As the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are coming close, memories from World War II have come to the surface. Items from the war have also been brought into attention like a Japanese flag that was kept in the hands of a veteran soldier’s family in Minnesota. The flag, not the only one of its kind, was believed by Japanese soldiers to be a lucky charm and this is one of those stories where it makes its way back to Japan.
The Japanese flag made from a silk cloth was among the other items given by Sgt. Al Frank, who was assigned to the Philippines during the war, to his grandson Doug Rachac while he was still a teenager. Although given with a World War 2 memorabilia, Rachac claimed that he knew nothing of his grandfather’s actual experience because he “never talked about the combat directly” and “would never give specifics.”
Rachac, now 39 years old, tried to reach out to the family of the flag’s owner in order to return what belonged to them. He decided to do so when his grandfather, years before his death, read an article where the same flag was featured and returned to the soldier’s family. “I get the feeling he felt bad having it, knowing what it was, after he read that article.” Although part of their “family history for almost 70 years,” Rachac said that the Japanese flag was not really theirs to keep.
When unfolded, the Japanese flag revealed writings in kanji that were translated as the soldier’s name, military slogans, as well as family and relatives’ names, among others. With the help of History Professor Hiromi Mizuno at the University of Minnesota, the owner was learned to be a Sadau Chiba. “Military fortune lasting longer, or forever,” says one statement on the flag when translated. “Sacrifice yourself, to serve the nation,” read the smaller characters.
The Japanese soldier’s family was traced through a website called Association of Peace and War Mourning. Although Rachac thought of returning the flag to the soldier’s family in person, he found out that they’re still recovering from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and may not be able to entertain or receive him properly. So he then asked Japan-based co-worker Aki Davis to help him. Davis has successfully handed the flag to Kiako Goto, Chiba’s daughter who only saw her father in photos. The two never met in person because Chiba was sent to the war before Kiako was born. So there lies another story of a Japanese flag that has been returned to its rightful owner.