Japan City Seeks Info on WWII Naval Flag Returned by U.S. Museum

Yomiuri Shimbun photo
A memorial service is held at Kenshoji Temple in Usuki on June 7.

OITA — A local government in Oita Prefecture is trying to track down the owner of a good-luck World War II-era flag recently returned by the Frazier History Museum in Kentucky.

The naval flag, which had been stored at the museum, is believed to have been given to a soldier in the prefecture before he set off from Usuki for the Pacific War.

The flag bears the soldier’s name written in kanji characters — which can be read as “Hisashi Takeo” — a note congratulating him on his enlistment, and words of encouragement from acquaintances.

The words “Usuki middle school” (now Usuki High School) were also found on the flag, leading to its eventual return.

Other phrases include “Loyalty to the Emperor and patriotism,” “Best wishes for long military fortune,” and “Unfailing devotion to the nation.” Additionally, one of the signatures on the flag is followed by the words “Principal of Usuki middle school.”

Usuki High School has a record of the named soldier who graduated in 1946 after the war, and lived outside the prefecture.

According to the city, the flag is likely naval in origin.

In November 2020, as part of its efforts to return the flag, the museum contacted Hiroyuki Fukao, 52, a researcher of wartime aviation history. The historian informed the city about the flag — measuring about 65 centimeters long and 90 centimeters wide — and it was returned this past April.

Previously, Fukao was involved in efforts to commemorate 11 pilots of a U.S. B-29 bomber that crashed in the city during the war. Museum staff reached out to Fukao after a news report on his work caught their attention.

A memorial service was held June 7 at Kenshoji Temple in the city, where the remains of a crew member are buried. The flag, freshly returned from the U.S., was displayed during the service.

“I’m glad the flag has returned safely to Usuki bearing the words of people around the soldier who had set off to protect his country,” Eso Ando, 52, the temple’s chief priest said after the memorial service.

“Japan and the United States have a history of war, but we can overcome [that issue] through mutual understanding,” Fukao said. “The flag’s return will help strengthen friendship between the two countries.”