We visited Astoria in September, and loved the Columbia River Maritime Museum. In particular, I was deeply moved by the Obon Society exhibit, and resolved to see how I could help their mission of returning good luck flags or "yosegaki hinomaru" to the families of the Japanese soldiers who carried them.

These flags were given by friends and family to young men as they went off to World War II, many never to return. They were often taken as battlefield souvenirs. My research shows them routinely for sale on eBay for about $250.

As I write this, and over my week-old objections, eBay has one for sale on its platform that features "soldier's dried blood," presumptively that of its former owner. This flag is for sale for $2,000, well over the market value, undoubtedly because of the ghoulish attraction of a young man's death. I have asked eBay to remove the listing.

I'm grateful to the museum and to the Obon Society for reminding me of the grief that families on all sides of World War II felt at the loss of their sons and daughters.

I don't fault American GIs who took these flags, but it would be hard for anyone to watch the videos on the Obon website and not feel that the real mission of these flags is to advance peace and mutual forgiveness when they finally make it home.

I hope that this particular flag (and the blood) will be treated with the respect they deserve.


Madison, New Hampshire

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