And a soldier from the West honors that Eastern tradition as he is bent to return a shin gunto, the military sword of Japanese military officers during the Second World War he took for a ‘souvenir’ before leaving Nagasaki sometime in 1945, to the family of its rightful owner.
“At first, I kept it as a souvenir,” said Orval Amdahl, of rural Lanesboro.
The now 94-year-old WWII veteran had served as a Marine captain during the second great war.
Amdahl recalled that during World War II, he was aboard a US war ship that was part of the fleet ready to invade Japan when the two atomic bombs were dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Afterwards, when the radiation from the bomb had degenerated, he got stationed in Nagasaki. Before leaving, he was allowed one memento from the place to take home with him.
That was the time he saw the sword with a scabbard covered in wood and a wooden block attached with a string. Since he loved horses and the item looked liked it belonged to a cavalry officer, he took a liking to it so he chose it as his Japanese memento.
The sword stayed in his keeping for more than 6 decades. He had kept it in good condition and constantly took care of it. However, lingering questions about its owner kept on coming into his mind.
“Then, all of a sudden, I began thinking—someone had to own this,” he mused.
He had tried contacting people about the sword throughout the years he had kept it but it always ended up in vain.
When author Caren Stelson did an interview with him for a book she was writing about the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima that ended WWII in 1945, Amdahl mentioned the sword and even showed it to her.
“I showed it to her, and it blossomed from there,” he told reporters. “She has people in Nagasaki she can work with.”
Stelson made use of her network of contacts in Japan to locate the owner or the family and eventually found Tadahiro Motomura, the grandson of the military officer who was the original owner of the sword before it came into Amdahl’s hands.
This coming September 21, Amdahl and Motomura will meet for the first time as the former hand over the sword and return it to its rightful owner. The said ceremony will happen at the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, the sister city of Nagasaki.
When asked if he had thought about selling the sword while it was in his possession, Amdahl admitted it did cross his mind but he also said:
“I have a feeling I’m bigger than that.”
He further added that he can’t wait to return the shin gunto to its original owner.
“I want to get it back to the rightful owner. … I won’t miss it,” he said. “I believe in peace.”