SHREVEPORT, La.: Newton Mabus was like many World War II veterans. “He didn’t talk a lot about it,” his service with the Marines, his son, Jim Mabus, said.
But for what “Newt,” as he was known around Sunbury, didn’t say about the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945, 70 years ago next Sunday, photos he took speak volumes.
Jim Mabus, 75, who was born in Sunbury but now lives in Shreveport, La., shared several of his father’s photos, pictures the elder Mabus took while assigned to a disposal unit that went in after the bombing to recover munitions that did not detonate.
The photos are remarkable, showing Nagasaki reduced to rubble: piles of bricks, trees stripped of branches and leaves, barely any visible life except for occasional people here and there. One photo shows Newt and a fellow Marine standing next to what Jim believes is an industrial lathe. Newt once had been a lathe operator at Sunbury Textile Mills.
It’s astonishing given that Newt once told his son the damage at Nagasaki wasn’t as widespread as in Hiroshima because Nagasaki’s surrounding hills channeled the blast, Jim said.
The team found a number of munitions, Jim said, because Nagasaki, a manufacturing city, had been bombed numerous times with conventional bombs before the “Fat Man” was dropped.
“They found quite a few and collected and stored them,” Jim said, and the military did this all through the war at places including Guam, Okinawa and the Philippines.
There were “very unique things” his dad brought home, Jim said, among them a glass salt-and-pepper shaker set fused together because of the blast. “I wish I had it,” but Jim has no idea where it is.
Newton Mabus was born and raised in Sunbury. After World War II started, he volunteered for the Marines, Jim said, “because he had three kids and No. 4 was on the way.” Newt’s service was brief, just three years. He was with Lycoming Motors at the time he enlisted, working on military aircraft motors.
Newt came back from the war in 1946 and was known in the community for having been at Nagasaki and for his munitions disposal skills, which Sunbury police once tapped.
“An interesting after-effect: in the late ’40s, he arrived home in a Sunbury police car,” said Jim, who was just a kid at the time. “I wondered what was happening. Here, someone found an undetonated hand grenade in someone’s house. It was likely a war souvenir. Dad disarmed it.”
Newt and his family left Sunbury around 1953, Jim said, heading south because he went to work for Black & Decker as a salesman.
Newt attended Sunbury High School and married Eileen Gilbody, of Sunbury, according to her 2008 obituary. They were together 59 years and had four children, including another son and two daughters.–
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