Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Rhode Island Story

     The odyssey that was to ultimately become Relentless Pursuit: The Untold Story of the U.S. 5th Air Force’s 39th Fighter Squadron began with the 1948 article in The Providence Journal that told of the war crimes trials in Japan of the people responsible for the torture and murder of 2nd Lt. Robert E. Thorpe on the island of New Guinea.  Of the seven determined to be involved, two committed suicide, one was hanged in 1949, with the remaining receiving life sentences.  Those life sentences would be commuted after only three years, however under General MacArthur’s general amnesty and the pre-mature termination of Class A, B, and C war crime prosecutions by the government of the United States.  
     The family of Robert Thorpe received no closure with these trials and sought detailed information surrounding the death in the hope of having his body returned to his hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island.  They ran into a brick wall as all of the court records had been classified by the government and were unavailable to the family.  According to the government, Robert Thorpe’s remains were unrecoverable.
     Enter author Ken Dooley who grew up in the same neighborhood as Bob and was a friend of his younger brother, Gill.  In 2007, after speaking with Gill and hearing the difficulties they had had gaining information, Ken said he would help and, through the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to get released over 1300 pages of courtroom testimony.  After reading the transcripts, he knew the story needed to be told but it would not be a pretty one.  The original title of the book was to be Broken Trust.
     With his research, however, Dooley was able to meet members of the 39th fighter Squadron and conduct interviews about their time in the South Pacific Theater during World War II.  Providing an intimate look into the war, family letters between 1st. Lieutenant George Morgan to his family and his wife, 2nd Lt. Mary Scott, an Army nurse, were provided by their daughter, Mary Morgan Martin.  George Morgan would be killed prior to the birth of his daughter.  Another story began to emerge and that became Relentless Pursuit.
     The book evokes a variety of emotions as you read of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, governmental expediency, denial, loss, and triumph.  The book is a must read and highly recommended.  Information about the book can be found on the website http://www.wwii-relentless-pursuit.us/ and it will inform you on where you can purchase the book.

John Kennedy
Director of Education and Community Outreach

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