76 years ago today, the country of Japan did a surprise attack on a US Military base in Hawaii.
The event propelled America into the second World War.
And it forced young men, both American and Japanese, into battle against one another.
My grandfather was sent to fight the war against Japan.
He fought in the Philippines.
And was injured during battle.
We aren’t clear where he was when he was injured, but I think he came out of one fight okay at some point.
Because we have this photo…
He’s seen standing with his war trophy.
A flag that had been in the possession of a Japanese soldier.
And my grandfather wouldn’t have this flag unless the soldier that it had belonged to had died.
We don’t know any of the circumstances of how he obtained the flag…
did he take the flag off of a deceased soldier?
did someone else find the flag and then give it to him?
We do not know.
We just know that he came home with the flag and kept it hidden away in a drawer.
And he never spoke of it.
In a recent blog post that I wrote, I explained that there was an organization in Oregon that returned these Japanese flags to the country from which they originated.
Because the flag that my grandfather, and many other American soldiers, brought back as a trophy of his time in battle represented another person.
A person who kept this flag close to his heart during battle.
The flag may have been in a pocket on his uniform or in a satchel or something else on his body.
It was given to him for good luck.
And now he was dead.
That Japanese soldier didn’t get to go home to his family when the fighting was done.
There is a very strong chance that his family never got his body back.
This flag, a prayer flag…a Hinomaru Yosegaki, represents the soldier.
When these hinomaru yosegakis are returned to the family in Japan, it’s as if their loved one has finally returned to them and they can give him a proper burial.
Today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
And yesterday I received notification that the family of the soldier who had possessed the prayer flag, that has been in my house since 1945, has been found.
The flag is going home.
We Found The Family In Japan!
That the was subject line of the email that I saw yesterday morning.
My kids were on their way to school.
I gave Cornstalk, the stray who stayed, his second breakfast of the morning.
I sat at the dining room table checking my emails and sipping on my morning cup of coffee.
At first glance, I didn’t think much of the subject line that I saw as I scanned my emails.
I didn’t even read it right away.
I mean, it had only been 5 months since I had sent the flag to Oregon.
I went through and deleted stuff that I didn’t need…which is most of my emails.
And finally got back to it.
This is what I read…
We would like to report you that we found the family in Japan that belong to your grandfather’s flag.
Name of the soldier: Mr. Yoshizo Makuta who was killed in action on April 24th, 1945 in Luzon, Philippines
Mr. Yoshizo Makuta was a Army Lance corporal from Fukushima prefecture.
We found his first son, Mr. Katsuo Makuta who lives in Fukushima prefecture.
They identified many signatures written on the flag, when we showed them an image. and they wish to have the flag returned.
We are preparing your grandfather’s flag now to be sent to Japan.
I got goose bumps, goose pimples, goose everything when I read it!
It’s the best possible outcome.
The family is still living in the same area and they are getting their soldier back.
He has children who are still alive.
It confirmed for our family that my grandfather was in fact at the Battle of Luzon, a major conflict in the Philippines in 1945.
Keiko Ziak, the founder of the Obon Society, asked me in the email if I would like to send a letter with the flag. She would translate it into Japanese and add it to the flag for its return to Japan.
Of course I wrote a letter!
I told the family that we hoped that the return of the flag would bring them peace and closure.
That the flag was being returned with love from my family, my brother’s family, and my parents.
Our hope is that the flag, being sent from one son and given to another, brings them closure.
The Makuta family in Japan will forever be connected to our family.
Even if we never actually meet one another.
To our family, this flag has just been…a flag.
A war souvenir.
A thing hidden away in a drawer not to be discussed.
But to the Makuta family, this flag represents their loved one.
To them, the flag IS Yoshizo Makuta.
And this week, he’s coming home…