When Marvin Strombo took a calligraphy-covered flag off a fallen Japanese soldier in 1944, he intended it to be a souvenir from the war. But the Marine felt guilty about taking it, and through the help of the Obon Society, Strombo personally returned the flag to the soldier’s remaining family.
The flag is filled with signatures of 180 friends and neighbors of Sadao Yasue, and made tracking down the village and family possible. The flag was supposed to bring him luck.
Sadao’s 89-year-old younger brother, and 93-year-old sister never knew what happened to Sadao, and never received his remains or any of his belongings. He, like half of the 2.4 million Japanese war-dead, has yet to be found.
Sadao’s sister, Sayoko Furuta, wept as her brother, Tatsuya, placed the flag on her lap. Strombo told the Associated Press, “I was so happy that I returned the flag. I can see how much the flag meant to her. That almost made me cry ... It meant everything in the world to her.”
Now, thanks to Strombo and his mission of reconciliation, there is finally some closure. He also remembered where he found Sadao on the battlefield -- Providing some hope that his body may some day be recovered. But for now, the flag means everything.
Appropriately the return of the flag came on the anniversary of the end of World War II, and “obon” week-- when it is believed the spirits of the dead visit their families.
Watch the video to see how the flag, after 73 years, finally came home.