- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 14, 2004

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Amid the thousands of faces of atom bomb victims that silently appear and fade on a wall of television monitors, one stands out: that of Cpl. John Long Jr., of what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces.

Cpl. Long, who died in the blast while being held by the Japanese, last month became the first American serviceman to be enshrined at a memorial here, throwing light on the little-known story of U.S. prisoners of war who perished at Hiroshima.

“It shows how indiscriminate the slaughter was,” said Shigeru Aratani, a curator at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. “Enemies and friends, soldiers and civilians, women and children — they were all killed.”

Cpl. Long bailed out of his B-24 bomber as it was shot down near Hiroshima days before the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing. The 27-year-old steelworker from New Castle, Pa., was among at least 10 American POWs killed in the attack.

The flier’s picture provides one of the few hints at Hiroshima’s Peace Park of a tale that was unpublicized for decades.

The names of seven American POWs have been added since the 1970s to an official book of victims updated annually by the city, but the list is encased in a stone cenotaph and is not visible to the public.

The American prisoners were absent from the memorial hall, which opened in 2002 and displays 9,000 bomb victims for 700 visitors a day, until Cpl. Long’s 35-year-old great nephew, Nathan Long, offered the airman’s photo last month.

Nathan Long says the portrait is a “small story” compared to the catastrophic suffering of Japanese casualties, but he said it has big implications for the way Americans remember the bomb.

“I think most Americans would look at all those Japanese faces and say, ‘That’s too bad. A lot of Japanese people died.’ But you get one American face and they might feel a little more of a connection,” said Mr. Long, who grew up in Japan and works in Tokyo as a teacher.

The bombing killed some 140,000 people. Thousands of Koreans brought to Japan as forced labor died, as did Americans of Japanese descent who were trapped after war broke out.

But the POWs are among the least remembered casualties — their fate wasn’t widely known until researchers digging through archives began to document the story in the 1970s.

An important clue came in 1977 when a professor from Hiroshima University found a Japanese list of 20 American POWs listed as killed in the atomic attack.

Some of those names were later found to belong to prisoners who had been killed elsewhere in grisly experiments that the Japanese military apparently wanted to hide.

The others were the crews of three aircraft — two B-24 bombers, including Cpl. Long’s, and a Helldiver dive bomber — shot down near Hiroshima on July 28, 1945, after a raid on Japanese warships in nearby Kure.

Thomas Cartwright, the pilot of Cpl. Long’s bomber, said the families of some of the POWs struggled to learn details of their deaths from military authorities who were slow to act on information he provided.

Mr. Cartwright, now 80, was saved when he was transferred from Hiroshima to Tokyo for interrogation five days before the atomic blast.

“I think the military would like this to fade away,” he said from his home in Moab, Utah.

Mr. Cartwright, who has written a book about his experiences titled “A Date with the Lonesome Lady: A Hiroshima POW Returns,” remembers Cpl. Long as the “coffee drinker of the crew” — a likable but serious gunner who spent his money on tools instead of liquor.

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