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World War II veteran looksat terrorist attack in context

Tom Embry talks about his work in Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb was dropped there Aug. 9, 1945.(The Vicksburg Post/C.TODD SHERMAN)

[9/26/01]Tom Embry is one Vicksburg man who can view the devastation at the World Trade Center site in context.

He was in a place called Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 19, 1945. That was 10 days after the second nuclear weapon ever used in war and the last to date was dropped on the city.

Embry, now 79, was an aviation machinist mate on the USS Chenango, an escort aircraft carrier.

“I was in three years, three months and 18 days,” he said. “When I signed up I intended to make it a career, but after I saw that much water … I had enough of that water.”

The Nagasaki bomb was dropped Aug. 9, three days after the first device was exploded over Hiroshima.

A call went out, he said, for three volunteers to go ashore on a mission to find prisoners of war who had been held at a camp and coal mine just outside Nagasaki.

As with the 16 acres around the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, Embry said there were very few structures left standing.

“It was built down in a valley and it was destroyed. (The bomb) killed 65,000 people. They were floating out there by the hundreds,” he said.

Sightseeing, however, was not the mission Embry and his companions were on. They were looking for the POWs at the coal mine just outside the city.

“We brought back 1,700 of them,” Embry said, quickly adding, “I saw one of them on TV and he said when he got out of the camp he weighed 95 pounds.”

His reaction to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon matches that of many veterans.

“They need to put the Marines in there,” he said.