February 29, 2020
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73 years later, WWII veteran returns a fallen soldier’s family keepsake

Now to our “NewsHour” Shares, something that
caught our eye that may be of interest to you, too. A 93-year-old World War II veteran traveled
more than 5,000 miles from his Montana home this month to return a treasured keepsake
to a grateful Japanese family. The “NewsHour”‘s Julia Griffin explains. JULIA GRIFFIN: Warm temperatures and rainy
skies greeted Marvin Strombo as he returned to Japan this week for the first time in 73
years. During the war, Strombo served as an elite
sniper scouter with the 2nd Marine Division. Alone on the Japanese line during the 1944
invasion of Saipan, he came across the body of a dead Japanese soldier. MARVIN STROMBO, World War II Veteran: I saw
a Japanese soldier laying there. And I knew he was an officer because he had
a sword on. JULIA GRIFFIN: But Strombo also noticed something
else, a customary flag the soldier carried, known as a yosegaki hinomaru, that bore 180
signatures of his family and village members. Strombo knew such flags were given to departing
soldiers as a symbol of good luck and support. MARVIN STROMBO: I finally realized, if I didn’t
take it, somebody else would have, and it would be lost forever. So, the only way I could do that, as I reached
out to take the flag, I made a promise to him that, someday, I would try to return it. JULIA GRIFFIN: For decades, the soldier’s
identity remained unknown, until five years ago, when Strombo reached out to the Obon
Society, a nonprofit that coordinates the return of battlefield souvenirs. The group identified the soldier as Sadao
Yasue, of Higashishirakawa, Japan. And on Tuesday, Strombo made good on his promise
to return the ancestral heirloom, during an emotional ceremony with Yasue’s surviving
brother and two sisters. MARVIN STROMBO: It was a very emotional moment,
really. I saw that the older sister — her holding
that flag about broke my heart. And I have fulfilled a promise, which I’m
happy about. I could see that it made them quite happy. So, I guess that’s the main thing. JULIA GRIFFIN: The poignant event between
one-time enemies and now friends coincided with the Japanese Obon holiday, when families
return to their hometowns to remember departed loved ones. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Julia Griffin.

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