Marvin Strombo, Marine, returns flag to family

| August 16, 2017 | 68 Comments

A former workmate and Mick send links to the story of Marvin Strombo who, as a young Marine fighting his way across the Pacific, happened to liberate a Rising Sun flag from it’s deceased owner, Sadao Yasue, on the island of Saipan. This week, he returned the flag to the soldier’s brother;

Sadao’s younger brother, Tatsuya Yasue, said his brother was a young man with a future to live. When Sadao was called upon to go to war, his family gave him this flag as a symbol of good fortune to bring him back to them. Getting this flag back means more to them than just receiving an heirloom. It’s like bringing Sadao’s spirit back home.

Tatsuya was accompanied by his elder sister Sayoko Furuta and younger sister Miyako Yasue to formally accept the flag. As Tatsuya spoke about what his brother meant to not only his family but the other members of the community, he reminisced over the last moments he had with him before his departure.

Tatsuya said his family received permission to see Sadao one last time, so they went to him. He came down from his living quarters and sat with them in the grass, just talking. When they were told they had five more minutes, Sadao turned to his family and told them that it seemed like they were sending him to somewhere in the Pacific. He told them he probably wasn’t coming back and to make sure they took good care of their parents. That was the last time Tatsuya ever spoke to his brother.

As Strombo and Yasue exchanged this simple piece of cloth from one pair of hands to the next, Strombo said he felt a sense of relief knowing that after all these years, he was able to keep the promise he made on the battlegrounds of Saipan.

I remember the stories that my great-uncle told me about his war in the Pacific, which is why, to this day, I won’t own a Japanese car (Mitsubishi operated a POW Camp which used the labor of US POWs for manufacturing). But, good on Mr Strombo getting past the war.

Category: We Remember

Comments (68)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. In The Mailbox: 08.16.17 : The Other McCain | August 16, 2017
  1. Commissar says:

    This is a touching story.

    • timactual says:

      You are not being consistent. Considering what that flag represents shouldn’t it be treated like a Confederate flag?

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        Hadn’t though of it that way, but that is a valid point.

        Whatever one might think of the Confederacy, Imperial Japan went -way- beyond anything in the fever dreams of today’s Anti-Free, or anything that actually happened in the war between the states.

        So, from his point of view it is “touching” to show respect and reconciliation to the folks of those who fought for one monstrous barbarity, but not to the folks who fought for another monstrous barbarity.


        • The Other Whitey says:

          Though I wasn’t looking to engage Lars this time around due to a busy day and a non-medicatable headache, that’s a great point. The Japanese practiced slavery on a scale unfathomed in the old south, and that was one of their lesser barbarisms. I suppose it’s worth asking how Private Yasue conducted himself at the Comfort Station, for example.

          • 11B-Mailclerk says:

            Or, we take the high road, and bury the hatchet.

            We won. No one can doubt or argue -that- one. If it brings peace to some of our guys to make gestures of this sort, so be it. We are not diminished by it.

            Sun Tzu: Never press a beaten foe too hard.

            But understand, as these things occur, that to folks in that region the Rising Sun flag is as hated as the Hakkencruz of the Third Reich is hated elsewhere.

          • desert says:

            Wasn’t only slavery, barbarism, torture, beheadings, beatings on and on ad nauseum!

        • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

          Here’s a Wikipedia link to Japanese atrocities during WWII – the info is shocking, to say the least:

          • MustangCryppie says:

            And it’s even more shocking that, unlike the Germans, the Japanese have not faced up to those atrocities.

            • The Other Whitey says:

              Well, some of them have. Quite a few remorseful Japanese veterans have admitted what they did in occupied territories over the years. Their government has also occasionally issued statements of apology, which were kind of halfassed and not widely publicized, but still. Culturally, though, they have not. Most of their schools teach kids that Japan was innocently minding its own business in the 40s when one day B-29s started dropping nukes for no particular reason. There is a movement in Japan pushing to have the real story taught, but they get drowned out by the pro-imperial revisionists and the “it happened 70 years ago” crowd.

              • 11B-mailclerk says:

                There is also a cultural item working against Japan.

                It is -extremely- rude and improper to say “the boss is wrong”.

                The intelligence service of Imperial japan figured out that we were probably reading their mail. But it was not acceptable to suggest we could do that, beau eth ebosses said “impossible”, so they did not change their codes.


                I believe the USA has a gigantic cultural advantage in adapting, because we can say “bullfeathers” and argue with -anyone-. Stuff gets worked out, without resorting to duels or excommunication.

                Not perfect. But light-years better than some others when one basically has to wait for the “boss” cohort to die off to really change things.

      • Yef says:

        Oh, you don’t understand the left.

        Their real enemy is not the muslim terrorists who kill thousands of innocent people every year, or the criminals on the streets, or dictators with their nukes.

        Their real enemy is the people that keep them from power.

      • swormy says:

        Inconsistency is the one thing Lars is consistent about.

  2. IDC SARC says:

    Damn…was hoping at some point he eviscerated him and took a bite out of his heart.

    Om nom nom nom nom

  3. David says:

    About 3% of captured Americans died in German POW camps… about 60% died in Japanese camps.

    That being said… good on you, Mr. Strombo, for doing a good decent deed.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      The japs definitely weren’t the good guys in the war. The abuse of Allied POWs, atrocities and mistreatment of occupied civilians, enslavement of Korea, and attempted genocide in China all speak to that. Still, there’s something to be said for reconciliation.

      Damn decent of Mr. Strombo.

      • Hack Stone says:

        Attempted? They pretty much wiped Nanking off of the map, but the US is the bad guy for dropping two atomic bombs on Japan and bringing the war to a quick conclusion.

        • The Other Whitey says:

          I’ve wrote up some pretty long-winded comments on previous threads going into greater detail on Nanking and other departures from civilized behavior by the japs, and how they got off easy.

          Alas, today I’m busy with escrow paperwork, digging up my septic tank for inspection, and have a bitch of a headache on top of that, so I tried to keep it short.

    • Casey says:

      At the risk of being the materialist weasel of the group, more than a few Allied POWs were killed by Navy subs when the ships they were on were sunk by torpedo attack.

      Bad things happen in war. It’s one of the reasons we try to avoid it.

      • The Other Whitey says:

        On ships that were deliberately *not* marked as carrying POWs in accordance with international law

      • FuzeVT says:

        The fact that “hell-ships” carrying POWs were sunk by Allied subs would only be relevant if they were targeted with the knowledge that POWs were aboard.

        They weren’t.

        “Bad things happen in war. It’s one of the reasons we try to avoid it.”

        That much is true.

  4. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Kudos to Mr. Strombo, but I myself never have and likely never will own a Japanese-made car or truck, one of my Mentors in my teen years was a Bataan Death march Survivor.

    • Devtun says:

      Many of those vehicles are made in the US w/ American labor. Japan is very poor in natural resources so the steel, copper, plastics, rubber, etc are most likely from American suppliers. I own an ’08 Honda Civic – boring, but dependable (car version of a Glock ?). Heck, with vehicles you have many options other than Japanese. In electronics it’s mostly Japanese & Koreans w/ an iron grip on the market.

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        Weirdly, many “Japanese” cars are made in the USA,and many “American” cars are made elsewhere.

      • MrBill says:

        I drive a Nissan that was made in Mississippi. My first car was a Mercury (Ford) Capri that was made in Germany. And you’re right, nowadays parts come from all over – there probably aren’t many cars that can be said to be totally the product of a single country.

    • MustangCryppie says:

      My father was a veteran of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He never really had much hate for the Germans.

      His brother was on a minesweeper in the Pacific. When I told him that I was stationed in Japan, I thought the top of his head was going to blow off.

      That’s about the reaction I always got from Pacific vets. Decades after the war, they still hated the Japanese with a passion.

  5. OldSoldier54 says:

    To this day, my father hates Japan and all things Japanese. He knew some of the survivors of the Bataan Death March, knew about what happened to the POWs.

    I’m sure Mr. Strombo saw much ugliness, also, leaving scars on his soul. Still, for whatever reason, he made a promise to a dead enemy soldier and he kept it.
    Perhaps, this one small act of human decency will help soothe the scars war leaves in the soul with a tiny drop of balm.

    And, there’s a reason the Corps motto is Semper Fidelis. Mr. Strombo lived/lives it.

    Well done, Brother.

    • Yef says:

      A promise that takes 70 years to be fulfilled?

      The cynical in me says Mr Strombo wasn’t very motivated in doing this.

      As a matter of fact, I doubt there was such a promise.

      I suspect someone got tired of his war trophy.

  6. Deplorable B Woodman says:

    Damn, it’s dusty here all of a sudden.

  7. Mark Lauer says:

    Just another little story that shows us the truth about war; we are only made enemies because we are told to be.

  8. Patrick408 says:

    My 94 year old WWII buddy who fought with the 1st MarDiv from the start in Guadalcanal to the end of the war disarming the Japs in China. Today he’s the last surviving scout/sniper from that Division and would never do something like this, but to my surprise he doesn’t have any war booty to return because anything he captured was used for intel, but Semper Fi to Marvin Strombo for doing this.

    • Yef says:

      Yeah. I agree.

      This Strombo dude reminds me of the losers trying to bring war trophies from Iraq and Afghanistan. They all had one thing in common. They were not infantry.

      Well, to be fair, I did bring back a russian bayonet with me, but i was using it during missions, because it was an straight blade with no identations, so i used it as a tool, and came back with my gear. I never thought of it as trophy, and i will certainly not going to return it, even if i could remember in which of my boxes of Army crap it is hiding from me.

      • 11B-mailclerk says:

        A combat veteran of the Pacific Campaign of WW2 reminds you of losers?

        Do you have even the faintest idea what occurred in that campaign, what he and others endured to win victory for us?

        • Yef says:

          Well, I don’t know his MOS, and definitively don’t know what his job and position was during that campaign.

          For all I know he could have been in ship off the coast watching it all happen and be called later to clear the area after the shooting was over and that’s when he found his flag.

          War trophy collectors rarely pay the real price for the trophy, which is why they keep it.

          Why in the hell would I want something to remind me of the worst day in my life?

          Hell no. Something smells fishy with this Strombo story.

          • The Other Whitey says:

            The fact that the flag is legit would seem to indicate that Strombo was most likely up front where the bullets were flying. Starting with Guadalcanal, frontline Marines figured out that they could pad their income nicely by selling counterfeit Japanese flags to rear-echelon personnel, while keeping the genuine ones. Robert Leckie referenced the practice several times in “Helmet For My Pillow.”

            Since the flag is legit, Strombo most likely obtained it the hard way.

          • Bruno Stachel says:

            Yef (or should we just call you SuperGrunt?),

            It helps if you read the linked story before you start insulting and criticizing a WWII combat veteran and making comments about things that you don’t understand.

            Mr. Strombo served as a scout sniper with 6th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division.

            So Mr. Strombo was an INFANTRYMAN, just as you claim to be.

            Run along now, and don’t forget to change your socks and drink water.

          • timactual says:

            Today’s winner of the conclusion jumping competition is….

      • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

        YEF, YOU remind me of “THAT GUY” in the barracks who would nearly ALWAYS speak up when he came across something booby-trapped waiting for some rat-bitch or buddy-fucker to come across…
        HOW MANY TIMES did you go looking for say, chem light batteries, blinker fluid, a shit-shaft plug,a box of ground guides,… You also remind me of a certain critter that went and bawled to my 1SG at the time because I sent him searching for cable stretching oil!

  9. Ex-PH2 says:

    Warriors are courteous even to their enemies.

  10. OWB says:

    A much better story than most of what we read today.

    Thank you, Mr. Strombo, for representing us all so honorably. Well done.

  11. Messkit says:

    When is Japan going to bring back the Arizona?

    • The Other Whitey says:

      If they agree to a new rule allowing us to beat the ever-loving dogshit out of any jap tourist that fails to show proper respect when visiting the Memorial, up to and including throwing their asses off the platform and then chumming the water, I’d call it a step in the right direction.

      My Dad was ready to start the war all over again when he and my Mom visited the Memorial in ’99. Fucking jap tourists were treating it like Disneyland. On the other hand, the japs present when I went there in ’02 were on their best behavior.

      Yes, I keep using the term “jap.” In this context, it applies. And when you’re watching fuel oil leak from the mortal remains of USS Arizona, they’re fucking japs.

  12. mike says:

    I’ve often seen while studying history that veterans often find they have more in common with those they fought than with those they left behind. After the heat and hatred of battle Die down they Can often get together on common ground. There is a story about a reunion in Vietnam between vets of LZ Xray that always stuck with me. An American and Vietnamese soldier were comparing their positions on a map and we’re quote shocked to find that the Vietnamese soldier was one of the few survivors of the American machine gunners efforts that day. Of course things you see can’t always be gotten over. If you read Flags of Our Fathers, when Doc Bradley finally told his son what had happened to his friend after the Japanese Captured him. I suppose it’s up to each vet to find what he or she can on this subject.

  13. jonp says:

    Good for him. I’d use the flag for toilet paper.

  14. Hondo says:

    As I’ve said before: soldiers don’t choose the wars in which they fight; that’s done by their political leadership. Solders on all sides are accountable only for their own conduct, and the conduct of their subordinates.

    Obviously, the same is true for sailors, marines, and airmen as well.

    Regarding deserters: when someone decides to desert, IMO they cease to merit the title soldier/sailor/airmen/marine. Those who avoid service intentionally never merited those titles.

    Other than those who personally participated in atrocities, I have no personal animosity towards former soldiers of any nation we’ve ever fought. Their political leaders are a very different story.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      Very well put, Hondo, and very true. I think the point of many people is that Japanese atrocities were so widespread and prevalent that it would be difficult to find a man in the Imperial Army (not so much the Imperial Navy, if only because they didn’t keep “comfort women” or other slaves on warships) who didn’t participate in them to some extent. In fairness, these men were products of an extremely racist society that taught them they were the righteous soldiers of the god-emperor (even if that emperor didn’t get to call most of the shots) that all non-Japanese were subhuman, but that excuse only goes so far.

      Personally, I think Mr. Strombo has done a wonderful thing. Just saying that I can see a lot of merit in the opposing viewpoint as well.

  15. Les Moore says:

    My uncle was a POW in a German camp. I knew that much,but I didn’t hear the rest of the stories until his memorial service. He was treated as brutally as you would expect. Oddly (to me) he forgave the Germans. He could not forgive the Japanese.

    • USMC Steve says:

      I doubt for the most part that the Germans treated him with the brutality that the Japs took such pride in. I read that roughly 4 percent of POW’s in German hands died, while the figure for those in Jap hands was around 40 percent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *