Kikuchi finally reunited with a relic that belonged to her father: Battle Of Okinawa

Kikuchi finally reunited with a relic that belonged to her father: Battle Of Okinawa

Durl Gibbs (on the left), who took a souvenir from a dead Japanese soldier, visited the man’s gravesite with Noriko Kikuchi (second from the left) at Inri temple in Shiwa Town, Iwate Prefecture in the afternoon of May 27.

May 28, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

Durl Gibbs is an 85 year-old U.S. veteran of World War II who now resides in Lewis Town, Montana. Sixty-six years ago during the Battle of Okinawa, Gibbs took the wallet from the body of a dead Japanese soldier, and decades later, he met 69 year-old Noriko Kikuchi, the daughter of the dead soldier to present the wallet to her.
Stumbling on his words, Gibbs said that he could not get the wallet out of his mind for those 66 years since the war. He went on to say, “Now, I finally feel at ease.” Kikuchi was grateful, saying, “I am sorry that this has weighed so heavily on you for such a long time.”

The wallet contained some photographs and an envelope inscribed with the Japanese soldier’s name – “Keijiro Hojo.” Inside was a lock of hair and some nail clippings.
Gibbs visited Okinawa in January 2011.
Shizuo Kishaba of the Ryukyu American Historical Research Society, a historical research group that facilitates the return of items to Okinawa and works to keep memories of the battle alive, helped Gibbs find Kikuchi, the daughter of Hojo.

Gibbs, who visited Kikuchi’s home with his two sons and a daughter, said, “When I got married and had a family, I started to think about the family of the Japanese soldier.” Speaking to her father’s relics, Kikuchi said, “You’ve finally come back home. I am relieved to have you back.”

Gibbs and his children also visited Hojo’s gravesite.
Seventy-seven year-old Shogo Kikuchi, husband of Noriko Kikuchi, and other relatives watched Gibbs as he made offerings of flowers and incense and put his hands together in prayer as he said, “Please rest in peace.”

Visiting the hometown of Hojo, with its peaceful paddy fields, Gibbs talked about his feelings after returning the relics that had been on his mind for such a long time, saying, “It was a peaceful and beautiful land. I never dreamed of such a day.”

Kikuchi, who had no knowledge of the relics of her father, who was killed in the Battle of Okinawa when she was 12, said, “I felt like I was meeting my father. He must have desperately wanted to go back home. I too felt like I was doing something that had to be done.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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