The pith helmet was given to me by WWII Iwo Jima veteran Combat Correspondent Ivan Prall back in '94 when I was living in Japan. Mr. Prall found the pith helmet on a carved out shelf in a Japanese headquarters cave, with maps on the wall, on the central western side of Iwo Jima during the battle. He went into the cave to take photos of the maps and found the pith helmet and eventually sent it home.
The dead soldier was PFC Shinji Ehara, Shibuya unit, First mixed regiment, Headquarters, 109th Division under LtGen. Tadao Kuriayashi. PFC Ehara was (according to Japanese records) a radio operator. His regiment was split between the islands of Haha Jima and Iwo Jima, but Ivan Prall never set foot on Haha Jima and informed in a letter that he picked it up on Iwo Jima. The little Hebrew star sewn into the helmet is actually the Battalion HQ map symbol, and we are not sure about the other character next to it...still researching."KYO"
For 16 years I searched wanting to reunite the pith helmet with the family of the dead Japanese soldier but had no luck until, with the help of the Japanese Govt's Ministry of Health and Welfare, we found the dead Japanese soldier's younger brother in Tokyo and returned the pith helmet on March 10, 2011. I am now waiting to hear from the younger brother with more information and hopefully a photo of the man who died on Iwo Jima back in 1945.
Thank you letter from the Japanese Government confirming the return of the helmet.
Current photo of Mr. Shozo Ehara, age 82, taken in Tokyo in front of the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower.
This is the only photo that younger brother Shozo Ehara has of him and his older brother today. In his thank you letter, Shozo said the photo was taken to commemorate a special home leave granted before heading "to the front", which turned out to Iwo Jima. He had never known where his brother died, only that the Japanese military informed his family he had died in the Pacific.
This is the letter I received from the younger brother of the Japanese Army Soldier who died on Iwo Jima and whose pith helmet was taken to the US as a war trophy by War Correspondent Ivan Prall.
Newspaper articles from the Chuunichi Shinbun regarding the return of a Japanese Army Pilot's logbook by USMC Pilot Capt. Ken Walsh. Medal of Honor recipient Ken Walsh was a member of the infamous "Black Sheep Squadron" under Major Pappy Boyington. During the course of the war, Capt Walsh shot down 21 Japanese planes to be one of the Marine Corps leading aces.
Dan King met Capt. Walsh after reading an article that appeared in the Orange County Register (it was sent to him in Japan by his Mother living in California). On a business trip to California from Japan, Dan King met with Capt. Walsh to learn the old Marine wished to return a WWII souvenir he obtained while flying combat on Okinawa; a Japanese pilot's logbook (aka legboard). Capt. Walsh traded a bottle of whiskey for the bloodstained logbook from a group of "Mud Marines at Kadena who took it off a Jap pilot who crash landed his plane and shot it out with them."
He and Dan shared a common friend in Japanese aviation historian Henry Sakaida. It was Henry Sakaida who tracked down the dead Japanese pilot's former squadron Commander who in turn located the dead pilot's nephew. King met with the former squadron commander Mr. Atsushi Yoshida (below) and returned the legboard which is now housed at the Chiran Kamikaze Museum in Kyushu, Japan.
In 2006, Dan King was surfing the web and came across a Japanese WWII Naval cap for sale on ebay. The seller said it came from his dead uncle's foot locker and he knew little other than his uncle had seen action in the Solomons campaign.
After noticing the Japanese cap had a name and rank inside, and getting a strong hunch that the family could be located, I bid on and won the auction.
Over the next several years I tried to find the family of the Japanese naval cap's original owner through various Japanese websites and naval organizations but with no luck.
In Dec 2009 at the urging of a Japanese author, Ms. Yukie Sasa, and a WWII Solomon campaign survivor, Mr. Yasuo Yamamiya, I submitted a formal request to the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare to search for the dead sailor's family. Both Ms. Sasa and Mr. Yamamiya kindly sent follow-up letters to the Government. Finally in Sept 2010 a reply came that the dead sailor's brother was still alive and would be grateful to have his older brother's cap. The brother, Mr. Masamichi Shiraishi, had no information about his brother's death or even where he died.
Following protocol, I mailed the cap to Ms. Sasa who sent it to the Japanese Government representative, Ms. Sekine, who sent it to the Ehime prefecture local government rep who gave it to the younger brother Mr. Michimasa Shiraishi.
I received a very nice letter from the family thanking me for my efforts to return the cap which is the only physical reminder that remains from the dead navy sailor. And the story was also featured on a Japnese newspaper (Download PDF below).
Name: Yasu Shiraishi
Rank: Leading Seaman 1st Class
Job: Naval Construction (Seabee)
Unit: 88th Naval Defense Unit
Last known station: Bougainville area, Admiralty islands
Date of death: Between March 8 - May 6 1944.
Q: Where did the 88th Naval Defense Unit see action?
A: Manus Island, Admiralties Islands, South
It is believed that Leading Seaman 1st Class Shiraishi landed on Manus island with his unit in Dec. 1943 and died sometime in March, April or May 1944.
In 1943 the Japanese Military began implementing the policy of strengthening it's defenses in New Britain and New Guinea. On Manus Island - the largest of the Admiralty chain, they were preparing to build an island fortress similar to the one at Rabaul, New Britain.
April 8, 1943 the Japanese landed 850 men from the 51st Supply Regiment on the islands of Manus and Los Negros (separated by a narrow sea straight) to begin the process of constructing airfields. These were not combat troops.
December 1943 the Japanese Navy landed on Manus island 1,140 men from the 88th Naval Defense battalion (mostly unarmed construction engineers) and the 36th Naval Anti-aircraft Unit, and others. The were tasked with building an airfield at Lorengau.
January 25, 1944 the Japanese Army landed the 1st Mixed Independent Regiment's 2nd Battalion and the 229th Regiment's 1st Battalion on the island of Los Negros. These were combat troops.
February 29, 1944 As part of the US Naval island hopping campaign to re-take the Philippines the American forces invaded Los Negros.
March 15, 1944 the US forces landed on Manus Island.
March 27, 1944 The surviving Japanese Army units on Los Negros were ordered to Manus island to consolidate with the Japanese naval units to stave off the US invasion.
May 6, 1944 The Japanese on Manus Island were annihilated. Shortly afterwards the Japanese attempted to re-take the island by landing troops but that too, was destroyed.
Yasu Shiraishi. Rank: Leading Seaman 1st Class.
The is the diamond label tag that was inside Masaichi Yamamoto's cap he wore while attending the Japanese Naval Academy in 1944-1945. The war ended 2 months before he and his shipmates (class #75) graduated. His class was to graduate on Oct. 1, 1945 but the war ended in August.
I was living in Japan in 1993 when a collector-friend (living in the States) offered to sell this hat to me in hopes I could return it to the family. I bought the hat and showed it to my Japanese father-in-law who gasped and said, "I was supposed to be in class #75 but I failed the eyesight test". He got out his phone book and made 2 phone calls and handed me the phone, and I was talking to the dead man's widow!!
I said I wanted to return the hat but she refused saying that since she didn't meet her deceased husband (he died in 1990) until long after the war ended and the hat held no meaning to her. She said, "It is better to be left in your care since you appear to care deeply for WWII history."
Well, as luck would have it, I left it at my father-in-law's house for a few weeks for him to look at and enjoy- he was nostalgic- but one weekend when I went to visit him had discovered he had removed the name tag out of superstition. I was heartbroken but kept the tag and the photo the widow mailed to me in appreciation.
The is a photo of Masaichi Yamamoto (on the right) wearing his cadet uniform, while attending the Japanese Naval Academy in 1944-1945.
These three booklets were sent to Dan King by Mr. Ray Elliot, editor of the 4th Marine Division "The Black Sands." He obtained these WWII Japanese booklets from a member of the association of former Marines who wished to have the items returned to Japan. King coordinated with Tokyo-based author/historian, Ms. Yukie Sasa who assisted King in getting the items donated to the Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead. The Yasusukuni Shrine representatives are working diligently to find the family of the dead soldier, but in the meantime they chose to honor him by placing his booklet "Horse Skills Booklet," after it had been blessed by the priest, under glass in the Yasukuni museum, the Yushukan. The other booklet has been placed in the research Yasukuni Shrine library as it is the only known example of this rare Army booklet on the use of horses and mules for transporting supplies in combat. The search for the family continues, more information as it develops.
Private Hikoshichi Suzuki, died of an unspecified illness the Army hospital in Mukden China in December 1945. He was sent to Manchuria as a member of the 102nd Butai which was a transport unit. He was in Lt. Aoki's Platoon, Captain Ishii's Company, 204th Independent Battalion, 117th Division. Little is known of Pvt Suzuki's life or his death at this point, only that the items that have been returned from the USA are deeply cherished and appreciated by the priests and caretakers of the Yasukuni shrine and museum.
This WWII era photo album was found by the daughter of a deceased Marine in her father's war trunk of memorabilia and souvenirs. She had no idea where he picked it up so after months of research and assistance from a University Professor in Japan, a noted historian in Tokyo and a Shinto Priest we are still unable to determine when or where this event occurred since there is no writing in the album at all. She has decided to donate it to the Yasukuni shrine.
The cover the album says "Photo Album" Patricia C. found this in her father's WWII trunk decided to donate it back to the people of Japan.
While on Peleliu in 2002, I obtained two WWII Marine Corps Canteen cups. In 2006 I obtained a third canteen cup. One of them I found, and the other two were given to me by Mr. Sachio Kageyama, the son of a Japanese Officer killed during the battle. Mr. Kageyama is also the president of the "2nd Infantry Regiment's Comrade Assoc." He and other volunteers visit Peleliu regulalry to search for and collect the bones of their war dead for proper Buddhist burial. I was able to facilitate the return of all three canteen cups.
In March 2002 I went to Peleliu with "Military Historical Tours" and met, by chance, a group of Japanese who had found an old WWII US Marine rusty canteen cup in the jungle. Mr. Kageyama (whose father was killed on Peleliu) gave me the cup asking me to find the original owner's next of kin and return it. The cup had a name and unit designation scratched into it, " "Moore, W.T." and "E-2-7" . Mr. Kageyama has no such mementos of his father whose body has never been recovered from the battle. He stated that if he were to receive such a memento how happy he would be, and can easily understand the joy that this cup would bring to the American next of kin.
A team effort to research the national archives and Marine Corps records showed that Pfc. William T. Moore served with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines and was killed in action on Peleliu Sept. 27, 1944.
One of the members of the group from Peleliu, retired Master Gunnery Sgt. John Edward, and I presented the canteen cup to the Marine's two sisters at an emotional reunion in the lobby of the Airtel motel in Sunland on Jan. 9, 2004.
The emotional presentation was a simple gathering in the lobby of a hotel where we presented Dorothy Saraga and Betty Birch with their brother's canteen cup along with some tokens of appreciation that included a Marine Corps flag for each of them and a small bag of sand from the place where their brother made the ultimate sacrifice.
The photos held by the sisters are of their brother Bill Moore, and of his temporary grave on Peleliu. The sisters now had evidence of their brother after 60 years and were very emotional as they held it close.
"We're a total Marine Corps family," said Dorothy Saraga. Their father was a Devil Dog veteran of Belleau Wood in WWI, and Betty Birch herself is a WWII Marine Corps veteran. Their nephew, Bill Moore, the namesake of the Peleliu veteran was a crew chief in Vietnam.
This is a Japanese type 92, 70mm Howitzer. It was capable of firing 10 rounds/minute and was used with great effect against the 1at Marine Division at Peleliu. This particular gun was found with ammunition scattered at the ready, along with the partial bones of the gun crew all around the gun. There were bullet scars on the bullet plate shield as well as on the ammunition as well. (Dan is on the left)
1944 photo of what is believed to be the same tank knocked out on the airfield.
Me introducing Mr. Kiyokazu Tsuchida to rest of the group. (Mr. Tsuchida is one of a handful of survivors of the 11,000 man defense unit that was wiped out on Peleliu. He survived in the jungle for nearly 3 years after the war was over.) WIth back to camera is John Edward. Behind Mr. Tsuchida is Mr. Kageyama the man who found PFC Bill Moore's cup.
Me at the location where PFC Bill Moore's canteen cup was found by Mr. Kageyama; the old military Peleliu power station. (I am dressed in WWII period Marine HBT utilities)
While exploring the jungles of Peleliu with "Military Historical Tours" in March '02 Dan King found a Marine canteen cup named to Joseph A. Odorowski F-2-7 ("F Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division). At that moment King decided to find the original owner or next-of-kin and return the cup. After returning to California, King miraculously located the former Marine living in Michigan! He flew to Michigan to return the cup and meet this former Marine. King learned that Pfc Odorowski fought with the 1st MarDiv at Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and finally Okinawa where he was shot in the shoulder. Other people who were there when the cup was found on Peleliu were Diane Kuebler, Jim Pilkington, Doug Meny, John Edwards, and Kevin Windsberger.
Dan King with PFC Joseph A. Odorowski at the veteran's residence in Michigan.
I am sad to report that Mr. Joseph A. Odorowski passed away on May 5, 2011 at the age of 90. America has lost another faithful son. Rest in peace sir, you were a member of truly "The Greatest Generation." Semper Fi.
Dan is happy to announce that a third US WWII canteen cup has been returned to the original owner from the island of Peleliu. The named canteen cup was found, cleaned up and taken back to Japan by Mr. Sachio Kageyama of Mito-city, Japan.
Dan visited Mr. Kageyama in Nov.'06 on a trip to Japan to interview WWII Japanese war veterans for an upcoming book called "Eyewitness WWII: Japan" to be published by Firstperson Accounts. Mr. Kageyama showed Dan the canteen cup asking if the owner's next-of-kin could be located. Mr. Kageyama said that if no one could be found within 6 months he would donate it to a local museum in Japan, but if Dan was successful he would mail the cup to Dan in California to be returned to the rightful owner.
The bullet and shrapnel ridden canteen cup had the name "Lee R. Lumpkin" on it. It took 4 months to finally locate Mr. Lumpkin who was alive and well in Virginia. Mr. Lumpkin turned out to be Ssgt Lumpkin, a squad leader in "C" Company, 323rd Combat Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 81st Army Division. Ssgt Lumpkin was wearing the canteen cup when he was grenaded in the arm & hip up on Bloody Nose Ridge. He was hit through the cup and into his hip causing his evacuation to Guadalcanal for surgery. Ssgt Lumpkin returned to his unit for the occupation of Japan and still carries the shrapnel in his hip.
Special thanks to the following for assisting in the hunt for Mr. Lumpkin: Quay Terry, John Edward, Doug Meny, Diane Kuebler, Jim Pilkington
Note: Please check "WWII Battlesites" for more details on trips to Peleliu and the Japanese search for their war dead. If you have anyone who would like to return a WWII Japanese war trophy taken from Peleliu- such as a flag or named item- please contact me.