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Wash. Veteran Having Difficulty Repatriating Captured War Flag

Wednesday will mark the 67th anniversary of the Japanese surrender to end World War Two. With each passing anniversary, there are fewer and fewer living witnesses to the event. Time is also running low for an aging U.S. Marine veteran who wants to return a captured Japanese war flag.

George Koller (left) shows the "good luck flag" to historian Priscilla Wegars of Moscow, Idaho.
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George Koller (left) shows the "good luck flag" to historian Priscilla Wegars of Moscow, Idaho.

Ex-U.S. Marine George Koller of Clarkston, Washington collects war memorabilia. Among his possessions is an inscribed "good luck flag" carried into battle by a Japanese fighter pilot. The airman's plane crashed into the jungle of New Guinea late in World War II.

Another U.S. Marine recovered the flag from inside the flight suit of the dead pilot. Now, 81-year-old collector Koller wants to give the flag back to that pilot's family.

"They probably have nothing except a letter from the Japanese government saying 'sorry, your otto (husband) is dead,'" Koller says. "He was killed in action somewhere. So that's all they have maybe. I thought it would be humane to put this flag in their hands. It would mean a great deal to them."

Close-up of "good luck flag," known as hinomaru yosegaki in Japanese.
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Close-up of "good luck flag," known as hinomaru yosegaki in Japanese.

So far though, locating the proper recipient with just a partial name and no hometown to work from is proving challenging. Koller knows there's also a chance the descendants may not want this emotionally-charged artifact returned.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

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