The first date that’s really significant for Ray Halloran is February 4, 1922, his birthday. After his childhood, the Cincinnati native volunteered for the Army Air Force shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
During his training state-side, Halloran became proficient as navigator and bombardier of the brand new B-29 bomber. His happy, go lucky attitude earned him the nickname “Hap” by his fellow flight crew members who were known as the “Rover Boys Express.”
Soon after training ending, Halloran and the other 10 men in his flight crew were deployed to Saipan, the base of operations for their battle against targets on the Japanese mainland. The focus of Hap’s B-29 crew was on destroying munitions plants and depots on Japanese soil that were supplying the Japanese army in the South Pacific.
The second date that’s significant for Hap is January 27, 1945. That was the date of their fourth mission, centered on “Japanese target 357,” when his B-29 was engaged by a twin engine Japanese fighter plane and shot down over the west edge of Tokyo.
All crew members were immediately alerted to parachute out of the doomed aircraft. Hap’s tail gunner was already dead, but the other men bailed out into the sky that was a bone-chilling -58 degrees.
Hap free fell for about 25,000 feet before deploying his chute at 3,000 feet over Tokyo.
Hap was immediately taken prisoner by Japanese civilians who treated him brutally before turning him over to governmental authorities. But Hap was one of the lucky ones from his flight crew; six of his fellow airmen didn’t survive the day.
By nightfall, Hap was on a truck headed to Kempei Tai torture prison in downtown Tokyo across from the Imperial Palace. For more than two full months, he was placed in solitary confinement in a cold dark cage in a wooden stable. He was subjected to forced starvation and repeated attacks of the Japanese guards who beat him mercilessly with the butt of their rifles. Food provisions were meager at best, a small ball of rice several times a day. Further, he received no medical treatment for his injuries.
Except during brutal interrogations, silence was a firm rule. In fact, Hap witnessed the executions of several other POWs because they were caught breaking the silence rule.
Several weeks later, Hap was removed from his wooden cage and taken to Ueno Zoo in downtown Tokyo where he was stripped of all his clothes and put on a display in a tiger cage for civilians to walk by and taunt.
By this time, he had lost 80 pounds and his body was dirty and covered with running sores from bed bugs, fleas, and lice infestations. Conditions were extreme, to put it mildly. Hap’s only form of relief was to cry and pray.
In April of that year, Hap was moved to Omori Prisoner of War facility on the southwest edge of Tokyo. Though all POW facilities were supposed to be marked accordingly, the Japanese refused to identify the building as such, and so Hap and the other prisoners suffered through daily barrages of their comrades who didn’t know their fellow patriots were suffering underneath their bombs.
It was a grueling four months at the Omori facility, but it was here that Hap experienced his most significant date of his life.
On August 29, 1945, two weeks after Japan had surrendered unconditionally, United States Marines came crashing through the gates of Omori Prison. Hap and the other POWs were set free from their brutal suffering and taken aboard the Hospital Ship Benevolence floating in Tokyo Bay.
On the day of his rescue, Hap took his first shower in months, washing away scabs and cleaning his sores. He also consumed 18 Milky Way candy bars. Eventually, he regained enough strength to be transported home.
On August 28, 1945, Ray Halloran was a prisoner. But on August 29, 1945, Ray Halloran was set free from prison.
His freedom was given to him by someone else. On August 29, 1945, Hap was rescued. He was saved. On that day, someone did for Hap what Hap could not do for himself.
That’s what Jesus has done for us.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)