Lasswell Family Donates Memorabilia

Thursday, July 12, 2018
The Lasswell family was presented with both Arkansas and American flags during the ceremony on Wednesday, July 4, at the annual Piggott Picnic. Pictured are, from left: Joe Cole, Jim Lasswell, Col. (Retired) Ruel Neeley and Piggott Mayor Jim Poole.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Traveling thousands of miles in the process, descendants of World War II hero Alva Lasswell gathered in Piggott over the Fourth of July holiday for a special reception and presentation ceremony. Arranged by local attorney and historian Joe Cole, the family donated items related to Lasswell's November 2017 induction into the Arkansas Military Veteran's Hall of Fame. As part of this year's theme, “The Patroits of Piggott” a special presentation of the items was held Wednesday morning at the picnic grounds and Lasswell's son, James, served as grand marshal of the annual parade.

Lasswell lived in Piggott as a boy, and as a young man. His mother, Leanna (Russell) Lasswell, was the aunt of Dorothy (Russell) Heidbreder and Lloyd Russell of Piggott. In addition to well over a dozen out of town relatives, several local ones were included in an open house held Tuesday, July 3, at the Piggott City Market.

Lasswell joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17. In 1935, he 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 stated 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.

Descendants of Alva Lasswell from across the nation, including local residents, gathered at the Piggott City Market on Tuesday, July 3, for a special reception in conjunction with the donation of items related to his induction into the Arkansas Military Veteran's Hall of Fame.
TD photo/Tim Blair

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 contribution to America's war in the Pacific Theater.

During Wednesday's ceremony the medallion and certificate were donated to the City of Piggott by Lasswell's family, with Cole donating a portrait. Soon, all of the items will be on permenant display at the Piggott Community Center. In keeping with the picnic theme, during the ceremony Cole also recounted the service of other “Patriots of Piggott.” Many of these hometown heroes will have their stories told in a soon-to-be released book on the subject, penned by Cole.

The family was also presented with an Arkansas flag by Piggott Mayor Jim Poole and an American flag by fellow local veteran Col. (Retired) Ruel J. Neeley, USAF, who was also recognized as a Patriot of Piggott for his service.

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