Hiroshima survivor shifts search for victims from U.S. to Europe

Thu Dec 11, 2014 2:23am EST
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By Thin Lei Win

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Every weekend for more than 20 years, Shigeaki Mori sat in the hallway of his compact two-story home making calls to people in the United States, asking, "Do you have a family member who died as a prisoner of war in Japan?" 

    He was searching for the families of 12 American POWs who died on Aug. 6, 1945, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

    It was not until the 1970s that declassified U.S. documents indicated the presence of the POWs in Hiroshima on that day. In the 1980s, Satoru Ubuki, a local university professor found their names and passed them on to Mori, a keen local historian.

    An A-bomb survivor himself, Mori was determined to inform the families of what happened to their kin - many were not told the exact nature of the deaths - and he believed that the soul of the dead should be respected and remembered. 

    It was an arduous process - and one that is not over yet as Mori is now tracking down the details of British and Dutch POWs he believes also died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was bombed three days later.

To find the American families he only had the surnames to go by so rang everyone he could find with that name, one by one.

"I had a map from Seattle to Texas ... It took me about three years (to find one family)," Mori, 77, said via a translator in the cluttered living room of his home in a Hiroshima suburb, sitting ramrod straight, hands on his lap.

With his limited English he prepared a questionnaire and, if he found the person had something to do with the POW, he asked the telephone operator to help, he recounted, laughing.   Continued...

A video frame grab shows Shigeaki Mori, 77, smiling at his home in a suburb in Hiroshima November 30, 2014.    REUTERS/Thin Lei Win