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Aurora World War II veteran trying to return flag

Published: Thursday, July 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(AP photo)
This Oct. 27, 2010 photo shows Ken Udstad of Aurora, a World War II Marine veteran who served in the Pacific, holding a Japanese flag he recovered from the body of a sniper almost 70 years ago. Udstad was interviewed at his home Tuesday by a reporter from a Japanese newspaper. Now 91, Udstad hopes the publicity will help find the soldier's family so he can return the flag and tell them the man died quickly and didn't suffer after grenade blast.

AURORA – A 91-year old World War II veteran from Aurora got help Tuesday with his effort to return a flag he removed from the body of a Japanese soldier nearly 70 years ago.

A correspondent from The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily newspaper, interviewed Ken Udstad, who found the silk flag in the tunic of a soldier killed by a concussion grenade in a dugout in the Northern Mariana Islands. Udstad was on a reconnaissance mission with the 4th Marine Division when he took the flag.

Udstad, a former infantryman and tank driver, kept the Japanese flag as a war souvenir for decades until the memories of battle returned. He told the newspaper he now hopes to find the fallen soldier’s family and return the flag, according to The (Aurora) Beacon News.

“I hope I can give them peace of mind, and tell them ... it happened quickly. ... He did not suffer,” Udstad said.

Previously Udstad sought assistance from political leaders, the Japanese consulate in Chicago, a Japanese professor from Northern Illinois University and a historian from the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. Those efforts helped Udstad learn that the flag was signed by well-wishers from the soldier’s hometown of Tago.

Thanks to a friend from at Udstad’s church, he was brought to the attention of Yoshiaki Kasuga, the journalist from The Asahi Shimbun. Kasuga closely examined Udstad’s orange and white flag and translated the large writing on the back of the flag that said “good luck in fighting,” and “safe return.”

“I saw the flag sticking out of his tunic,” Udstad said. “So I grabbed it,” he said, because he was interested in the Japanese culture and was “looking for souvenirs,” like many other combatants did during World War II.


Information from: The Beacon-News, http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews

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