World War II Marine veteran returns family flag to Japan

By Stephen Carlson  |  Aug. 15, 2017 at 4:28 PM
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Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A World War II Marine Corps veteran has returned a flag he took from the body of a dead Japanese soldier on Saipan to the soldier's family in Japan.

Marvin Strombo made the journey from Montana to Higashishirakawa, Japan, in order to fulfill a promise he had made to himself when he took the flag from a dead soldier during the Battle of Saipan in 1944. Strombo was a scout sniper with the 2nd Marine Division during the battle.

The flag belonged to Sadao Yasue, who was drafted into the Japanese military during World War II. His family had given him the flag as a good luck gift when Sadao departed for the last time.

Strombo returned the flag to Sadao's younger brother, Tatsuya, during a ceremony accompanied by Tatsuya's two sisters.

Strombo became separated from his squad and was walking to the rally point when he discovered the body with the flag clutched to its chest.

"I knew it meant a lot to him but I knew if I left it there someone else might come by and take it. The flag could be lost forever," Strombo said.

"I made myself promise him, that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over."

Strombo held onto the flag ever since and often thought about his promise. It was not until he contacted the Obon Society, which helps return personal items taken by American soldiers as war souvenirs, that he was able to return it.

Sadao's siblings said it felt like the spirit of their dead brother had been returned home after 73 years. The ceremony fell on the Oban holiday, when Japanese are supposed to visit their homes and spend time with family members.

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