20th AAF Insignia 1945

The Blackened Canteen
by Jerry Yellin

This book is about five Americans: Jack O’Connor, Monroe Cohen, Ken Colli, Newton Towle, crewmen on B-29’s who were killed in a mid-air collision on June 20, 1945 over Shizuoka, Japan and Richard Fiske, the bugler on the battleship West Virginia when it was sunk at Pearl Harbor. Intertwined with the American airmen are the lives of three Japanese: Hiroya Sugano, 12 years old when his city was bombed in 1945, now a 74 year old doctor, Takeshi Maeda, the navigator on the torpedo bomber that sank the West Virginia, and Fukumatsu Itoh, a city councilman who buried the Americans and later became a Buddhist priest. Only two survive today, Dr. Sugano who has conducted a joint Japanese/American Memorial Service since 1972 at a site where Mr. Itoh created a memorial tablet on Mt. Shizuhata near Shizuoka and 89 year old Takeshi Maeda.

The lives of all of the people mentioned above became entwined when World War II began. Some of their young lives have been fictionalized with the express permission of George O’Connor and his mother Joan, nephew and sister-in-law of Jack O’Connor, Lucy Towle Spence, daughter of Newton Towle, and Robert Towle Newton’s brother, Ken and John Colli namesake and nephews of Ken Colli. Published accounts of Richard Fiske’s life and several meetings I had with Dr. Hiroya Sugano and Takeshi Maeda also contributed to this story.

Whereas the story itself is told as fiction, the facts are historically correct. History Professor Paul Zigo at Brookdale College in New Jersey whose master’s thesis portrayed the attempt by Japan to avert a war with America by negotiation and was negated by Secretary of State Cordell Hull gave me permission to use his research and checked my story for accuracy. I have created several fictional characters as an enhancement to this true story.

The book can be ordered from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble

"I am hopeful that this book will be a catalyst of understanding between people and Nations, a history lesson for young people, a reminder to us older folks what kind of world we lived in when we were younger and what we fought for and, most important for all of the WW II veterans families a chronicle of our lives from 1941-1945 and beyond." - Jerry Yellin


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