WWII Vet Returns Japanese Flag Taken From Dead Soldier


WWII Vet Returns Japanese Flag Taken From Dead Soldier
  1. WWII Vet Returns Japanese Flag Taken From Dead Soldier
    hamodia.com
    Marvin Strombo was behind Japanese enemy lines on a Pacific island during World War II when he realized the other five men in his squadron had moved on without him.… Read more » The post WWII Vet Returns Japanese Flag Taken From Dead Soldier appeared first on Hamodia. In related news: Work of Photographer Behind WWII Image Returns to Russia Thief Returns 9/11 Hero’s Flag With Apology Texas Family Receives Dog Tag of WWII Soldier Killed in Japan Photos of WWII Refugees Saved …
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Marvin Strombo (R) and Obon Society Executive Director Rex Zika hold up the flag. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Marvin Strombo was behind Japanese enemy lines on a Pacific island during World War II when he realized the other five men in his squadron had moved on without him.

The young U.S. Marine, part of an elite scout-sniper platoon fighting a 1944 battle on Saipan, nervously scanned the terrain. He spotted a body on the ground, a dead Japanese soldier lying on his left side. The young man looked peaceful, as if asleep, and something white poked out from his jacket.

Strombo knelt and pulled out a silk flag, all the space around the bright red emperor’s sun filled with elegant calligraphy. He hesitated, then took the flag and scrambled to reunite with his squadron as they entered the Japanese-held town of Garapan.

More than 70 years later, Strombo is returning the Japanese flag to his fallen enemy’s family. The 93-year-old arrives Friday in Tokyo, the first stop in a 10,000-mile journey into the remote mountainside to bring the keepsake back to the man’s home village — back to a brother and two sisters who could never say goodbye.

“I realized there were no bullets or shrapnel wounds, so I knew he was killed by the blast of a mortar,” Strombo recalled in Portland, Oregon, this week before boarding a flight to Japan.

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

Japanese flag

The flags were a good-luck charm that linked Japanese soldiers to their loved ones and their call for duty. Some were signed by hundreds of classmates, neighbors and relatives.

Allied troops frequently took them from the bodies of their enemies as souvenirs. They have a deep significance, because most Japanese families never learned how their loved ones died and never received remains.

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.

Japanese flag(Rex Ziak/Obon Society via AP)

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.

Within a week, by reading the script on the flag, researchers found it belonged to Yasue Sadao. They traced the corporal to a tea-growing village of about 2,400 people in the mountains roughly 200 miles west of Tokyo.

The calligraphy turned out to be the signatures of 180 friends and neighbors who saw Yasue off to war in Higashi Shirakawa, including 42 of his relatives. Seven of the original signatories are still alive, including Yasue’s 89-year-old brother and two sisters.

When researchers contacted Yasue’s brother by phone, he asked if the person who had his brother’s flag was the same one who found it so many years ago, said Rex Ziak, who co-founded the Obon Society with his Japanese wife, Keiko.

“There was just silence on the line and then he asked, ‘Do you imagine he knows how my brother died and where he died?'” Ziak…

Japanese flag
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