An old country house in upstate New York is literally half a world away from Iwo Jima — yet, it's not quite far enough for the man inside, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports.
"I don't really bring it up, and the only reason I brought it up is to get those gosh darn letters back. And then I'm going to erase it all," Vic Voeglin says.
The letters Voeglin wants to give back were found at Iwo Jima.
In 1945, Voeglin was in the Navy, assigned to a landing craft. For more than a month, he'd been hauling fresh soldiers in and hauling wounded ones out, when finally, it was safe to step out of his boat.
"So I just took a walk up the beach toward the airstrip, and I came upon this burned-out pillbox," Voeglin says. "It's a concrete fortification."
U.S. forces had blown it to smithereens. All that was left was about two feet of wall, and next to the wall, a drawstring sticking up from the sand.
"And I put it over my shoulder and walked back to the ship and stored it for 62 years," Voeglin says.
The bag was full of letters, about 108 of them. The letters from home were addressed to a young Japanese soldier named Tadashi Matsukawa. They say what you'd expect — a lot of family stuff.
Many were written by Tadashi's brother, who is still living in Japan and says what's written down is not why the letters matter.
"It shows he was actually on Iwo Jima," his brother says. "And I'm very surprised to hear this. This was a military top secret at the time. I would like to read the letters myself."
"The thing that's most important now is to make sure he gets these letters, the brother," Voeglin says.
He plans to return them immediately. He says he hopes the gesture brings a little peace to the world. We hope it brings a little peace of mind to his old country house.
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