Kyodo News has distributed the English version of 「日本兵の遺書、家族どこに/Letters of fallen WWII Japanese soldiers found in U.S.」
Kyodo News has ...

Kyodo News has ...

Kyodo News has ...

Several letters written by Japanese soldiers who perished on an island in Indonesia during World War II have been found in the United States.

The Japan-War Bereaved Families Association received a request from a U.S. nonprofit organization that has been working to return the letters from soldiers addressed to their families in Gifu, Fukuoka, and Nagasaki prefectures. Despite their best efforts, the organization has so far been unable track down some of the families.
Naoichi Takagi's letter addressed to his wife in Oroshi, Gifu Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the Obon Society)(Kyodo)

Kosuke Kudo, 48, of the Obon Society, an organization based in the United States that works to return personal items to families lost during war, said he hopes to deliver the letters to convey the value of peace.

Howard Royal, 43, an Iraq War veteran from 2006-2007, said the letters from the Japanese soldiers were discovered by his father "all together in a leather satchel" about a year ago in his grandfather's attic in North Carolina.

Royal's grandfather, now deceased, was a U.S. Navy surgeon who is believed to have obtained the letters while exploring a cave on Wakde, part of an island group in Indonesia that was the site of a fierce battle between Japan and the United States in May 1944.
Photo of Howard Royal's grandfather, a U.S. Navy surgeon who discovered letters written by Japanese soldiers on Indonesia's Wakde island during World War II. (Courtesy of Howard Royal)(Kyodo)

"My grandfather arrived on Wakde island after a large air raid," Royal wrote in an email to Kyodo News. "When he had free time, he would explore the island's many caves. He found these letters in one of those caves," he said, adding that in his grandfather's correspondence to his grandmother, "he didn't say whether these letters were found on Japanese soldiers or in some (hidden) location."

Royal requested the JWBFA via the Obon Society to deliver them to the addressees written on the original letters, saying he felt they ought to be returned to their families, otherwise they may never know of their existence. Of five letters found, two were successfully returned to their respective families.

Of the three remaining men's letters, locating their families is proving difficult. One letter dated Sept. 21, 1943, and written by Naoichi Takagi is addressed to his wife in the town of Oroshi (currently part of Toki city, Gifu Prefecture). He writes to her that "Now, for the first time, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Takagi asks her to "competently raise" the couple's three children "with your own hands."

Another, written by Iwao Harada to a lady who appears to be his mother, Mrs. Tome Harada from Inasamachi, Nagasaki Prefecture, reads, "I believe participating in the Greater East Asia War and becoming a heroic spirit to protect the country is the greatest act of filial piety."

The final two letters are the written "wills" of Torakichi Yano from Fukuoka Prefecture, with one addressed to his wife and children, the other to his parents.
According to the JWBFA, all three men belonged to the army's independent field anti-aircraft 40th company and died on Wakde Island on May 20, 1944.

Gifu Prefecture's Bereaved Families Association is searching for Takagi's surviving family members, but a man believed to be his son appears to have moved away from Gifu some 20 years ago, making his whereabouts unknown. Similar obstacles in finding the families of Harada and Yano have occurred.

While residential records kept by local governments can be used as clues to find the family members listed in the addresses, significant holdups can occur due to the necessary undertaking of bureaucratic procedures associated with disclosing personal information.

Royal, who himself lost many friends on the battlefield in Iraq, said he hopes to "return these items to the families that they were meant for."
Commenting on the discovered letters, the Obon Society's Kudo remarked that "There are now only a handful of people who experienced the war, so it is important to let the next generation learn about the value of peace through mementos."