Skip to comments.Tattered World War II flag brings two families together
Posted on 07/16/2013 8:43:07 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
SEATTLE -- The saying, "time heals all wounds" is familiar to most, and for two soldiers and their two sons, it rings true.
It's important that a man understands his father so he can better understand himself. And when the fathers are gone, we cling to things -- belongings and symbols -- that show what they stood for and who they were.
In Centralia, Kim McDougal has learned new things about his father after finding a unique package.
Herb McDougal is 88-years old. He lives in a retirement home and suffers from Friedreich's ataxia, which makes it difficult for him to speak clearly. But his mind is sharp and clear, and it's full of devastating, vivid memories of a distant war.
"It seems like a long time ago to me," Herb said.
Herb fought in the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945, where he witnessed some of the most desperate, savage warfare the world has ever seen.
The Japanese were dug into an elaborate system of caves and tunnels, and the Allied Forces had to go in and get them.
Herb, young and scared, saw things 68-years ago that most people can't even fathom.
"Terrible, terrible," he said. "Well, I did what I had to do."
Four months ago, Kim's wife Shannon found a little box in Herb's drawer.
"I said, 'What's this?' And he goes, 'Well, it's a flag,'" Shannon said.
It was a Japanese flag, and it was stained with blood and dirt and God knows what else. Herb had taken it as a souvenir from one of the caves.
"Nobody wanted the flag, so I got it," he said.
Herb's granddaughter, Jennifer, has studied a little Japanese and sent a photo of the flag to Aki Suzuki, a teacher at South Puget Sound Community College.
"When I saw the picture of the flag, I spotted my hometown name was on the flag and I think, 'Oh my goodness. It's from my hometown," Suzuki said.
In addition to the name of her hometown, Suzuki spotted a name written on the flag.
"Hoshi, his last name, and Toji, his first name," she said.
The flag also had the name of a police precinct on it. Suzuki called them and the police did some digging in the Tokyo area. Soon, they found their man.
Hoshi Toji was a policeman before the war. The flag he carried had the signatures and well wishes of his fellow officers.
When he went off to fight, he said goodbye to a 3-year-old son named Tadataka. He never laid eyes on his boy again.
He carried his flag into the caves, where he was ordered to fight to the death. It was almost certainly on him the moment he died.
The flag in the drawer had always bothered Herb. It made him uneasy. He wasn't ashamed of it, but he wasn't proud, either.
"I did not own the flag. I never did own it, even when I got it it belonged to somebody else. All I did was take care of it," he said.
It turns out Suzuki had planned a trip to Senju, Japan, to see her parents. And so the McDougals packed up the flag and met her at the airport.
"I'll miss it, but it's not mine," Kim said.
Once in Japan, Suzuki met up with Tadataki Hoshi, who lost his father so many years ago.
"I have few memories of my father. When he returned for a brief visit, he let me ride on his shoulders. He carried me, gave me piggy back rides, and played with me. Those memories are faint, but I remember them," Hoshi said.
The family home burned down during the bombings of Tokyo at the end of the war, and at 71-years-old, Hashi owned nothing of his fathers. That changed with Suzuki handed him the flag.
"My father's spirit is finally coming home," he said. "We are so excited to finally welcome him home. I can carry my father's spirit with me as long as I live,"
In a quiet ceremony, two men who will never meet are now bound together by an act of decency and the flag of a father.
At a press conference held at the police precinct, Hoshi was more aware than ever that it's important for a man to understand his father.
"I want to return to the pre-war days, have a drink with my father and catch up," he said. "This time as two grown men."
And when the fathers are gone, we cling to things, belongings, symbols of who they were and what they stood for.
It's all we can do.
Video at source
I sent to a pen pal in Yokohama...
Almost 30 years ago I spent some time at the Museum of the Confederacy that was at the last home of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi (or Gulf Port) MS. There I saw Varina Davis’s shawl which was taken from her by Union soldiers as they fled Richmond at the end of the war. The shawl wound up in Michigan (I think) with the family of the Union soldier who stole it. The family graciously returned the shawl to the museum years later, after all concerned were dead.
The same thing happened to the key of the Lee mansion at Arlington. The key (which is quite large) was confiscated by the soldiers who used the house as a headquarters and a hospital and was returned many years later.
War is a terrible thing.
It’s a good article.
One sentence caught me:
“It’s important that a man understands his father so he can better understand himself. And when the fathers are gone, we cling to things — belongings and symbols — that show what they stood for and who they were. “
Having lost my old man at a young age, I can relate to that.
A lot of Americans and Japanese died because of the war that Japan started.
My Airborne father fought in Europe; his brothers and cousins fought in the Pacific. One of Dad’s cousins never left Iwo Jima (he was 22), and Dad’s oldest brother was grievously wounded on Okinawa.
I wonder how many American flags have been returned to the families of American youth slain on those islands?
That flag and its story, as sad as it is, also has another side:
If you don’t start a war of conquest, people won’t die in it.
Isn’t that the truth! This is a story that should be repeated on Father’s Day. And told again every time somebody contemplates starting another war.
I’m amazed that Mr. McDougall kept the flag all these years. Having grown up in CA, I remember when that red circle symbol struck fear in the hearts of every person on the West Coast — including little children.
“...Im amazed that Mr. McDougall kept the flag all these years. ...”
When you think of it, it’s not that surprising; that piece of his life was a monumental moment in HIS time. Things he’d rather forget, but would never for minute have traded any of it.
My father was wounded twice in the Ardennes, then recovered and made the jump into Germany in March. He was only 21 or 22 at the time. I’m sure there were terrifying moments that came back to bother him later, but I also remember how proud of his service he was. He was Airborne, an invincible giant on the Earth in his youth. They all were.
My father’s collection of souvenirs include a Nazi SS armband that he took; an Officer’s Eagle from a cap; a flag from a German officer’s car, many insignia, an Iron Cross and several awards and medals.
He took them all personally. The only time he ever spoke about his experiences, to me, was about the SS. He said they were the toughest SOBs he ever saw, and his unit never took them prisoner. Ever.
“...I remember when that red circle symbol struck fear in the hearts of every person...”
That’s because we had country with a common culture, a common heritage, common traditions, and common language, and we were taught in that same fashion.
We had a Country then, and we were a People. And we knew who the enemy was.
Now, after several generations of socialist/liberal subversion, we have a collection of aggrieved, hostile minorities and a majority population consisting of half guilt-ridden, brain dead liberals and the other half made up of productive, overworked, overtaxed, over-regulated, over-governed, over-administrated, financially, spiritually, and emotionally stressed out Americans watching everything they love being stolen and deliberately erased.
Now, instead of knowing who the enemy is, we let them live amongst us, and have a voice in our politics, and run for/hold office.
Thanks for posting.
MY wife’s dad has a Japanese flag. Took it off a downed Japanese fighter pilot during Iwo Jima. Probably the best artifact he collected from the war.
Taking trophies of momentous or tumultuous events in your life is as old as time.
To those gentlemen, I believe it was “Look!! I survived!” and forever links them to that part of their life where they cheated the Reaper for a little while.
We defeated a monstrous enemy on two fronts. Those young Americans did what they set out to do, and they took a small piece away from the event that left pieces of their lives forever on those far away, distant battlefields.
And the miracle of it is, despite the horror, the fear, the insanity of the things they saw and lived through, they came home and still managed to piece together normal lives, raise, work and support families, and love their country all the more for having defended it.
They were part of THE happening of their generation.
And they were truly amazing Americans, and I for one miss them dearly. I have been friends for years with men that served with my Dad, and they’re all passing away now. It crushes me each time I hear of a loss from their families. I learned more from these gentlemen about my Dad than I ever knew from him (died when I was 15, stroke).
I miss their unabashed, unashamed love of Americanism and Patriotism.
I miss their “My Country, Right Or Wrong” attitude.
I miss their America First and Foremost attitude.
I miss their fierce loyalty to God, Country, Family and all things red , white, and blue.
I miss their “get up, go to work, put food on the table for your family like a man should” attitude that made this country the most prosperous and industrious land on the planet.
And I’m grateful to and dearly miss those gentlemen who raised me to love my Country, my People, my heritage and traditions, and who were ALWAYS there for my family after Dad passed away, and who took the time to make sure that the son of a deceased Brother-in-Arms didn’t turn out to be a hoodlum and a thug, so that I could have a normal, decent life.
I will miss them and thank them until my last breath.
They truly are the Greatest Generation, and we are poorer each time another one leaves us.
And we thought it was sad, but it was just fine, that they shipped all the West Coast Japanese to Idaho for the duration of the war -- just in case. We welcomed them back with open arms after the war. I was the beneficiary of that relocation 3 times in my childhood.
1) My mother couldn't find the Betsy Wetsy doll that I wanted for Christmas. She ran into an old friend on the street -- the daughter of a Japanese shopkeeper, just back from the relocation center. The young lady opened her father's store and found the doll for me -- a doll unavailable anywhere else. And she sold it to my mother at wholesale. Her father's shop had been locked up tight at the beginning of the war and was in a time warp at the end of the war.
2) A couple of years later, when the country was still beset with shortages, I really wanted a big girl's bike. My parents could not find one -- at least not at a price they could afford. One of my father's students offered to sell my dad his sister's bike for $15. During the time that they were relocated, his sister had grown up to college age and no longer wanted to ride a bike. I got a nice blue bike with pink pre-war tires and got teased by my classmates. I just responded that my tires were real rubber, while theirs were synthetic and rode on my merry way with my nose in the air until those tires wore out and finally were replaced by black, synthetic, white sidewall, tires.
3) In high school, I took an art class in summer school Summer school was open to all ages, and one of my classmates was an elderly Japanese lady who had spent her time in the relocation centers learning how to paint. She taught my classmates and me more than the teacher did. We all loved her. She was like a second grandma to us. When asked about her time in the relocation center, she said she was grateful because she had worked all of her life. Her time in the relocation center gave her time to pursuse a hobby for the first time.
That book is inscribed with his name, 'LT(j.g.) USNR June 6, 1944'.
I also have a picture of him and his 5 man LCT crew posing in front of a German 88 on Utah Beach, but I'm not sure where it is at the moment.
I wrote to the Personnel Office in St. Louis a few years ago and got some of his service record and fitness reports. Interesting reading. He was well thought of by his fellow officers. After Normandy, he was XO on an LST, headed to the Pacific when the war ended.
“...And we thought it was sad, but it was just fine, that they shipped all the West Coast Japanese to Idaho for the duration of the war...”
Unfortunately, the internment situation was what it was. And Japanese were an easy target, since they “looked” different than us, and the shock of Pearl Harbor virtually guaranteed that response.
Americans of Japanese descent in the Nisei Regiments performed magnificently in Italy during the war, and were some of the most highly decorated (for valor) in the entire war.
And they spelled their names “funny”. The Chinese remained without harrassment in CA throughout WII. As a child, I quickly learned that Chinese classmates’ names usually ended in ng — Wong, Wang, etc.
When the Japanese came back, we learned those names (Suzuki, Aoki, etc.) but we could usually tell them apart from the Chinese, even without hearing the name first. The Chinese students usually had rounder faces.
Where it became complicated was after the first Korean residents arrived when I was in Jr. High. Some of them had names that actually sounded English — like Park. Very confusing. Upset my whole categorization process.
“...Where it became complicated was after the first Korean residents arrived when I was in Jr. High...”
During/after the Korean War, I assume?
During. I met my first Korean child at the bus stop. They weren’t in school with us because they didn’t speak English yet.