Senior Master Sgt. William Lowell Armstrong, a flight superintendent stationed at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, returned his grandfather’s war trophy to the Gunma Gokoku Shrine, which honors deceased veterans, in Takasaki, Japan, on Feb. 14.
His grandfather, Cpl. Lowell Armstrong, gained possession of the flag while serving in Japan during the war, according to a U.S. Pacific Air Forces news release.
“I am truly grateful that my grandfather kept the flag safe and in great condition all those years and my family decided to return it to its rightful owners, as we know how much it means to the family,” Armstrong said in the release. “My grandfather would be happy that this flag is being returned to its home.”
The captured flag was known as a “Good Luck Flag” among the Japanese. The flag is typically signed by a service member’s loved ones and presented to them prior to entry into the military or before a deployment, according to the PACAF release.
As part of the ceremony, Armstrong put on a pair of white gloves, unfolded the well-maintained flag and presented it to the relatives of Masashi Ito, the Japanese soldier who originally owned it.
“It was a great surprise to have it returned like this out of millions of those that died,” Michio Miki, one of Ito’s nephews, said in the release. “I am thankful for the thoughtfulness of Mr. Armstrong’s grandson to return it like this.”
Armstrong’s grandfather never disclosed how he came to own the flag, as he never spoke about his time serving in the Pacific theater.
Armstrong only learned of the flag’s existence roughly two and a half years ago.
His uncle came to own the flag after his grandfather passed away, and reached out to the Obon Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to returning Good Luck Flags to the family members of the original owner.
According to the group, Armstrong is the first active-duty grandson to participate in one of the flag repatriation ceremonies, the PACAF release read.
“It’s an honor to represent my family at the event,” Armstrong said. “My father, uncle and aunt regret they are unable to attend, however, I am honored to represent my family in this return ceremony. I was named after my grandfather and I am proud to carry his namesake. He was one of the kindest, hardworking men anyone would ever meet. He would do anything for anyone.”