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WWII veteran, 93, brings back flag taken from enemy soldier

21 Comments
By GILLIAN FLACCUS

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What a great article. We need to hear more stories like this.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

One of the best articles I have read on JT. Obon society, take a bow.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Wars are horrible things. And the young of every country are the fodder. Each person finds their own peace even if so many decades later. I feel sorry for those who can not find that peace. They may have survived but in a way part of their lives are ruined.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

What a great article. We need to hear more stories like this.

I agree, this is a powerful and good story that we definitely need in a time in which people are too busy labeling each other and attacking them (often literally) for having a different opinion.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

And now leaders, who have never fought a day for anything, seem so keen to push us towards war again.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Great story.

Er no, that soldier wanted to kill you, but somebody got him first. Let's not get too sentimental here

You don't know that. You don't know anything about the man. Lot's of people who end up in Armies don't even want to go to war - which was certainly the case in Japan in WW2, but is true of many other conflicts as well.

Let the man tell his own story.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

A bit of a heartwarming story given the horrors of how it came to be. Good on this man for returning it and giving some closure to the family. It is indeed better late than never.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Better late than never.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I have a Japanese Hinomaru as well, I am in the process to trying to repatriate this flag to, and yes its painfully slow process, what the Obon society don't tell you is that you have to totally surrender the flag, you have no further claim to it, which begs the question what happens to it if it can't be returned, as it woudn't be sent back to you, I know the J government have such a similar scheme to. so I would like to know why is this guy transporting it back to japan and getting his photo with the relieves? ( which I think that the Obon society should offer) if both parties are happy to do so, well Ive undertaken taken research to trace my flags original owners relatives, I've got it down to a his name ( ogawa ) he lived in a small town called Tondabayashi just out side Osaka, I do have the address of a ogawa san But weather this is the right family I don't know. I would love to know if it was a very emotional day for both of these guys.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An alternative to the Obon Society is the government program to return such artifacts. Details of which can be found here:

http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/other/war-victim/memorabilia.html

I have American relatives who fought in the Pacific War and Jspanese relatives who fought in China. I am thankful that none of them brought back any such souvenirs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am quite sure I have never sobbed from a story here before this. Anyone who served can surely relate.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Mr. Wheway, I wish you success on your admirable and earnest quest.

I have a friend who made a valiant effort to return a similar silk flag that his grandfather captured during the Battle of Okinawa. My friend was able to ascertain that it belonged to one of the many Okinawan young men conscripted into the Japanese Army at that time. He managed to find the relatives, but they were reluctant to accept the flag as they didn't want to be reminded of the War and the Battle. In his case, it was a bittersweet experience.

Hope that doesn't happen to you. Good luck.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If he had not taken the flag, would it have been buried with the soldier in a mass grave? Lost forever?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Very nice to hear that such a treasure for the family is returned, that's actually quite a nice flag

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Happened to see TV interview with this man yesterday. It was very interesting .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Albaleo, I wrote to the city office and I got a reply 8 moths latter, it said that there records showed that he worked in the water works up until 1943, and they also mentioned the mayor from that time, as he's signed the flag,,,,, but silly me dint ask directly IF there was any living relative still in the are, since I didn't ask they didn't answer, so I might have to ask again. In 1945 Tondabayashi was a lot smaller I know that it has grown and incorporated a few more little villages, I went to see a lady who does psychometry these people touch an item and they connect with the spirit world, the spooky thing was she told me a lot about Ogawa san hopefully I can find out if it was true by asking the relatives, but one thing that stood out to me was she said from him was don't give it to the government they are corrupt and it won't go back to the relatives, and she/he says that I must persevere as I am almost there, and soon I will be given help (from the spirit world) in getting this flag back the relatives, also what was mentioned is that there are relatives and that he has an younger sister, could this be that sign? that bit of help? I hope so. I am going back to Japan next year with my brother for a holliday, so who knows what will happen!! can the mediators help me with my quest? would they like to carry on with this original story?? when I bought this flag 2 years ago from an auction in the USA, it was just a flag, but now it has taken on a whole new meaning, putting not only a name to the flag it has become a bit of a quest, and now I almost feel it becoming personal, the cost is pretty irrelevant.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Then, quietly: "I think that soldier wanted me to find him for some reason."

Er no, that soldier wanted to kill you, but somebody got him first. Let's not get too sentimental here.

Garapan was the villiage closest to one of the main invasion beaches. Until the early 1990s one could still wade out into waist-deep water and touch the remnants of several LSTs that were destroyed before they made it ashore. If you pass through the grounds of the Pacific Islands Resort, you can see a couple of monuments to erected by Marine veterans years later.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

NCIS RerunsToday 01:43 pm JSTThen, quietly: "I think that soldier wanted me to find him for some reason."

Er no, that soldier wanted to kill you, but somebody got him first. Let's not get too sentimental here.

Wow...like you're qualified to say that to a man who has lived through what he has. SYPH son.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

 I've got it down to a his name ( ogawa ) he lived in a small town called Tondabayashi just out side Osaka, I do have the address of a ogawa san But weather this is the right family I don't know.

Brian, Tondabayashi is not so small. Population over 100,000 and very much part of the Osaka conurbation. You might want to write to the city office and see if they can help you out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hawick, you have made good point, I shall tread carefully !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A nice story and very kind of Mr. Strombo to make the effort to return the flag to the soldier's surviving relatives.  It is always hopeful that time heals old wounds, puts aside animosity and provides closure.

But Mr. Brian Wheway raises a good question about the Hinomaru that can't be returned because relatives can't be found.  Are they quietly stored away, never to be seen again or destroyed?  Does the Hiroshima or Nakasaki Atomic Bomb Memorials displays such flags?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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