Commemorative WWII Japanese Flag Unites Veterans and Their Families

The Japanese flag Cindy Brode has at home has been around the world and across the country, through war and peace. There are names written on its face to commemorate those who fought for US victory in World War II.

Brode’s grandfather, Jack Young, was an Akron, Ohio, native who is one of 189 veterans of WWII that took part in the story of that flag.

Debbie Anthony, of Bradford, Pennsylvania, began the Names on the Flag project in 2014. She passed the flag around to family members of the veterans who signed it.

Brode said she was amazed that the flag was still in such good condition. She found it “heartwarming” to see her grandfather’s name among all the names on the flag.

The project began when Anthony’s husband found the flag at the bottom of a box of rags that were going to be shredded. They donated the flag to an army store. When the store closed in 2014, the Anthony’s recovered the flag.

Anthony has some experience with genealogy. She decided to track down the veterans who signed the flag. To date, she has identified nearly 170 veterans and their families. Anthony makes a list of peoples who want to see the flag, loans the flag to a family for about two weeks before they pass it along to the next family on the list.

So far, the flag has been to 26 states. Of all the people she has tracked down, 13 were veterans who signed the flag. Two of those veterans died since then, so there are only 11 left.

Vern Tovrea from Marysville, Washington, was the fourth veteran Anthony contacted.

When he first received the flag, he read through the names and only recognized a few. As he read through the names, he began to remember more.

The flag helped reconnect Tovrea with his squad sergeant who also is alive.

Anthony found several people who were firsthand witnesses to the signing of the flag, but not one of them remembers signing the flag.

Tovrea was able to help Anthony work through some of the misspelled names and figure out some of the flag’s travels before she received it.

What is known is that the flag made its way from the Philippines to Japan and likely was passed along to Hawaii. All of the men who signed the flag had been wounded, and all of them were members of the US Army’s 34th Infantry, 24th Division. Anthony believes that it was signed in 1944, a year before the end of the war.

Anthony created a Facebook page for families of the veterans to interact with each other.

The page is full of photos of men in uniform, obituaries, war decorations, family photos and veterans holding the flag.

Brode said that the Facebook page connects her with everyone who knew someone that signed the flag. She said that she’s gained perspective about what the soldiers went through in the war.

Her grandfather, Young, lived in Tallmadge for most of his life. He died in 1998. He didn’t talk much about fighting in the war.

The flag brought back memories of her grandfather and memories of her own deployment in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm as part of the Air Force.

The flag reminds her of how close she was with her fellow service members.

The flag will go to Pennsylvania after its time in Akron and then several more states before it returns to Anthony, Ohio reported.

Anthony will give the families one more opportunity to see the flag and then donate it to a museum so that the stories it represents will live on for future generations.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE