March 3, 2024

A flag with a Japanese soldier who was killed during World War II was repatriated during the Texas ceremony

The USS Lexington Museum in Texas has donated a flag carried by a Japanese soldier killed in action during World War II to a non-profit organization to return to the man’s family.

Called the Flag of Luck, it is covered with the signatures of Shigeyoshi Mutsuda, his family and friends. The Corpus Christi museum, where it had been on display for 29 years, gave the flag to the Obon Society, a non-profit organization that returned about 500 similar flags, known as non-biological human remains, to descendants of Japanese service members killed during the war.

“This is all that is left of this man” to return to his family, said Obon Society co-founder Rex Ziak. “They feel just the same as Americans when they find bones or teeth” of relatives who have been identified and returned decades after they were killed in war, he said.

Hirofumi Murabayashi, Consul General of Japan in Houston, expressed his gratitude to the museum for willingly handing over the flag and said the move symbolizes the friendship between the United States and Japan.

“He (Mutsuda) was killed in action and his body has not been found … there are no remains,” Murabayashi said.

“It’s the only remnant that will come back to the family” to be reunited with his wife, who died in May at age 102, but whose funeral has been postponed until the flag is returned, Murabayashi said.

The flag, called Yosegaki Hinomaru, has been displayed at the museum aboard the WWII aircraft carrier since it was donated in 1994, according to museum director Steve Banta. He called the donation procedure and said that the museum was unable to find out who gave the flag to the museum because of the record keeping issues he gave at the time.

Mutsuda’s signature on the flag was recognized by one of his sons, now 82, who saw an image of the flag and also recognized the signatures of other family, friends and neighbors, confirming that the flag was carried by his father, according to Ziak.

The signatures match those in a family photo of Mutsuda holding the flag surrounded by family members before he left for war, Ziak said.

Who found the flag and under what circumstances is unknown, Ziak said.

“Soldiers will often search battlefields for sensitive information, like maps, and they’ll find flags and other things and collect them as souvenirs,” Ziak said.

The flags could be easily rolled and transported and service members “brought home by the thousands” as souvenirs, according to Ziak.

The story of how, or even where, they were found is often lost over time, according to Ziak, as veterans return home and store them until they are found after the service member’s death.

The flag will be returned to the two sons and daughter of Shigeyoshi Mutsuda in Tokyo later this month during a ceremony at a shrine to the Japanese war dead in Tokyo.

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