LOS ANGELES – Relatives of fallen soldier Masamoto Abe will soon receive a second wartime Hinomaru, which were typically signed by friends and family and carried into battle by Japanese troops during the war.
The flag has been mailed from Astoria, Oregon, to Abe’s kin in Yokohama.
In April, Ralph Wood, 85, contacted Obon Society — a nonprofit organization that, over the past 9 years, has returned more than 200 flags to Japanese families who lost soldiers in the war — on behalf of the Gold Bar, Washington, post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to determine whether “the mysterious flag” on the club’s wall was authentic.
When Obon Society received the paperwork, they recognized the name on the flag and quickly confirmed with their Japanese scholars that the flag belonged to the same Masamoto Abe of Kanagawa Prefecture whose flag they returned in 2016.
Wood, who served in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War, said he is pleased the flag is going back to its place of origin and into the “hands of the people who knew and respected the man who carried it into battle.”
Next week Abe’s nephew, Hisashi Abe, 81, will again receive one of his uncle’s flags in the mail. Two years ago this month, he received the first of his uncle’s flags through the cooperation of Obon Society and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
Masamoto Abe went to war with two Hinomaru flags, which were recovered from his body in New Guinea. A U.S. Army veteran took one of the flags, signed by co-workers at Nippon Carbon Co., to Portland, Oregon. For decades, the second flag, which features signatures from Abe’s family and neighbors, resided in Washington state.
“What are the chances of that happening?” wrote Keiko and Rex Ziak, co-founders of Obon Society. “Most families will never receive any items from their missing relative; this family will receive two!”