Home' Greymouth Star : December 13th 2014 Contents E
very weekend for more than
20 years, Shigeaki Mori
sat in the hallway of his
compact two-storey 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 August 6,
1945, when the United States dropped
an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of
It was not until the 1970s that
declassified US 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 sur vivor 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 fi nd 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
“It took me over 20 years ... I cannot
remember how many I called,” Mori, a
retired securities broker, said.
It was also costly. He would rack up
monthly phone bills of 60,000 or 70,000
yen (about $NZ320 to $NZ350 in the
Yet his tenacity paid off. He successfully
contacted 11 families and registered the
POWs with the city authority.
Their pictures in the Hiroshima Peace
Memorial Hall among a sea of Japanese
victims are a stark reminder of the bomb’s
indiscriminate nature, a message Mori
wanted to convey.
Mori, of slight build, serious and the
epitome of Japanese stoicism, wears the
achievement lightly on his sleeve.
“ What I did was just what the families
had to do but they had no clue how. They
say they really appreciated me contacting
them. I was really glad to hear their
words,” he said.
“I’m now researching about Dutch and
British POWs, not just in Hiroshima but
Mori says the whole process was
cathartic for him too.
Eight-year-old Mori was on his way
to summer classes when the world’s first
nuclear attack occurred.
“As I was walking on (a) bridge,
suddenly I felt a massive shockwave and
a blast from above. I was blown off the
bridge and fell into the river,” he recalled.
Luckily the river was shallow and plants
broke his fall but two other people on the
bridge were burnt badly and one died.
After he regained consciousness, the
morning was black.
“I couldn’t even see the 10 fingers on
my hands,” he said, raising his palms for
emphasis. He crawled out of the river and
saw a woman walking towards him.
“She was swaying ... and holding
something white. I realised she was
holding the contents of her stomach.”
The sounds of B-29 bombers filled the
air and Mori, thinking another bomb was
on the way, ran, stumbling over corpses.
He spent that night in an air raid shelter
next to his former primary school, hungry,
thirsty and terrified.
“That night was like hell ... Many people
were in the schoolyard yelling in agony.
There was nothing to eat or drink.”
The death toll from the blast was
estimated at about 140,000 by the end of
the year, out of the total of 350,000 who
lived in Hiroshima, 700km south-west of
Tokyo, at the time.
The bombing of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki remain the only use of nuclear
weapons in war.
The sur vivors, called hibakusha, continue
to suffer the after effects of radiation.
Mori’s family struggled with bad health
throughout their lives. Mori himself has
problems with kidney, liver and heart that
prevent him from long-haul air travel.
The hibakusha were criticised as
being lazy — chronic fatigue is another
consequence of radiation — and
discrimination was rampant. Young
women and men feared identifying
themselves as they would have no suitors.
Mori’s wife, a classically trained pianist
and singer, is also a hibakusha. They have
two grown-up children.
The shadow of the bomb still looms
large in modern-day Hiroshima, a
thriving, bustling city crisscrossed by six
The peace park covers a large portion of
the town centre and includes a cenotaph
with the inscription: “Let all the souls
here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat
Mori, who published a book in 2011
about the American POWs, is a pacifist
like most hibakusha and worries the
world is far from achieving peace.
“ We should learn from the loss of lives
in Hiroshima ... If war continues, people
will suffer,” he said.
The feelings of revenge against the
United States have largely dissipated,
Mori said, mainly because the US-
occupied forces provided much-needed
food when the survivors were hungry.
“I have complex feelings about it but
it was so difficult for us to survive at the
time. We appreciated American help.”
In 2012, Mori met Clifton Truman
Daniel, grandson of Harry Truman, the
US president who ordered the attack on
“I felt like I was in a dream. I’m a victim
of the atomic bombing and while he is
not the person directly involved in it, he’s
the grandson of the man who ordered
(it),” he said.
“Now we shook hands, smiled and
laughed. I cannot describe how moved I
was. This is peace, I told myself.”
Right at the start of Jesus’ ministry he
read a reading in his local synagogue and
then spoke to that reading.
The reaction he got from those listening
to him was to be forced out of town to
the edge of a cliff where they intended to
throw him off. And what was it that so
Jesus read the words from the Old
Testament book of Isaiah that speak
of bringing good news to the poor; of
proclaiming release to the captives and
recovery of sight to the blind, and to let
the oppressed go free. So far, so good. And
then he said to them, “ Today this scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And
again so far, so good. “ This boy of ours
knows his stuff and will do well. ”
And then Jesus said the things that
upset them. “ Remember the story we
tell about Elijah going to a widow in the
time of famine — there must have been
many widows in Israel and yet he was sent
only to a foreigner. And in the time of
Elisha — there were many lepers in Israel
and yet he helped cure only Naaman the
The “take-home” message that so upset
them was that their God was not just
for them, the chosen, but for those they
considered not chosen, unclean, different
and not to be associated with.
That they, by their actions and teaching,
were causing oppression and bondage and
Jesus’ actions and teaching were so
wholly inclusive that they were radical in
their implications for living then and now.
They continually challenge us to question
how best we can put them into practice;
how best to be hospitable and generous to
all; how best to “sit at table” with those we
would much rather not; how to promote
and encourage the Good News that frees
people and gives insight and relieves
As we approach Christmas once more,
as we wait for the birth of God among us,
let us remember that we are trusted to be
the people who bring the Good News that
builds up and frees rather than restricts
Greymouth Uniting Church
4 - Saturday, December 13, 2014
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
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Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
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uLetters to the editor
1545 - Protestant princes opposing Holy
Roman Emperor Charles V meet at Frankfurt.
1642 - D utch mariner Abel Tasman discovers
1862 - Confederate forces deal
Union troops a major defeat at the
Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia
during the American Civil War.
1916 - About 9000
Austro-Hungarian troops are
killed in avalanche in the Alps.
1937 - Japanese troops take
Nanking in China and proceed to massacre an
estimated 300,000 Chinese civilians.
1944 - D uring World War Two, the US
cruiser Nashville is badly damaged in a Japanese
kamikaze suicide attack that claims 138 lives.
1972 - US Apollo 17 astronauts, on last US
moon mission, unveil plaque dedicated to peace
on lunar surface.
1989 - South African President F W de Klerk
meets for the first time with imprisoned African
National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, at de
Klerk’s office in Cape Town.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Heinrich Heine, German poet (1797-1856);
Ernst Werner von Siemens, German
engineer (1816-1892); Emily
Carr, Canadian painter/writer
(1871-1945); Carlos Montoya,
guitarist (1903-1993); Dick Van
Dyke, US actor (1925-); Steve
Buscemi, US actor (1957-); Jamie
Foxx, American actor, singer and comedian,
“ To know how to say what others only know
how to think is what makes men poets or
sages; and to dare to say what others only dare
to think makes men martyrs or reformers —
or both.” — Elizabeth Charles, British writer
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The
Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of
the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired
or weary, and His understanding no one can
fathom.” — Isaiah 40:28
One hundred years
of Hokitika’s history
is inextricably woven
into the history of
its local bodies — the major one of these is,
of course, the borough council. The present
council’s ancestors were first the ‘Improvement
Committee’, and then in 1866 it was supplanted
by the Town Council.
A petition to the superintendent of the
Province of Canterbury for the formation of
a municipal council, set out that there was a
population of 2000 householders and that a
favourable answer to the prayer of the petition
would contribute to the welfare and advantages
of the town. And so the Borough of Hokitika
came into being.
The first mayor was the Hon James A Bonar
who occupied the post for two years. There was
a long line of successive mayors in the early days,
the civic honour for first citizen being contested
Some of the latter day mayors, notably Joseph
Mandl and Henry Michel, had lengthy terms of
office but one, George A Perry, a native of the
town, established a record, having been in office
from 1911 to 1942 — a period of 30 years and
Hokitka was well supplied with churches from
its early rush days. In 1865 a Roman Catholic
missionary was at work and St Mary’s was the
first church on the West Coast.
The Wesleyan Church was next, its first
preacher in 1865 preaching in the Corinthian
Hall before the church was built. The Anglican
Church followed a visit of Bishop Harper in
1865, and the present All Saints Church was
opened in 1866.
The Presbyterian Church was also opened in
uFood for thought
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WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Love for all
When somebody says it is time to move
on, it means there is something deeply
embarrassing that they do not want to
discuss in public.
President Barack Obama said
that about the Senate Intelligence
Committee’s report, published on
Tuesday, about the Central Intelligence
Agency ’s use of torture in the years after
He put the best face on it after
Senator Dianne Feinstein’s committee
released the 528-page report anyway,
talking about how “part of what sets us
(Americans) apart is that when we do
something wrong, we acknowledge it ”.
But as recently as yesterday US
Secretary of State John Kerry urged
Feinstein not to release the report now
on the grounds that the “timing” was
wrong. When would it be right, then?
Feinstein ignored him because she
knew (as did he) that if the report was
not put out now, it never would be.
Next month a new Congress will take
office, and the majority on the new
Senate Intelligence Committee will be
Republicans. They would certainly make
sure that it never sees the light of day.
But there is one Republican Senator,
at least, who thinks differently. John
McCain, who ran against Obama in
the 2008 presidential election, said
bluntly that torture “rarely yields credible
information ... What might come as a
surprise, not just to our enemies, but
to many Americans, is how little these
practices did to aid our efforts to bring
9-11 culprits to justice and to find
and prevent terrorist attacks today and
McCain was severely tortured himself
while a prisoner of war in north Vietnam
in 1968, and eventually made an anti-
American propaganda “confession”. As
he later said: “I had learned what we all
learned over there: Every man has his
breaking point. I had reached mine.”
But then, he knows more about
this subject than any other American
politician, and probably more than any
CIA torturer. They were never at the
Even McCain, however, confined
himself to saying that torture was not a
useful instrument of American policy.
He avoided talking about the more
important fact that it is also a grave
crime under international law, because
that would mean admitting that senior
officials in former president George W
Bush’s Republican administrations who
authorised the torture in 2002-06 —
possibly even including Bush himself
— should face prosecution.
Almost every senior American
politician will avoid talking about that.
The debate in the United States will
be between those who insist that the
waterboarding, regular beatings, “stress
positions”, ice baths, sleep deprivation,
“rectal feeding”, and other torture
techniques used on captives in the CIA’s
“ black sites” yielded useful information
and saved American lives, and those who
say that it was all pointless and useless.
The Senate committee’s report provides
fuel for this debate, examining 20
cases of counter-terrorism “successes”
achieved by torture that the CIA has
used to justify its actions. Even now,
CIA director John Brennan defends the
torture, claiming that “the intelligence
gained from the programme was critical
to our understanding of al Qaeda.”
But the committee concludes that not
one case produced unique or otherwise
This is all beside the point. The law
does not say that torture is a crime
unless it produces useful intelligence,
any more than it says that murder is a
crime unless it is profitable. It simply says
that torture is a crime, always and in any
circumstances. As it should.
The American Civil Liberties Union,
to its credit, says that the attorney
general should appoint a special
prosecutor to conduct “an independent
and complete investigation of Bush
administration officials who created,
approved, carried out and covered up the
torture programme ... In our system, no
one should be above the law, yet only a
handful of mainly low-level personnel
have been criminally prosecuted for
abuse. That is a scandal.”
But the discussion about punishing the
people who committed these crimes will
mostly be conducted outside the United
States, and it will not be conducted
by governments. The several dozen
American allies that were accomplices
in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention
and Interrogation programme, have all
exercised their right to have information
about their collaboration removed from
The debate will therefore have to
take place in the media and in the
international organisations. United
Nations special rapporteur on human
rights and counter-terrorism Ben
Emmerson, for example, said in
Geneva that senior officials from the
Bush administration who planned
and sanctioned these crimes must be
prosecuted, as well as CIA and US
government officials responsible for
torture such as waterboarding.
“As a matter of international law,”
Emmerson said, “the US is legally
obliged to bring those responsible to
justice.” Well, yes, but you would be wise
not to hold your breath while waiting for
this to happen. So far, only one former
CIA official, John Kyriakou, has been
jailed in connection with the torture
programme — and he was prosecuted for
confirming to reporters that the CIA was
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Torture and the CIA — time to move on?
Director of the CIA John Brennan speaks during a rare news conference at CIA headquarters in Virginia yesterday.
Shigeaki Mori in his house in Japan.
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