In the summer of 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. On August 6th, “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima, and three days later, “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. What few people know is that 12 American POWs were on the ground in Hiroshima, 1,300 feet from ground zero. Among them was Normand Brissette, a young American Airman from Lowell, Massachusetts. While Normand would actually survive the bombing with only minor injuries, he, like thousands of others, would finally succumb to the effects of radiation, and die on August 19th.
On that same early August morning, a young Japanese boy, Shigeaki Mori, would witness the explosion. He would survive that day, but his life would be changed forever. Mr. 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. To honor them, like all the others who suffered as victims that day, he worked tirelessly to track down each family and try to give some closure and even solace by letting them know what happened. And to have each airman recognized at the Hiroshima Peace Museum, named as victims of the atomic blast.
My research uncovered many details about what Mr. Mori had done for these Americans. His personal sacrifice for them. And I had to know why. He saw the effects of that bomb firsthand, and what it did to his friends and family. It would take a very special person to look past all that. We were the enemy. What would drive this man to spend so much time and effort to recognize them? To reach out to their families and provide comfort. And often closure.
And that is exactly what Shigeaki Mori did. Normand and the other Americans were just some of the over 100,000 people that died following the bombing. Normand shared the same fate as the Japanese. His story is their story. But one man has stood up to give the 12 their voice. One man looked at them not as just as a symbol of those that had dropped the bomb, but as victims. They were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. And they deserved to be treated as such. No matter what uniform they wore. That is Shigeaki Mori's legacy.
The Project: “Paper Lanterns” (working title) is a film about the true story of American Airman Normand Brissette and Mr. Mori’s struggle to account for his story in the years and decades that followed the end of World War II. This story is about them. The horrors they witnessed. The families that struggled to find the truth, and one man’s effort to give them the gift of closure. It’s about the humanity and compassion shown by those who were in the heart of the destruction. The generation that lived through these events are dying away. They don’t want anyone to forget their loved ones and the sacrifices they made. They want to strive for peace, compassion and a world free of nuclear weapons. They want us to never forget their story. The film will be told through the eyes of a number of witnesses to the events of August 6, 1945, as well as those who have dealt with its aftermath. They have been amassed through a collection of sources, including personal accounts and letters, documents released from the U.S. government, and personal interviews with eyewitnesses, historians and family members. Specifically, my interviews with Mr. Shigeaki Mori will highlight his 35-year journey to bring peace to the souls of Normand and the other U.S. Airmen that found themselves in Hiroshima. My interviews with Normand’s friends and family, who always keep Normand young and alive in their hearts, will help show how Normand lived and was loved. My hope is that this story will show the bonds that forever tie Mr. Mori’s Hiroshima, Japan and Normand Brissette’s Lowell, Massachusetts.
I took this project on because I felt this story needed to be told. The people in the story are all real. I've sat with them, and talked about their loved ones. I've talked to Normand's sister who remembers the young man that just loved planes and wanted nothing more than to fly. I've sat with Normand's best friend. We talked about journey they both took to war, what Normand's friendship meant to him. I’ve made the trip to Japan and met with Mr. Mori. With tears in his eyes, he spoke with me about that day in August, 1945 and what he witnessed, when his grade school was used to hold the dead and dying. We followed the path that Normand took in those days after the bombing, as his condition would continue to worsen, and no one knew why or how to stop it. Mr. Mori took me to where Normand spent his last night and where he was later buried.
This story is real. And it has gone quietly unknown by so many. I think their story is important enough to do what I can to tell it.
WHERE WILL THE MONEY GO?
Getting to Japan from Boston can be expensive. I hope to get back to Japan for additional interviews and content as we get closer to the 70th anniversary of the bombing next August 6, 2015. I also need to travel to other parts of the U.S. to gather additional interviews of experts and historians, not to mention the funds to help support all the post production. Many folks have been kind enough to support me by donating their time, but to really finish this I will need the additional financial support to get all the way through a finished product that I can share with everyone. Oh, and translations from Japanese to English. There is quite a bit of that.
Right now, I have been the one leading it and getting it organized, but as I can gather more funds, I can start to bring on some really needed support. That said, so many have helped me get to even this point. Connelly Partners, DGA Productions, Panache Editorial, Soundtrack Boston, Dracut Access Television, and so many friends and family. The Brissette family has been wonderful and very supportive. And this really would not have even started if it were not for them, especially Tony Archinski, who has done so much to keep the legacy of Normand alive. My new friends in Japan have been incredibly supportive about this idea. To them, it is something they live with every day. People like Yukako Ibuki and Tomoko Nishizaki who have helped me navigate through the details in Hiroshima. The team will expand as I will need to bring on additional support to help shoot and edit the next phase of the project. I've done a lot so far, but there is a lot more of the story to capture.
Risks and challenges
Of course, there are risks with taking on a project like this. It takes time to do the research and chase down the leads needed for the story, as well as finding the right resources to help get this project done. Lots of things have come up even getting to this point and I am sure they will be a lot more surprises. But I've got a few things going for me. I've got the 20 years or so in the production business, and that is a huge help. I've spent a lot of time telling other people's stories. This time, I want to tell this one. I've got the support of Normand's family here in Lowell, as well as the support of friends in the production community here in Boston, and now in Hiroshima. I am not saying it will be easy, and it will take time. But I’ve been taking this with a slow and steady approach and it seems to be working. I've got a great support network and that is a huge help.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)