In cities and towns throughout Rhode Island Monday, people gathered at parades and solemn ceremonies to mark Memorial Day – the day set aside to honor soldiers, sailors and airmen who have died in the line of duty. At the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Warwick the day was dedicated to a single serviceman whose sacrifice was overlooked for decades.
Lt. Robert Thorpe of Cranston was shot down over New Guinea in 1944. He was captured by the Japanese who tortured and ultimately beheaded him because he refused to divulge American military tactics. His remains are still missing, although three military teams have gone to Japan in an effort to recover them.
The Memorial Day service at Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery was dedicated to Thorpe’s memory. His younger brother, Gill, fought back tears as he accepted an American flag in his brother’s name.
"I’m happy today that we have closure and he’s recognized. Because before he wasn’t." "Long overdue." "Yeah."
Five Japanese soldiers involved in Thorpe’s case were put on trial. One was executed. The others served prison terms of five years or less.
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