He took a flag from a dead Japanese soldier 73 years ago. His conscience is now clear


Tatsuya Yasue buried his face into the flag and smelled it. Then he held the ninety three-yr-previous palms that introduced this treasure house, and kissed them.

Marvin Strombo, who had taken the calligraphy-coated Japanese flag from a lifeless soldier at World Struggle II island battlefield seventy three years in the past, returned it Tuesday to the household of Sadao Yasue. That they had by no means gotten his physique or – till that second – anything of his.

Yasue and Tatsuya’s sister Sayoko Furuta, ninety three, sitting in her wheelchair, coated her face with each arms and wept silently as Tatsuya positioned the flag on her lap. Strombo reached out and gently rubbed her shoulder.

“I used to be so pleased that I returned the flag,” Strombo stated. “I can see how a lot the flag meant to her. That nearly made me cry … It meant every part on the planet to her.”

The flag’s white background is full of signatures of one hundred eighty buddies and neighbors on this tea-rising mountain village of Higashishirakawa, wishing Yasue’s protected return. The signatures helped Strombo discover its rightful house owners.

“Good luck ceaselessly on the battlefield,” a message on it reads. Wanting on the names and their handwriting, Tatsuya Yasue clearly recollects their faces and friendship together with his brother.

The odor of the flag instantly introduced again childhood reminiscences. “It smelled like my good previous massive brother, and it smelled like our mom’s house cooking we ate collectively,” Tatsuya Yasue stated. “The flag shall be our treasure.”

The return of the flag brings closure, the 89-yr-previous farmer and youthful brother of Sadao Yasue advised The Related Press at his four hundred-yr-previous home on Monday. “It’s just like the struggle has lastly ended and my brother can come out of limbo.”

Tatsuya Yasue final noticed his older brother alive the day earlier than he left for the South Pacific in 1943. He and two siblings had a small ship-off picnic for the oldest brother outdoors his army unit over sushi and Japanese candy mochi. On the finish of the assembly, his brother whispered to Tatsuya, asking him to take excellent care of their mother and father, as he can be despatched to the Pacific islands, harsh battlegrounds the place probabilities of survival have been low.

A yr later, Japanese authorities despatched the household a picket field with a couple of stones on the backside – an alternative to his physique. They knew no particulars of Sadeo’s dying till months after the struggle ended, once they have been advised he died someplace within the Mariana Islands presumably on July 18, 1944, the day Saipan fell, at age 25.

“That’s all we have been advised about my brother. We by no means knew precisely when, the place or how he died,” he stated. The household had questioned whether or not he may need died at sea. About 20 years in the past, Tatsuya Yasue visited Saipan together with his youthful brother, making an attempt to think about what their older brother may need gone via.

So Strombo was capable of give Yasue’s household not only a flag, but in addition some solutions.

He stated he discovered Sadao Yasue’s physique on the outskirts of Garapan, a village in Saipan, when he obtained misplaced and ended up close to the Japanese frontline. He advised Yasue’s siblings their brother doubtless died of a concussion from a mortar spherical. He advised them that Sadao was mendacity on the bottom on his left aspect, wanting peacefully as if he was sleeping and with out extreme wounds.

And there’s another factor Strombo delivered: a bit hope that Yasue’s stays may in the future be recovered, given the small print about the place he discovered the physique.

The stays of almost half of the two.four million Japanese struggle lifeless abroad have but to be discovered. It’s a urgent challenge because the bereaved households attain previous age and reminiscences fade.

Allied troops regularly took the flags from the our bodies of their enemies as souvenirs, as Japanese flags have been fairly well-liked and fetched good costs when auctioned, Strombo stated. However to the Japanese bereaved households, they’ve a a lot deeper which means, particularly these, like Yasue, who by no means discovered how their family members died and by no means acquired stays. Japanese authorities has requested public sale websites to cease buying and selling wartime signed flags.

Strombo stated Tuesday that he initially needed the flag as a memento from the warfare, however he felt responsible taking it, so he by no means bought it and vowed to in the future return it.

He had the flag hung in a glass-fronted gun cupboard in his residence in Montana for years, a subject of dialog for guests. He was within the battles of Saipan, Tarawa and Tinian, which chipped away at Japan’s management of islands within the Pacific and paved the best way for U.S. victory.

In 2012, he was related to the Obon Society, an Oregon-based mostly nonprofit that helps U.S. veterans and their descendants return Japanese flags to the households of fallen troopers. The group’s analysis traced it to the village of two,300 individuals in central Japan by analyzing household names.

Tuesday’s handover meant a closure for Strombo too. “It means a lot to me and the household to get the flag again and transfer on,” he stated.



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