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. On Monday, their nonprofit, OBON 2015, is hosting a Returning Ceremony, where several WWII soldiers plan to bring items collected as war souvenirs that they now wish to return to the families of their original owners.
Leslie “Buck” Weatherill is one of the American veterans that has sent a flag back to Japan. Here is the emotional reaction of the soldier’s nephew when the Yosegaki Hinomaru was returned to him: