The Final Chapter of World War II

By James Buckley   |   May 3, 2018
Flags such as this were given to Japanese soldiers before going into battle, and many added personal information on them before folding the flags and placing them near their hearts under their uniforms. Several of the flags were retrieved by U.S. soldiers and brought home as souvenirs. The Obon Society's Rex and Keiko Ziak, who will speak at this month's Channel City Club event on May 14, have organized the return of such mementoes to the families of fallen Japanese soldiers.

Seventy-seven years ago, after a Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United States declared war on Japan. That war resulted in the death of millions of humans and was the only conflict in history in which weapons ranging from swords to Atomic bombs were used. The U.S. prevailed, and the two countries signed a peace treaty after four years of brutal conflict. 

Today, the people of the U.S. and Japan are peaceful partners. This transition from hated enemies to trusted friends has rarely been accomplished in such a short period of time.

War does not end when a treaty is signed. The veterans come home with nightmares and memories; the mothers, widows, and orphans who bury the dead are faced with a lifetime of grief and loss. Throughout history, we have witnessed that two or three generations later the grandchildren take up arms to avenge their loss and war erupts once again.

Rex and Keiko Ziak met with Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Shinzo Abe in August, 2015, to personally return 70 family heirlooms on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. The Ziaks invited and arranged for six WWII veterans to accompany them as ‘veteran ambassadors’ of peace. (from left): Harold LaDuke (U.S. Navy) of Tacoma, Washington and Dallas Britt (U.S. Army) of Seattle, Washington.) Keiko and Rex Ziak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Minister Shiozaki

As a sincere gesture that confirms this unique peace, many Americans are doing something remarkable. They and their wartime allies from around the world are gathering up the “battlefield souvenirs” they had carried home as symbols of victory and sending these personal family heirlooms back to relatives of the dead soldiers in Japan.

There are numerous reasons Americans are doing this. Some say it is to provide closure to the bereaved family in Japan, while others claim it is to calm their own troubled hearts. Others declare this act represents the traditional benevolent spirit of Americans, while some state it was the longtime request of their veteran father that these items be sent home. But whether it is done in honor or peace, friendship, or trust, we have come to regard this exceptional act of returning Japanese flags to Japanese families as writing the final chapter to the history of WWII.

 The international humanitarian nonprofit Obon Society, in recognition of the need to organize the effort, was formed out of a unique combination of Rex and Keiko Ziak. Rex, an American and son of a WWII veteran met Keiko, a citizen of Japan, whose grandfather had been drafted, sent to war, and disappeared in Burma without a trace; his remains have never been found. The Ziaks realized the Americans were trying to reach out to the Japanese, but the language and cultural difference made this connection impossible. They set themselves up as a point of contact and now receive items every day from around the world.

Rex and Keiko will present their talk, “Writing the Final Chapter of WWll; The Return of Japanese Flags to Japanese Families”, at a Channel City luncheon sponsored by Montecito Journal and Condor Express on Monday, May 14, in the Reagan Room at the Fess Parker Hilton Resort; check-in begins at 11:30 am. Reservations are required by Thursday, May 10. 

Tickets for the presentation and lunch are $45 per person. You are invited to go to their website at or phone them at (805) 884-6636 for more information.


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