A 92-year-old World War II veteran returned to Japan this week on a mission of peace: to return a flag he had taken in war some seven decades prior to its hometown.
Stars and Stripes reported that Kenneth Udstad, formerly of 4th Marine Division, got the idea to return his Japanese war trophy — a Rising Sun flag — after hearing about another veteran who did the same. Udstad had taken the flag from a fallen Japanese soldier in 1944, and kept it among his possessions for 68 years.
Udstad determined the flag’s origin by analyzing the Japanese characters on it, Stars and Stripes reported, eventually tracing it to Tago, a town in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture. While the family of the soldier who owned the flag has not been found, village officials received it graciously in their stead.
Kazuhiko Togo, the grandson of Japan’s foreign minister during the war, was among those who greeted the Marine veteran, the paper reported.
“We have tried to create an entirely new world of friendship and trust and peace between Japan and the U.S.,” Togo said, according to the report. “Your decision to come to Japan is a symbolic action to connect the past to the present.”