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WWII Vet Returns Sword To Japanese Family

LANESBORO, Minn. (WCCO) -- Orvall Amdahl clearly remembers the day his life would be forever changed.

"November 19, 1942 I left San Francisco," recalls the 94-year old from Lanesboro.

Back then, Amdahl was beginning his service as a United States Marine and preparing for battles in the Pacific. He was a 26-year-old Marine Corp Captain when fighting stopped, and the occupation of Japan began.

He remembers it vividly, because he and his fellow Marines were loaded onto their landing craft and preparing for invasion.

But on Aug. 8, 1945, Amdahl says, "the bomb was dropped, so instead of being invaders we became occupiers."

Ten days later Amdahl was assigned to duty in the devastated city of Nagasaki. It was a horrific scene that he'll never forget.

"I don't know, that's unreal," Amdahl recalls sadly.

As a captain, he was given access to a warehouse where Japanese soldiers had been disarmed. He remembers piles and piles of weapons, including Samurai swords.

Amdahl was given an identification card that specifically granted him access to his choice of a "war trophy."

That's when Amdahl found a pristine, leather scabbard, holding a glistening Samurai sword.

"I pulled mine out and almost fainted," he said, "it was so beautiful."

Since 1945 Amdahl has kept the sword well-oiled and was proud to show it to family and friends. But then, one day it occurred to him - even after 68 years of being the sword's American caretaker, the treasured piece of history really wasn't his.

"I felt that this had a home, and should be returned to it. It almost makes me and Motomura feel like brothers," says Amdahl, referring to the grandson of the Japanese soldier who in 1945 was forced to turn it over.

The sword's wooden identification tags, written in Japanese, were deciphered and traced to Tadahiro Motomura.

Letters were exchanged between Amdahl and Motomura arrangements were made to give the sword back.

On Saturday, Sept. 21, that's exactly what Amdahl will do in a 9:30 a.m. ceremony in St. Paul's Como Park.

"Now we won't have to worry about it," Amdahl said, "it goes to its rightful place."

Orval forgave his enemies long ago. And when he hands over that tool of war, he prays it'll serve as a lasting offering of peace.

"Peace is what we got to look for," he said, "instead of embattlements all the time."

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