He died as a 19-year-old U.S. Navy sailor and prisoner of war, a casualty of his own country’s effort to put an end to World War II. The atomic bomb.
Brissette, who grew up in Centralville and attended the St. Louis School, was being held at Chugoku Military Police Headquarters in Hiroshima by the Japanese when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb. The police headquarters was just 1,300 feet from where the bomb hit. He did not die instantly. Young Normand and one other American prisoner suffered from burns and radiation poisoning for 13 excruciating days before succumbing to their injuries on August 19, 1945.
On Saturday morning, the Lowell Veterans Council held a ceremony in the Hall of Flags at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium to remember Normand, countless other prisoners of war and the 83,420 American service members who remain missing in action since World War II. If they are remembered they are not dead.
“He left a mother, he left a father who lost their only son; he left a 12-year-old sister whose big bother wouldn’t come home,” Lowell veterans Council Public Information Officer Robert Page said of Normand. “There were broken hearts that would never heal and memories that would last a lifetime. This is the price paid by the families of our fallen heroes.”
On July 28, 1945, Brissette was a gunner in a VT torpedo bomber of Squadron 87 alongside pilot Lt. Raymond Porter. Their mission, as part of a flock of 24 fighter planes, 15 dive bombers and 15 torpedo planes, was to sink the Japanese cruiser “Tone” anchored in the Inland Sea.
Following the successful mission, Porter was forced to make a water landing, the engine of his plane on fire. It remains unclear if the plane was a victim of enemy fire or if mechanical problems were the cause of the malfunction.
American forces were unable to rescue them before they were captured by the Japanese.
Normand Brissette was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He was also awarded the American Campaign medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal, the Air medal with three stars, the Good Conduct medal and the Victory medal. His body was returned to Lowell on October 27, 1948.
Those who spoke at Saturday’s solemn ceremony included Mayor Patrick Murphy, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas and Lowell Veterans Council Commander Robert Cronin.