World War II veteran honored at annual Piggott Picnic and Homecoming

World War II veteran honored at annual Piggott Picnic and Homecoming

PIGGOTT, AR (KAIT) - A World War II veteran who spent most of his childhood in Piggott was honored on Independence Day at the town's annual picnic and homecoming.

Hundreds of people lined the streets Wednesday morning to celebrate the Fourth of July with the 91st annual parade through Downtown Piggott.

James Laswell served as the grand marshal for this year's event.

Laswell is the son of Alva Laswell, who grew up in Piggott and was honored at the celebration.

James traveled from San Diego, Calif. for the event. His dad was remembered for his role as a code-breaker in World War II.

The Laswells were in Hawaii the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

James was only three months old at the time.

He said he didn't grow up hearing about the impact his father had on the war, though.

"Dealing with cryptography and breaking codes was very, very top secret," James said. "So it was later on when I was a young adult that I found out a little bit at a time and then more and more became declassified. It's just really exciting. I think my dad would have been thrilled to see this parade today."

Alva Laswell was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veteran's Hall of Fame last year.

His family donated his medal and certificate from that to the city of Piggott to be displayed at the community center.

A speaker at the event detailed some of the achievements Laswell had during the war, which were virtually unknown for many years.

He had only a fourth-grade education, but went on to become fluent in Japanese and was able to crack coded messages sent during the war.

His first major contribution was translating a message that revealed Japan's plan to attack Midway Island. Because of this information, Allied forces won that battle.

He also decoded the plan and positions of submarines who were to ambush General Douglas MacArthur as he returned from the European Front.

Because of Laswell's decoding, the submarines were destroyed before they could carry out the mission.

James visited Piggott multiple times throughout his life and was happy to be back for the Fourth of July.

"It's so good to be here in this wonderful, Mid-America [town] and seeing this wonderful parade and all the great people and all the patriotism," he said.

The theme of the parade this year was appropriately the Patriots of Piggott.

All of the proceeds from the event benefit the Piggott Cemetery Association, which maintains the town's cemetery.

The day is filled with pageants, entertainment, food, a carnival, and a fireworks show to end the celebration.

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