Saturday, January 26, 2019

Going Home

Our Dad fought in WWII.
 He was a 1st Lieutenant in the USMC.

We are proud of him.
He was brave and he fought for our country's freedom.
The after effects of fighting in a war were with him all his life.
Sometimes, he was so far away, in thought...
and by the look on his face, we knew he was back in the war.

Many of his close friends did not make it home
and I know that haunted him.
There was a sense of guilt and sadness over this loss.
Why him, why not me?

He liked to talk about the war and all the places he had been.
Nothing gruesome, mostly historical.

Unfortunately, I was a teenage girl
and didn't like to listen.

The story, as told to my brother, goes like this-

During WWII, Dad (William Cunningham, 1st Lt. USMC) engaged in fighting 
on two islands, Saipan and Tinian.  
I don’t know on which island he came upon the flag.  
They landed on the islands under gunfire.
Many of the men did not make it to land.

His platoon had secured a hill and set up camp for the night.  
Everyone needed to dig a fox hole 
however no one could dig deeper than six inches as they all hit lava rock.  
During the night as he lay in his fox hole 
he noticed Japanese soldiers walking through the camp.  
He reached for his rifle but there was a problem.  
His barrel was pointing in the wrong direction 
and to get into position he would have to move in a way 
that would have alerted the Japanese soldiers.  
A soldier next to him in a better position whispered “I’ve got it.”  
I believe other soldiers were also aware of Japanese soldiers 
that had come into their camp.  
A skirmish ensued.  
Afterwards the flags were removed from the casualties.  
Now, the right thing to do 
is return the flags to the Japanese soldier’s families.  
I know Dad would be in favor of this!

When I was about 11 yrs old and studying WWII in school,

 my parents told me about the flag.

I was stunned that we had a Japanese flag from the war.
I immediately asked if I could have it when I was an adult.

My parents agreed and then asked me if I would do them a favor.

"Please return this flag to the family of the fallen soldier."

I agreed.

It was always hidden in a drawer, carefully wrapped in tissue.
It never came out unless we asked to see it.

During WWII, it may have been a badge of honor.
However, over time, it  became a source of sadness.

It wasn't ours to have...

Taking a flag off of a fallen soldier
 was somewhat customary during WWII.

After our father passed the flag sat in a drawer in my parents home.

When our Mom passed, I took the flag and the dresser that it was in.

In June of 2018, our father would have turned 100 yrs old.
As we remembered him, we remembered the flag.

There was a part of me that did not want to give the flag up.
The same part that wants to cling to the memories of my parents.

But, it's NOT OURS.

This fall we had a Japanese interpreter come over and tell us what it said.

This flag was presented to Hisashima (last name) , Sakae (first name) 
by Iwasaki (last name), Mitsuo (first name). 
The second name could be the mayor of the town 
or someone representing the military.

The soldiers name was written in bold on the left side. 
The presenters name is on the far lower left 
written in smaller letters, next to it.

The top letters in bold are Koku Ho Chu Kun and are basically saying - 
Be Loyal to the Country and Wishing Him Well and Bring a Good Report Back

On the top, between the first two words is another name. 
It's curved and we think it may be his father 
because it's the same last name and the first name is quite old fashioned. 
Hisashima (last), Tamekichi (first). 
Next to that signature, it said to come home safely with good news.

In the upper left corner is a random name Inoue (last), Hiroshi (first)

In the upper right corner (top) is another random name Kato, Koechi.

On the upper right corner/right side it says 
Love Your Country and Be Honorable.

Other than that, the flag has signatures of other men and women. 
Guessing they were from the same village/town that he came from.

The flag is now on its way to the OBON Society in Oregon.
They will find the family that it belongs to in Japan.
The flag will then be presented to the family members of the fallen Japanese soldier. 

We sent this letter with the flag-

A Letter to the Family of the Japanese Flag

It is with our deepest sympathy and respect that we return this flag 
to the family of the soldier that carried it.

Our Father, William H. Cunningham Sr. 
was a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps (2nd Division) during WWII. 
He obtained this flag from a battle on Saipan or Tinian.

He told me about the flag when I was 11 years old and was studying WWII in school.

Before Dad passed away he asked us to return the flag to Japan, 
to the family of the fallen soldier. 
It spent more time in a drawer in our mother’s home 
but after she passed we realized that it was time for this flag to go home, 
back to its family.

We are thankful for the dedicated and brave men and women that serve their countries. 
We hope this flag brings your family comfort and peace. 
God Bless you.

We have heard many beautiful stories of these flags being returned 
and we are happy,
 that now,
 our flag is going home!


1 comment:

Karen said...

Last week I watched a documentary on WWII and the battles in Tinian and Saipan. Your dad was truly a hero and a living miracle! So many lost their lives before they even began the fight. Thanks for sharing this story.