Many Japanese soldiers during World War II went into battle carrying small “Rising sun” flags, the red sphere on the field of white, with the white field decorated by hundreds of classmates, family members and friends. The flags were for good luck, and to link soldiers to their loved ones while they fought for the Emperor. I had never heard of this practice until today; my father served in the European theater, so he would not have known that many American soldiers took these personal talismans from the bodies of fallen Japanese soldiers as war trophies.
U.S. Marine Marvin Strombo was such a soldier. A member of an elite sniper platoon during the bloody battle for the Pacific island of Saipan in 1944, he had taken a flag from a dead Japanese soldier lying on his left side—he remembered that the young man looked like he was asleep—after he noticed something white sticking out from his jacket.
The flag with all the inscriptions on it hung behind glass in Strombo’s gun cabinet in his home in Montana for decades until 2012, when the son of his former commanding officer contacted him for assistance with a book he was writing about the exploits of his father’s platoon. (ARGHHH! I just remembered that I haven’t gotten back to a member of my Dad’s unit who wrote me a couple of months ago!) Working with the author, Strombo learned about the Obon Society, a nonprofit organization in Oregon that works to locate and return the personal Japanese flags to the families of the fallen soldiers who carried them. Researchers determined that the dead soldier Marvin’s flag had belonged to was named Yasue Sadao. What Strumbo thought was calligraphy were really the signatures of 180 friends and neighbors, including 42 relatives, who saw Yasue off to war from Higashi Shirakawa, a small village of about 2,400 people in the mountains roughly 200 miles west of Tokyo. Continue reading
The national flag of Romania (above left) is designed with vertical stripes colored blue, yellow and red. It has a width-length ratio of 2:3. So does the national flag of Chad (right). In fact, they are identical. (One or the other supposedly has as slightly darker blue, indigo vs. cobalt, but I can’t see it.
Romania established the colors and the design by law in 1989, when its Communist government fell. It essentially ripped off Chad’s flag, and Chad immediately protested. True, these had been the Rumania/Romania colors forever, but not in this exact form. Do you think Romania bothered to check whether than design was, like, taken? Nah. “There were more important things to care about,” rationalized the nation’s president at the time, Ion Illiescu. More important to Chad, though? This is the essence of ethics: thinking about the other parties affected by your conduct.It is not the Romanian way, at least when it comes to flags.
What does Romania care about Chad? It’s one of the bleakest, poorest third world nations in the world. Who cares if Chad objects? Who listens to Chad? “It’s too far away,” reasons a Romanian quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Now there’s the keen logic, sense of fairness, and respect for the rest of the world we like to see from our fellow citizens of the planet.
There is no authorized body that referees flag theft. Of course, there shouldn’t have to be, as this is an act without plausible defenses. If a nation takes another country’s flag, it is either being spectacularly arrogant, disrespectful and dishonest, or incredibly negligent. There is no third explanation. Continue reading
Wait, there’s a CAR in this photo?
You know, I think I’m as sensitive as anyone (sane) to nascent racism, and yet somehow I missed the fact, when in my youth I would watch TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard” for an average of six minutes before thinking, “BOY is this dumb!” and change the channel lest my IQ be permanently lowered, that the show was a KKK product. That’s because there was nothing vaguely racist or even Confederacy-ish about the show, except the flag design on the fictional super-car the good ol’ Duke boys drove, “The General Lee,” named after a historical figure who, you will recall, was a Confederate general. What would you expect a car called the General Lee to have on its roof, the Portuguese flag?
Never mind. TV Land, the cable channel that celebrates TV shows so old that they provoke mid-life crises by their very existence, just decided to join the political correctness purge that has the Park Service representing at its battlefields that the Union prevailed over a mysterious foe Which Cannot Be Named, and which definitely had no flag to fight for. It has pulled “The Dukes of Hazzard” from its schedule….not because it is trash and no more worthy of preservation for future generations than less popular stinkers like “It’s About Time,” “Pink Lady and Jeff,” “Mr. Terrific” or “Hart to Hart,” but because of the design on the roof of the car.
As a self-appointed guardian of pop culture history, TV Land is obligated to resist such efforts at whitewashing, which I assume will also claim every Norman Lear show (You think you are a progressive, Norman? HA! You’re a racist who dealt in toxic stereotypes!!!) like “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son,” and “Good Times.” Ah, but #blackhypersensitivitymatters, you know, a lot more than letting people watch Catherine Bach in her shorts. Continue reading
In Del Rio, California, 13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He does this, he says, to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his grandfather. He’s been flying the flag on his bike for two months, but at the beginning of the week of Veteran’s Day was told by a school official at Denair Middle School that some students had been complaining about the flag and it was no longer allowed on school property. Continue reading