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Northwest Veterans To Return WWII Flags To Japanese Prime Minister

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Obon 2015
At a Tokyo hotel, the delegation of Pacific Northwest World War Two vets and family members show off some of the captured war flags they will return on Tuesday.

A pair of World War II veterans from the Pacific Northwest and their escorts will return 70 inscribed Japanese flags Tuesday directly to the prime minister of Japan.

The flags were taken by American GI's off of fallen Japanese soldiers and airmen 70 years ago. 89-year-old former U.S. infantryman Dallas Britt of Auburn, Washington is one of the combat vets who will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

"It's dumbfounding to think to be able to go back and such an honor to go back and represent the United States,” Britt said. “Anytime you could return something that has a family connection and give some kind of memento back to the family from what that man was carrying all through combat and everything... what a great opportunity, what a great privilege.”

Britt will be joined at the ceremony by Navy veteran Harold LaDuke of Kent, Washington, and the co-founders of the Astoria, Oregon-based nonprofit Obon 2015 which organized the trip.

Obon 2015 invited seven World War II veterans to take part in the delegation to Tokyo. Six of them - four from Oregon and two from Washington state - actually made the trip. Obon 2015 co-founder Rex Ziak wrote in an email that "strict protocols" handed down by the Prime Minister's Office allowed only two of the aging vets to participate in the ceremony in a reception room at the prime minister's residence.

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.