HIGASHISHIRAKAWA, JAPAN — Tatsuya Yasue buried his face into the flag and smelled it. Then, he held the 93-year-old hands that brought this treasure home and kissed them.
Marvin Strombo, who had taken the calligraphy-covered Japanese flag from a dead soldier at WWII island battlefield 73 years ago, returned it Aug. 15 to the family of Sadao Yasue. They had never gotten his body or — until that moment — anything else of his.
Yasue and Tatsuya’s sister, Sayoko Furuta, 93, wept silently as Tatsuya placed the flag on her lap.
“I was so happy that I returned the flag,” Strombo said. “I can see how much the flag meant to her. That almost made me cry … It meant everything in the world to her.”
The flag’s white background is filled with signatures of 180 friends and neighbors from the mountain village of Higashishirakawa, wishing Yasue’s safe return. The signatures helped Strombo find its rightful owners.
The return of the flag brings closure, the 89-year-old farmer and younger brother of Sadao Yasue said at his 400-year-old house.
“It’s like the war has finally ended, and my brother can come out of limbo,” he said.
Tatsuya Yasue last saw his brother in 1943. A year later, his family received word of his death.
— Associated Press