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Collector To Return Japanese War Flag Nearly 70 Years After Capture

A collector of World War II memorabilia has succeeded in a daunting quest thanks to help from the Japanese government. The veteran from Clarkston, Washington has found the right person to receive a Japanese war flag taken in battle nearly 70 years ago.

Years ago, memorabilia collector George Koller bought an inscribed "good luck flag." It originally belonged to a Japanese fighter pilot killed in combat. Last year, Koller asked the Japanese consulate in Seattle for help to give the flag back.

Now, based on handwritten notes on the flag, the Japanese Ministry of Health has identified the fallen WWII pilot as Lance Corporal Kirihara. Then the ministry located a living brother northeast of Tokyo.

Koller describes the letter he'll send to the brother, along with the wrinkled and yellowed flag.

"This flag should be with you, not me," he says, "I should have thought of it sooner. Anyway, I'd like for you to have the flag as a gesture of friendship from the United States, at least from me."

Koller says the pilot crashed into the jungle of New Guinea late in World War II. He says a U.S. Marine recovered the flag.

Previous coverage:

Wash. Veteran Having Difficulty Repatriating Captured War Flag - Northwest News Network

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.