Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mystery History -- Solved!

Carolyn wins with her 9:46 p.m. Wednesday guess "It's the bell that was WWII booty being examined by Warren Dorn and a visitor from the town in Japan that was going to get it back." (Carolyn, you didn't include contact info in your profile, so please e-mail me at and I'll tell you about the fabulous prize.)

In the 1955 photo above, Pasadena Mayor Warren Dorn (left) and Japanese Consul Tatsuo Iwama examine an ancient Buddhist bell in the grand entrance of City Hall.

The bell made its first public appearance in this country during an open house aboard the USS Pasadena on June 30, 1946, at the ship's home port of Long Beach.

The 1,300-pound bell, which had hung at the Nishiarai Daishi Buddhist Temple in Tokyo for centuries, was claimed by USS Pasadena sailors after they found it in a wartime scrap metal heap in Japan.

The ship donated it to the City of Pasadena, and it hung on display in the grand entrance of City Hall for nine years.

In this 1951 photo, Mayor Alson Abernethy and his secretary stand at the bell.

After Buddhist religious groups in Japan urged their government to demand the bell's return, the U.S. State Department got involved and smoothed the way.

In May 1955 the Board of City Directors (now called the City Council), headed by Dorn, authorized City Manager Don. C. McMillan to prepare a letter of disposition.

Here's the portrait of Mayor Dorn from the Hall of Mayors:

And Mayor Abernethy:

Pasadena Independent -- June 23, 1955:
Pasadena's controversial Japanese temple bell began the long journey home yesterday -- or did it?

Japanese Consul Tatsuo Iwama took delivery of the centuries-old relic from Mayor Warren M. Dorn in ceremonies at Pasadena City Hall at 10 a.m. But the moving men aren't scheduled to cart it away until 8:30 this morning.

The bell was hung in the rotunda since men of the cruiser USS Pasadena gave it to the city in 1946.

Serving as agent for the transfer is David P. Bushnell, Pasadena importer of Japanese binoculars, who announced receipt of the following telegram from Priest Hamano of the temple:

"Sincere appreciation your thoughtful service for hastening bell's return, from all our members and parishioners. Restoration ceremony will be held on arrival."

Donating their services in transporting the relic are Republic Van and Storage Inc., which will take it to Los Angeles Harbor; Packers Ltd., which will crate it; and the Daldo Line and General Steamship Corp. Ltd., which will carry it to Japan on the SS Kochi Maru.

Many thanks to the fine research staff at Pasadena Public Library.


Bellis said...

Well done Ann! Another piece of Pasadena history we knew nothing about. I wonder where in Japan it now is? It'd be fun to visit it.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

Dorn family! Horsey.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Mayor Dorn looks like that character in Big Love. Don Embry

Mister Earl said...

Hell's bells, I never know these!

Petrea said...

You always find a good story.

Dina said...

I just posted Jerusalem's bonsho bell, donated by Japan, and now Petrea sends me here to your story.

So glad the sailors rescued the bell from the scrap heap and that now it is returning home.
Thanks for this unusual story.

Sid Gally said...


My Past on Parade column for the Star-News of Monday, May 16, will also be about the bell, its inscription, and a recent color photo provided by the temple in Tokyo.

Sid Gally