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U.S. World War II vet returns Japanese flag to fallen soldier's family

22 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

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Respect Marvin Strombo and whom it may concern about this story.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

But, if he knew how significant it was to the Japanese family, why did he keep it for over 70 years?

-19 ( +0 / -19 )

Disillusioned, try re-reading the last paragraph again

14 ( +14 / -0 )

@Disillusioned: Read this story on CNN a few days ago, he tried to return it but before the internet there wasn't much hope.

Glad it is returned now, must bring such closure and peace.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

But, if he knew how significant it was to the Japanese family, why did he keep it for over 70 years?

The previous story

https://japantoday.com/category/national/wwii-veteran-93-brings-back-flag-taken-from-enemy-soldier

For Strombo, the flag hung in a glass-fronted gun cabinet in his home in Montana for years, a topic of conversation for visitors and a curiosity for his four children. He never spoke about his role in the battles of Saipan, Tarawa and Tinian, which chipped away at Japan's control of islands in the Pacific and paved the way for U.S. victory.

He wrote letters to find out more about the flag but eventually put it aside. He knew no Japanese and, in an era before the internet, making any headway was difficult.

Then, in 2012, the son of his former commanding officer contacted him about a book he was writing on the platoon.

Through him, Strombo reached out to the Obon Society, a nonprofit in Oregon that helps U.S. veterans and their descendants return Japanese flags to the families of fallen soldiers.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

A very nice gesture and shows that time can slowly heal wounds.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Thanks for all the negative comments, but none of the responses state exactly why it wasn't returned until now. The earliest attempt was a little over ten years ago. Why did he keep it for 60 odd years before attempting to give it back? The internet has been around for 30 odd years and, before that, there was something called, a telephone book. My point is, there is no reason for him to hang onto it for so long if he was sincere in his attempts to give it back. My guess is, it was a great conversation piece and has been hanging in his billiards room for the last 70 years.

My British grandfather had medals from a German soldier he killed and he returned them to the family in the late 60's from Australia, long before the internet. It took him two years to track down the family through the embassies. Therefore, why did this guy hang onto the flag for so long knowing its importance?

-18 ( +1 / -19 )

It's a great story, very heart warming and must have been extremely emotional and moving for all involved.

The flag looks to be in very good condition. Mr Strombo has clearly looked after it carefully.

>

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Flags of our brothers. Saipan and Tinian are still full of war relics and monuments. Saipan has a good museum on the history of the battle. It's operated by the U.S. National Parks Service.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Disillusioned: "It took him two years to track down the family through the embassies. Therefore, why did this guy hang onto the flag for so long knowing its importance?"

How old was your grandfather in the 60's? Have you ever seen a 90-year-old use the internet? An 80-year-old, or even if the internet and computers were in as wide use 30 years ago (your claim) as they are today, a 60-year-old? Did your grandfather have English speakers he could go through when trying or return the medals? Were the people as thick with red-tape as the Obon society and other J-organizations (or their branches abroad), which others have pointed out on other threads? Even after FINALLY being connected with the Obon Society it still took THEM five years to get things moving, WITH the internet, phone books, and everything else.

There's no conspiracy here, and the important thing is that he eventually succeeded. A Brit would not have NEAR the difficulty returning something to a German after the war -- be it sooner or later.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

A heartwarming story of empathy eclipsing the human tragedies from war...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The young man had such a noble face. RIP

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Those Americans baying for war with NK today should look long and hard at stories like this. It's always fun and games when it's other people doing the fighting, dieing and grieving and it's thousands of miles away. Until it catches up with you and yours, and then it ain't so much fun...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Disillusioned: Sounds like no matter what this guy did, you'd be complaining about it. He returns the flag, it's not fast enough. I have a solution - DEAL WITH IT. Sorry the guy did not dedicate every day of his life to tracking down the rightful owner of the flag, lay awake at night wondering what more he can do to return it to it's owner, spend money to fly to Japan and walk the streets for years until he knocked on every door to locate the owner. Anything more you'd like him to do?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Civitas Sine SuffragioAug. 15 09:48 pm JST

Those Americans baying for war with NK today should look long and hard at stories like this

What about those North Koreans baying to nuke the United States? Just watch TV and see where more "baying for war" is going on.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

A nice gesture. Although I don't believe in flags as such, I'm sure this was heartfelt and a lovely coda to the tragedy of war.

Thanks for all the negative comments,

Relax; nobody was being negative to you - just explaining the story behind this lovely story :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

He probably tried, at some points, to return it when he was younger

But due to limited resources back then, he came to dead ends

It didn't help that Japan was quite distant from the West in many things than just distance when the world was bigger

Then he got a family and job and other commitments for his time, so he eventually gave up most of the effort, save for some queries here and there

Then he got old, even in his free time in retirement, and is not internet-savvy and didn't have the money or energy anymore to do the heavy-lifting of finding the owner himself

It was only by chance that he came upon the Obon Society

The earliest attempt was a little over ten years ago.

The earliest attempt was before the internet:

*"He wrote letters to find out more about the flag but eventually put it aside. He knew no Japanese and, in an era before the internet, making any headway was difficult."*

1 ( +1 / -0 )

He is not the only one trying to repatriate a Hinomaru, ( I am) it would be better is the Japanese government helped a little bit more. although they have a dept that does this, you have to surrender the flag totally to them, what annoys me is what happens to the flag if they can't trace any relatives? I am sure that YOU don't get it back, which begs the question what happens to it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What counts is that he managed to return the flag while he was still alive to the relatives while they were still alive. Doesn't really matter how long it took.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm sure many Japanese soldiers took souvenier items from the American POWs during the Bataan Death March and Corregidor POW camps. Did they make an effort return those items to the Americans after the War? Just wondering.

Respects and kudos to Mr. Strombo for making the effort, however long it took. The point is he did it and for his peace of mind and conscious, it provided closure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

HalwickToday 06:31 am JSTI'm sure many Japanese soldiers took souvenier items from the American POWs during the Bataan Death March and Corregidor POW camps. Did they make an effort return those items to the Americans after the War? Just wondering.

The answer is no. There is no evidence of such behavior otherwise it would have been exposed at the International Tribunal for the Fareast when the Bataan Deathmarch was prosecuted resulting in the death penalty conviction of a Korean IJA General who was in charge. So why don't you stop wondering about make believe? How about all the gold fillings and human skulls taken by our Marines during the battles in the Pacific? Bet they were never returned. Don't tarnish the honor of Mr. Strombo's actions with such nonsense.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_mutilation_of_Japanese_war_dead

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but Disillusioned has a valid point although I am not sure of his motives. This guy could of went to a Japanese embassy in the States or wrote to Japan and got a response back in English or simply sent a photo or two for translation and research.

I am also sure there were other Japanese people living near him or he could have simply taken it to a Japanese language teacher either for a small fee or probably even for free and had it deciphered. Most likely he may of even had a military buddy or someone in the military who could of translated it.

You do not need the internet to get things done. That is the problem with young people these days. "Pen and paper... What's that!?" "The Library!? Is that a restaurant?" "You mean you actually want me to walk a mile to go somewhere!? But it's HOT!!!"

However, he could of easily sold it as others had, so at least in the end the flag got back to where it belonged. But imagine if he had waited a few more years, he or maybe the other two family members may not of been alive to receive it. Then what, this guys kids would take up the task or just do what ever with it?

However I am quite curious how does a flag after several decades still smell of certain scents. I wonder if they were just imagining it or speaking metaphorically.

And Halwick I am sure you are correct. Although not everyone had and not all out of disrespect either.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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