Stan’s Story – Part 3
Last month we read about Stan’s service during WWII and three Japanese flags he obtained during that time. We learned more about him as he returns back to civilian life post discharge, his employment as a newspaper reporter, and pursuing his favorite hobby of sports fishing, becoming the “Master Caster,” which took him all over the world to demonstrate and speak about his talent. In this very emotional conclusion to this piece of Stan’s story we learn how one special invitation lead to the three flags finally making it back home.
They Finally Got Back Home – Conclusion
By Stan Fagerstrom
My outdoor show appearances sometimes took me to foreign countries as well as all over the United States. They took me from Houston to Hawaii and from Baltimore to Brazil along with countless other spots. One day there came an invitation to be the featured performer at the huge outdoor show in Tokyo, Japan. My receipt of that invitation opened a floodgate of motions.
During the war my Division, the 31st Infantry Dixie Division, had been deeply involved in the planning for the eventual invasion of Japan. The 31st was to be one of three divisions to form what was to be the 8th Army and on or about March 1 of 1946 we were to have swarmed ashore right in the area around Tokyo Bay. Had that happened I probably would not be here to write what you’re reading. Thank God it didn’t. And now here I was being invited to come to the very city where war would have taken me all those years before.
Unlocking The Past & My Heart
That Tokyo invitation did something else. It was like someone had handed me a key that unlocked my heart as well as that beat up old suitcase where those Japanese battle flags rested. I had somehow been haunted by those flags ever since I brought them home. Now I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them.
It had never seemed completely right just leaving those flags where they were. I think my heart had been trying to tell me where they really belonged. I’d had a chance to sell them a couple of times. I wouldn’t even consider it. Getting that offer to appear at the Tokyo show provided the answer my heart had been seeking all those years since World War II ended.
I removed all three Japanese flags from that old suitcase. I packed them up and immediately mailed them to my contact in Japan. I asked that he tell the Japanese news media about the flags and seek their help in possibly finding surviving relatives of the soldiers to whom the flags had belonged and to give the relatives the flags if they were located.
As it turned out, only one flag carried the name of its owner. He was a young soldier named Giichiro Komatsu. Giichiro’s brother Shoji was a Buddhist priest. The flag was turned over to him. They located some of Giichiro’s former comrades and friends and held a special funeral ceremony for him with the flag I’d returned.
The Japanese government had advised Giichiro’s family that he had been killed, but that was all the information they had received. The family gave me a questionnaire that I was able to fill in listing the time, the place and other items of importance associated with his death. I remember adding on my own that he had indeed died bravely.
As I’ve mentioned, the other two flags did not carry the names of the soldiers to whom they belonged. Those two flags have been placed in a special shrine in Tokyo.
Emotions Run Deep
All of these memories came flooding back often during my wondrous Honor Flight trip to Washington DC last May. My entire experience associated with returning those flags is one of the most moving of the 91 years God has given me.
Some of it has left me with feelings I simply cannot put on paper. They just go too deep. I still can’t sort them all out. I’m sure, in part, that is because the Japanese people I have had a chance to know really well since the end of the war, I have learned to love. And, you see, I’m also convinced the average Japanese citizen had about as much to do with starting the Pacific War as I did.
The letter you see here from the brother of Giichiro Komatsu speaks for itself. I thank God that at least one flag is back where it belongs. I pray its return may have helped in some small way to close the wounds war always leaves long after the last shots are fired.
Sgt. Stan Fagerstrom
Company G, 167th Inf. Regiment
31st Infantry “Dixie” Division
United States Army