollywood, is composed by Chad Cannon, and features Silk Road Ensemble shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki and Japanese pop singer Mai Fujisawa (daughter of the famous Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi, and whose vocals are showcased in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).
To learn more about the documentary, please visit www.paperlanternfilm.com.
Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College