Aurora World War II vet tries to return flag to soldier`s family - New York News

Aurora World War II vet tries to return flag to fallen soldier`s family

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Ken Udstad with the silk flag Ken Udstad with the silk flag
Ken Udstad Ken Udstad
AURORA, Ill. (Associated Press) -

A 91-year-old World War II veteran is on a mission to make things right with the family of a Japanese soldier.

During the war Ken Udstad took a flag off the body of a dead enemy soldier, but now he wants to give it back.

Udstad saw a story about a flag someone was trying to return to America and that got him thinking about the Japanese flag he kept as a souvenir from a battle in the Pacific during World War II.

Now, his story has gotten the attention of Japan's largest newspaper, giving the Aurora man hope that one last time he will be able to say: mission accomplished.

"This is what they call a Japanese personal flag and a number of the Japanese had them," Ustad explains.

Udstad has had the flag for nearly 70 years. He found it in a Japanese army dugout on the island of Tinian after a battle in July 1944, where the young Marine served as part of a tank unit.

"We checked in there and I just happened to spot this flag sticking out if his waste and I grabbed it and brought it out of there," he says.

Now, out of a sense of duty, Udstad is hoping to find the man's family and return the flag.

"I'm probably the only guy in the world who knows where that guy was, what happened to him and about where he is now," Ustad says.

Udstad's friend from church, Karina Del Valle, recently traveled to Japan to visit her sister and while there, helped bring Udstad's quest to the attention of Japan's largest newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, which has a circulation of 8 million.

This week, a New York-based journalist from the paper visited Udstad and is working on a story with hopes of finding relatives of the Japanese soldier.

"There are names and messages, well wishes and come home safe," he says of the flag's messages.

Those messages on the flag have provided lots of clues about families in the community of Tago, who may know who the soldier was and if he still has living relatives.

The Japanese journalist gave Udstad a gift as a token of friendship. He also gave him hope of someday traveling to Japan to meet the soldier's family and personally return the flag.

"I'd just tell them that I'm sorry about their loss and would hope that this would bring them some piece of mind," says Udstad. "I think it's only the right thing to do cause it will mean a lot more to them than it does to me."

Udstad will turn 92 years old next Monday, and he says it would be a great birthday present if the Japanese newspaper story leads to someone coming forward with information about the identity of the Japanese soldier. That would mean Udstad would have to get a passport to make a trip to Japan.

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