A U.S. naval aviation museum in Corpus Christi, Texas is returning a Japanese soldier’s flag to his family in Japan 78 years after the end of World War II (WWII), Kyodo News reports.
This Good Luck Flag, also known as a yosegaki hinomaru, bears the signatures of its owner, Shigeyoshi Matsuda, and good luck messages from friends and family. It was displayed in the USS Lexington Museum, which is housed in a floating aircraft carrier bearing the same name, for 29 years after it was donated in 1994.
In a ceremony on Thursday morning in the Lexington’s hangar, Matsuda’s flag was handed over to Obon Society, a non-profit organization that returns non-biological human remains such as diaries, photos and the Good Luck Flags to the descendants of Japanese soldiers killed during the war.
“This [flag] is all that’s left of this man,” Obon Society Co-Founder Rex Ziak told NBC News.
Most of the time, Obon receives such flags as donations from American, Australian, Canadian or British veterans and thus must conduct its own research into identifying the owners and their descendants. In the case of Matsuda’s flag, it was actually his own grandson who recognized the flag from pictures of his grandfather and contacted Obon for help, according to The Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
When Ziak reached out to the Lexington, Executive Director Steve Banta said that he knew immediately they had to repatriate the flag. “We knew the flag did not belong to us and we endeavored to return it home,” Banta told Caller-Times.
Later this month, Ziak, his wife and Obon Co-Founder Keiko Ziak and representatives of the Lexington will accompany the flag to Tokyo, Japan, where they will return it to Matsuda’s family during a ceremony at a shrine for Japanese soldiers who died during the war, according to NBC.
While Matsuda’s wife, who died at 102 this year, will not be present, the family had postponed her burial in order to bury her with the last remains of her husband, Hirofumi Murabayashi, consul general for the Japanese Consul-General Office in Houston, Texas, told Caller-Times.
“He will not only be reunited with his family, but also his wife in heaven,” he said.
Other family members expressed their happiness at regaining Matsuda’s flag. “I didn’t imagine this miracle could happen. My mother would have been pleased if she was alive,” Toshihiro Mutsuda, Shigeyoshi’s 83-year-old son, told Kyodo News.
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