Man on a mission to return Japanese flag to soldier's family

Posted at 7:06 PM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-20 20:03:14-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Seventy-five years after the Battle of Iwo Jima began, an aviation museum curator is on a mission. That mission is to return a Japanese flag that belongs to a Japanese soldier who died during the battle.

Bernard Roke has been a volunteer curator at the Aviation Museum for the last 10 years. Since Roke started, he has been going through the museum's inventory and researching everything he gets his hands on. One day, he dug up a framed Japanese flag from WWII.

"They're called Yosegaki Hinomaru," Roke noted. "Hinomaru is the Japanese name for their national flag, and Yosegaki basically means name around the sun."

Roke tried for years to have the lettering translated, but didn't have any luck. That is, until a museum visitor named Yuki helped him translate 50 of the 56 names. Roke says the meeting was fate.

"This is Takahashi Kinsou, and that's the name of the man that this flag was given to," Roke said.

Takahashi Kinsou was a Japanese serviceman who fought and died during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

"There's several Takahashi's in here, so obviously those are blood relatives. But these were also friends that were wishing their friend well going off to war."

Roke then found a Japanese article written about Takahashi's grandson, who recently visited Iwo Jima.

"This was a picture that his grandmother had on a mirror at her house. And then when she passed away, he took it and he kept it at his house, always wondering about his grandfather."

Roke says his mission is to give Takahashi's grandson his grandfather's flag.

"I would think the family of this man would like to have something concrete that they can hold, and know that their father and grandfathers held it and know that it means something very much to him," Roke said.

Roke says there's been contact with the grandson and he's hoping the flag is back where it belongs soon.