US veteran returns flag to fallen Japanese soldier's family 73 years later
Teary eyes filled the room as 93-year-old World War II veteran Marvin Strombo handed the flag of fallen Japanese soldier Sadao Yasue to his brother and sister on Tuesday -- 73 years after he promised to one day return it to the family of his fallen foe.
During World War II, Strombo had recovered the calligraphy-covered flag from Yasue's body during a 1944 battle on the island of Saipan. He made a vow to his slain enemy right then and there that one day he would return the special possession to his family.
"I finally realized that if I didn't take it, somebody else would have and it would be lost forever," Strombo said in an interview. "So the only way I could do that, as I reached out to take the flag, I made a promise to him that some day I would try to return it."
The veteran, who hails from Montana, intended to return the flag to Yasue's family much sooner than 2017 -- he just didn't know how.
Up until about five years ago, at least, when he was finally put in touch with a non-profit group that helps U.S. veterans return artifacts to relatives, according to Reuters.
After the group helped Strombo find the fallen soldier's family, he was able to reunite the flag with Yasue's brother and sister in a tear-filled ceremony.
According to the Associated Press, neither of them had received their brother's remains or any of his belongings up until that very moment.
"It smelled like my good old big brother, and it smelled like our mother's home cooking we ate together," the soldier's brother, Tatsuya Yasue, said. "The flag will be our treasure."
Sayoko Furuta, the soldier's 93-year-old sister, covered her face with her hands and silently wept when her brother placed the flag in her lap.
Strombo said he was completely overwhelmed by the pair's emotional response.
"I was so happy that I returned the flag," Strombo said. "I can see how much the flag meant to her. That almost made me cry ... It meant everything in the world to her."