Relic of Iwo Jima to be returned from US to family of Japanese soldier

This photo shows the booklet of the late Chojiro Hibi, kept as a World War II relic for years by the Japan-America Society in Washington DC. (Photo courtesy of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC / Kyodo)

A joint U.S.-Japanese memorial service to Iwo Jima can be seen in this file photo taken on October 24, 2020 (Pool photo)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) – A booklet that has been kept as a World War II relic for years by a group promoting US-Japanese relations in Washington will be returned to the family of a Japanese soldier who died in the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific over 75 years ago.

The Postal Savings Passbook was brought along with other items to the Japan-America Society in Washington DC about a decade ago by an American after the death of his father who had served in World War II, according to the group.

But it was only recently confirmed that the object belonged to Chojiro Hibi, who lived in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo. Hibi, in his early twenties, died in battle on what is now called Iwoto Island, the site of one of the most grueling battles of WWII.

“I thought everything was reduced to ashes,” Hibi’s younger brother Kimijiro, 93, who lives in Chiba Prefecture, told Kyodo News. “War denies human dignity and harms many people.”

Fighting on the Pacific Island continued for about a month after the landing of US forces in February 1945. About 22,000 Japanese and 7,000 US soldiers died in the battle.

The United States returned Iwoto to Japanese sovereignty in 1968, and efforts to recover the remains of the Japanese war dead are still ongoing. Chojiro’s remains are among those that have yet to be found.

News of the booklet reached the Hibi family amid renewed efforts to identify the owner. One of Kimijiro’s sons recently discovered the banking book thanks to a Kyodo News article published over a year ago about the war relics held by the company.

The booklet had a name written in Japanese Kanji characters that would probably read “Chojiro Hibi” as well as an address where the family lived.

Although one of the three kanji in his first name is different from his real name, Chojiro used the same kanji as in the booklet when signing a postcard to Kimijiro and may have commonly written his name from this. way, said his relatives.

On the postcard, Chojiro also wrote his savings account number, which matched the bank book.

Ryan Shaffer, the head of the company, said he noticed war relics left in one of his desk drawers after becoming chairman of the group in February 2019 and welcomed the latest development.

He said the meaning of these objects evolved along with the relationship between the United States and Japan – former enemies of war and now close allies.

“The objects were taken as a war trophy. They are returned as the personal effects of a human being – someone’s son, someone’s brother,” he said.

“The American man who brought them to us did so out of human empathy and compassion for the fallen Japanese soldier and his family. I think it is important that we can express this sentiment to the loved ones of the fallen Japanese soldier. in combat, and I hope that will bring them some comfort and maybe some joy, ”he added.

The company is still seeking to confirm ownership of around 20 items, including photos and letters.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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