Former Piggott Resident Named to Military Hall of Fame

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Alv Lasswell
courtesy photo

Earlier this month former Piggott resident Alva Bryan Lasswell was selected by an independent Arkansas Military Veterans' Hall of Fame Selection Committee, comprised of carefully-selected Arkansas military veterans from across the state, as a 2017 inductee into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame. The following day, Sept. 10, the AMVHOF executive board formally approved the selection committee's recommendations, including that of Lasswell.

He'll be inducted posthumously in a ceremony to be held the evening of Nov. 4, at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock. Family members or friends wanting to attend may purchase tickets for $55 each, or may reserve a table for 10 for $500.

Alva Lasswell's two sons, Jim Lasswell and John Lasswell, will be the recipients of his medallion and certificate, along with local attorney, Clifford M. “Joe” Cole, who advanced the nomination for approval.

Alva Lasswell was raised in Piggott by his father, Charles, who was a school teacher, farmer and lawyer—practicing with the Piggott firm Brawner and Lasswell. He joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17.

In 1935, Lasswell was assigned to Navy Intelligence, and at the start of World War II he was assigned as the chief translator under the command of Commander Joseph J. Rochefort in the unit known as HYPO, Navy Radio Security Station “H.” During this assignment, Lasswell is best known for the decryption of a Japanese code that state emphatically that the Japanese Navy operation order decoded was directed towards a Japanese attack on the American forces on Midway Island in June of 1942.

When Lasswell was confronted by Admiral C.W. Nimitz, Commanding Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet, Lasswell asked that Midway Island Command transmit a message to confirm his assertion.

The message transmitted by Midway stated their desalinization plant had mechanical problems, and that the water supply was running low. The Japanese intercepted the message, and confirmed that their target “AF” was indeed Midway Island.

Due to the impact of that message, Admiral Nimitz planned a strategy that would lead to a crushing defeat of the Japanese Navy, and ultimate victory for the American forces.

Following the Battle of Midway, Lasswell became known for another decryption of a coded Japanese message, which this time led to the death of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

In retaliation, the Japanese planned an assassination attempt on Gen. Douglas McArthur to prevent his triumphant return to the Philippines. Lasswell was not only able to decode the message and plot, he was also able to identify the exact location of the seven Japanese submarines assigned to the torpedo attack on the U.S.S. Missouri, who was transporting McArthur. The reports which followed indicated that all seven of the submarines assigned to the plot were destroyed.

Due to the secrecy of Lasswell's position and task, his contributions to the American War in the Pacific remained “Classified” for several decades after World War II. In fact, Lasswell was never recognized for his incredible contribution to America's war in the Pacific Theater.

Following his retirement, Lasswell would often bring his children to Piggott to show them the community where he grew up. Cole also notes that an effort is currently underway to try to bring his two sons back to Piggott to honor their father with a special ceremony at the 2018 Piggott Fourth of July Picnic.

Those wanting more information on attending the upcoming hall of fame induction ceremony may contact Cole or AMVHOF secretary Paul Foster at 501 269-2053.

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