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68 Years Later: WWII Veteran Returns Japanese Sword

4:29 PM, Sep 23, 2013   |    comments
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LANESBORO, MN-- Lanesboro is known as the bed and breakfast capital of Minnesota.

It's where people come to find peace and quiet, but up on a hill in a tiny home overlooking the city, Capt. Orval Amdahl struggled to find his own peace of mind.

He was one of the first American troops to occupy Japan during World War II. When he came home he was encouraged to take a war souvenir. He climbed a pile of swords, eight feet high, for one with a leather sheath.

"It was the only one that looked like it," Amdahl said.

He has cared for it for the last 68 years, but he always felt it wasn't his to keep.

"To this day I admire that sword, but I feel it should go home," he said.

That search started 10 years ago with the help of a tag, barely hanging by a string. On it was a name and an address written in Japanese that led him nowhere. At 94-years-old, he knew his time was running out.

More than two hours away from Lanesboro, in Minneapolis, Caren Stelson was also looking for answers. Stelson was working on a book about the war and wanted to find Minnesota veterans who fought in the Pacific. Her search led her to Amdahl.

They talked for hours. He showed her the sword and his mystery became hers.

"I looked at that and I thought, 'I'm in a different story,'" Stelson said.

The tags listed a family name from Nagasaki, Japan. Stelson happened to know people there because it's the sister city of St. Paul.

One phone call led them to Tadahiro Motomura, the son of the sword owner. Motomura said his father died 27 years ago and rarely spoke of the war. The weapon his father once carried was now a symbol of peace.

Amdahl spent most of his life wondering what he would say, what he would do if he ever met the owner. On Friday, he didn't have to wonder any more. Motomura, his wife and two sons flew to Minnesota to meet Amdahl and his family.

"Thank you," Motomura said to Amdahl as he walked into the room.

The two embraced and walked arm in arm as they went to see the sword.

"I am very happy that this is going to the man that should have it," Amdahl said as he handed the sword over to Motomura.

War can tear worlds apart but as Amdahl proved through his care, humanity can repair it.

That's how two men came to find peace at last.

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