Seventy years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb - and the radiation - killed over 90,000 people, and led to the end of World War II. One of the many ceremonies held this summer to commemorate the end of the war was held on Tuesday in Tokyo.
Six U.S. Veterans from the Pacific Northwest traveled to Japan to return flags taken as souvenirs from the bodies of Japanese soldiers to the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. The ceremony was the culmination of the work of the Oregon-based non-profit Obon 2015, founded by Rex Zaik and his wife Keiko Zaik.
In World War II, American soldiers would often take “souvenirs” of war from defeated enemies. Sometimes it was gear, like government-issued helmets, but sometimes it was more personal items. Many Japanese soldiers carried Yosegaki Hinomaru — Japanese flags with written messages from family and loved ones. These became common items for American soldiers to bring home after battle.
Many of these flags are now stored in shoe boxes and attics, but for the past half decade, Rex and Keiko Ziak have been tirelessly attempting to collect them and trace them back to the descendents of the original owners.
We listen back to an interview we did with OBON 2015 last spring at a Returning Ceremony, where several WWII soldiers brought items collected as war souvenirs that they wished to return to the families of their original owners.
- Rex Ziak: Co-founder of OBON 2015
- Keiko Ziak: Co-founder of OBON 2015
- Leslie “Buck” Weatherill: Veteran from the 41st Infantry Division