Our man in Nagasaki: Film to unlock secret of the Samurai

It’s a needle-in-a-haystack documentary — with a twist — about a Corkman who survived the Nagasaki nuclear blast and ended up with a Samurai sword given to him by a Japanese officer.

After 15 years of work and four years preparing the documentary, its producer Bob Jackson will unveil all at the premiere which takes place at the Cork Film Festival. The documentary, which focuses on the quest to solve the Second World War mystery, will be screened at the Gate Cinema on Sunday, November 16, at 4.15pm.

It tells the incredible story of Dr Aidan MacCarthy and his daughter’s search to find out what really happened to her father after he survived the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki, while a prisoner of war.

The Castletownbere-born doctor served in the RAF before being captured by the Japanese in 1942 and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner in Java and mainland Japan.

At 11.02am on August 9, 1945, Dr MacCarthy and nearly 200 fellow prisoners crouched in the improvised bomb shelter of their POW camp in the centre of Nagasaki.

He was less than a mile from the epicentre of the explosion and later described a blinding flash of light — and the scene of complete devastation when he emerged from the shelter.

Shortly afterwards, he and most of the POWs were moved north to Camp Fukuoka 26, near Keisen.

Some years ago, his daughter, Nicola, found a picture of a Japanese officer in her mother’s old photograph album. She handed it over to Bob who got a Japanese researcher to translate an inscription on the back which revealed the photograph was of 2nd Lieutenant Isao Kusuno.

The inscription also read that he gave his Samurai sword to “my friend Dr MacCarthy”: “I give you this sword as a token of our friendship”.

“During his time as a POW, he developed a reputation as an extremely resourceful doctor with an incredible ability to care for his fellow prisoners, despite the very difficult circumstances in which he found himself,” Bob said.

One theory was that a grateful Kusuno gave him the sword after MacCarthy saved him from a group of Australian prisoners who planned to kill him as the Japanese surrender was announced.

Nicola, who runs MacCarthy’s pub in Castletownbere, recently visited Japan with the documentary-maker to search for relatives of Kusuno.

Bob alerted Japanese media, who carried the story about the quest, including the national broadcaster, NHK.

Bob remains tight-lipped about the outcome, but all will be revealed on November 16.


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