Flag Mystery Unfurls

September 11, 2015 0 Comments

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2068.0"]Bill Koehler, president of US Marine Raider Association, and a Japanese flag he is taking back to Japan. Bill Koehler, president of US Marine Raider Association, and a Japanese flag he is taking back to Japan.

A massive flag that rippled above a Japanese battleship more than 110 years ago is back aboard a warship in Yokosuka.

Bill Koehler presented it to a Japanese heritage society last month in a ceremony that came with surprises for people on both sides of the handoff.

The Vancouver man was among a group of Northwest veterans and history enthusiasts who returned “rising sun” flags that American servicemen brought home after World War II.

Most of those 70 flags had been Japanese soldiers’ personal keepsakes, signed by friends, family members or classmates. Most were taken from bodies of Japanese soldiers who were killed in combat in the Pacific.

Koehler’s contribution to the project was different. Measuring about 17 feet by 11 feet, it had flown from one of the Japanese battleships that defeated the Russian fleet during the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.

It was claimed as a war trophy by a U.S. Marine Raider after World War II during the occupation of Japan. He took it from the Mikasa, a retired Japanese battleship that had been decommissioned in 1923 and converted into a floating museum.

The 92-year-old veteran recently gave his trophy to Koehler, president of the U.S. Marine Raider Foundation, so he could return the Mikasa flag to Japan.

Koehler did just that last month, after making arrangements with the Mikasa Historic Preservation Society. Koehler brought the flag aboard the Mikasa in a wooden box made by craftsmen at Vancouver’s Friends of the Carpenter.

The surprises started when people around the huge table began to carefully ease the flag from the box of oak, ebony and rosewood. There was “a look of absolute amazement” on the faces of their hosts, Koehler said.

That’s because the Japanese weren’t expecting to see a battleship flag. They already had the flag that had flown over the Mikasa; it had been put away for safekeeping before the U.S. occupied Japan.

So Koehler was surprised to learn that he’d never had the Mikasa flag.

“They knew it all the time,” he said.

And the Japanese were surprised to see the huge red-and-white naval ensign that had just been placed in their hands; it was identical to their Mikasa flag. It could have only come from the Asahi, another battleship that was part of Japan’s victorious fleet in 1905.

That flag was retired and placed in the museum, even though the Asahi was pressed back into service during WWII. Too outdated to serve as a battleship, the Asahi was converted into a repair ship and was sunk by an American submarine in 1942.

“What the Japanese have left of the Asahi is that flag,” Koehler said.

The old Marine Raider passed up a pretty lucrative payday when he placed the flag in Koehler’s custody. After checking with collectors, Koehler learned that the flag could have fetched $100,000 or more in the memorabilia market.

The Japanese press kept asking why the Marine wanted to return the flag, Koehler said. And Koehler kept offering the same answer.

“It was the right thing to do.”




Also in The Raider Weekly

What is a DAD?
What is a DAD?

June 17, 2018 0 Comments

Brandan became a dad on August 28, 2009 at7:06 am. I had an emergency Cesarean because our sons heart rate went down drastically during delivery - It was happening so fast we didn’t even have time to think

Read More

Badass of the Month
Badass of the Month

May 07, 2018 0 Comments

I was physically injured during service to my country, I was also emotionally shattered; transitioning to civilian life a constant challenge. I have had some success with equine therapy, the most successful treatment I had been through before the Serenity Trauma Healing Center program. The unique resources offered by Karl Monger and Gallantfew are like none other that I have ever had the privilege or access to in the past.

Read More

Joshua Tree - More Than I Expected
Joshua Tree - More Than I Expected

April 30, 2018 0 Comments

Since all of the other participants share similar experiences, you develop a tight bond by swapping stories and having some laughs after a day of climbing. You get the feeling that even though your time in the military may have past, the brotherhood in which you share still exists. They are here for me and I am here for them, no matter what.

Read More

Sign up now!

Keep up to date with all of our programs, sales, and events!