WWII sniper veteran returns flag plundered from Japanese soldier corpse 73 years ago

Japan: Commemoration of drop of a-bombs on Hiroshima and NagasakiReuters

A former WWII sniper is flying to Japan today (11 August), to return a flag he had salvaged from an enemy soldier's body to the man's family, reports local American newspaper the Dothan Eagle .

Marvin Strombo was 20-years-old in 1944; a young US marine, fighting the Japanese on the island of Saipan. He was part of a scout-sniper platoon, based near the town of Garapan.

One day, scanning the field looking for his squadron, he noticed a Japanese soldier lying on the floor a few feet away, dead. As he came closer to the man, he discovered a white silky piece of fabric poking out of the dead man's jacket.

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Upon pulling it out, he discovered it was a Japanese flag, covered with several small paragraphs. Strombo hesitated for a moment, but eventually took it with him before entering Garapan with his squadron.

What he did not realise at the time was that he had not picked up just any Japanese flag.
Back during the second World War, these were used as lucky charms by soldiers about to enrol.

Family and friends would write messages of support and farewell wishes on the silky material, and the soldier would wear them under their uniforms during battle for good luck.
Many American soldiers brought such flags with them to the US after the conflict, as trophies or souvenirs.

Now aged 93, Strombo lives in Oregon. The flag hangs in a frame in his Portland home. He had been thinking about it and its owner for more than 70 years.

"I think that soldier wanted me to find him for some reason," he told the Dothan Eagle, before boarding the plane that would take him to Japan.

It took Strombo decades before he could do anything about the flag at all. He first tried to find out more about it by writing letters, but was not proficient in Japanese and it was pre-internet so could hardly research it online.

However, things changed in 2012, when the son of his former commanding officer contacted him about a book he was writing on the platoon. The process allowed Strombo to reach out to the Obon Society, a non-profit organisation helping American soldiers to return the flags to their owners' families in Japan.

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The association's expert identified the man thanks to the handwritten messages on the flag. His name was Yasue Sadao, and he was originally from a small town lost in the mountains, 200 miles away from Tokyo. About 180 family members had signed his flag, but only seven of them are still alive today, including his brother.

The association was able to contact Yasue's brother. According to Obon Society's founder, Rex Ziak, he asked if the man returning the flag was the same person that had originally found it. "Do you imagine he knows how my brother died and where he died?'" Ziak recalled his question.

Strombo will be able to answer some of the questions surrounding Sadao's death when he meets his family this weekend.

The Obon Society has repatriated about 125 flags to Japan and is often contacted by former soldiers who regret their actions.

This is the flag US Marine Marvin Strombo salvaged from the body of a dead Japanese soldier in 1944. The kanjis are messages of support the soldier's friends and family inscribed on a flag for good luck before departure for warYoutube/Obon Society

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