Battle Rattle

Marine WWII vet returns Rising Sun flag to Japanese hometown

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A 92-year-old World War II veteran returned to Japan this week on a mission of peace: to return a flag he had taken in war some seven decades prior to its hometown.

Stars and Stripes reported that Kenneth Udstad, formerly of 4th Marine Division, got the idea to return his Japanese war trophy — a Rising Sun flag — after hearing about another veteran who did the same. Udstad had taken the flag from a fallen Japanese soldier in 1944, and kept it among his possessions for 68 years.

An example of a hinomaru yosegaki, or good luck flag, like the one that Kenneth Udstad returned to the village of Tago 68 years after he took it. These flags were often sent into battle with Japanese soldiers, signed by friends and neighbors.

Udstad determined the flag’s origin by analyzing the Japanese characters on it, Stars and Stripes reported, eventually tracing it to Tago, a town in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture.  While the family of the soldier who owned the flag has not been found, village officials received it graciously in their stead.

Kazuhiko Togo, the grandson of Japan’s foreign minister during the war, was among those who greeted the Marine veteran, the paper reported.

“We have tried to create an entirely new world of friendship and trust and peace between Japan and the U.S.,” Togo said, according to the report.  “Your decision to come to Japan is a symbolic action to connect the past to the present.”

Comments

  1. Kathy Says:
    December 14th, 2013 at 6:36 am

    I am so glad to read this.
    Since I’d first read about this flag and so many on auctions, I’ve come to realise this flag means a lot for the family and the community, especially for those families who had to accept the deaths of their loved ones even without ashes or any other traces of them.

    I hope many more will offer returns.

    I knew someone who had weird dark pieces in a box as a “war trophy” – later his fellow veteran (my family friend) told me they were ears slashed off the bodies and some even of alive soldiers.

    Now almost 70 year on, it’s about time to own up our own dark doings instead of maintaining our post-war propaganda calling names our former enemy (like some comments on war-related columns) as some historians are already doing so.

    Although there shouldn’t be a special mention as it’s how it should be, I am proud of those veterans who recognise and respect the meaning of the flags.

  2. Bill Says:
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:06 am

    With respect, “war trophies” have been and will be taken by those who are required to fight Wars. I support Mr. Kenneth Udstad for his returing of the flag. And I am glad it only took 68 years to get to the point that he could give it up. As to own up our own dark doings, young lady, if you haven’t been there, you might not want to go there. As a veteran of two wars, you have know idea the means that a bloody flag has to one that has bleed for or had friends blood on them. Maybe in another 70 yrs if i live that long I’ll give up my “war trophies”. Until then, I personally resent the comments of those that haven’t been on the recieving end of shots fired in anger.

  3. William Perkins Says:
    December 29th, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    He fought, he survived he should have kept it. I have trophies and they will stay here.