When a Japanese family finally received the flag found on their long-lost brother after he had been killed in the Second World War, it was an emotional moment for this 93-year-old U.S. Marine veteran, who was finally able to return it to its rightful custodians.
During World War II, in 1944, Marvin Strombo, a 20-year-old U.S. Marine who was separated from his troop, happened upon the body of a dead Japanese soldier in Saipan. He noticed that the man had hidden a flag under his jacket, which was strewn with messages of good luck from about 180 people from his family and town.
Realizing that if he did not take the valuable heirloom, it would be lost forever, Strombo took the flag from the soldier, named Sadao Yasue, and promised the fallen man that he would return it to his family.
But after the war had ended, he was unable to find the family, so he kept the flag in safekeeping, displaying the “Yesegaki Hinomaru” in his home in Missoula, Montana. Strombo, now in his nineties, had through the decades wondered whether he would be able to keep his promise. Little did he know that he would have to wait 73 years to fulfill his vow.
About five years ago, Strombo was contacted by a non-profit organization called the Obon Society, which helps U.S. war veterans return the personal effects they had found during the war to the owner’s relatives.
Strombo welcomed them with open arms and kick-started the process.
Strombo was finally able to track down Yasue’s family and fulfill his promise, as he handed over the flag to the Japanese soldier’s relatives in August, 2017, at a ceremony, which also marked the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese surrender.
This ceremony was the first of its kind where a veteran had been personally able to hand over such an item to the rightful owner.
“I had such a moment with your brother 73 years ago. I promised him one day I would return the flag to his family … It took a long time, but I was able to bring the flag back to you, where it belongs,” Strombo told members of the Yasue family—a brother who is now 89, and a sister who is now 95—quoted the Washington Post.
Strombo was especially moved by Yasue’s relatives. “It was a very emotional moment. I saw her holding that flag, about broke my heart, you know … That’s the reason I was glad I returned it too,” he said, as reported by Reuters.
Yasue’s family buried their faces in the flag and cried, for it was the first time that they had heard the truth of what happened to their brother.
“Marvin, thank you very much for bringing us this flag.
“Looking at this flag, the signatures are very clear, and I can almost smell my brother’s skin from the flag,” Tatsuya Yasue, the sister said. “We know that you have kept it well for so long.”
Yasue’s family plans to pass the flag down to their descendants. Even after decades following the Second World War, Marvin’s gesture is a reminder that humanity truly has no borders.