Lost WWII Letter Returned To Japanese Family

Letter Meant For Japanese Soldier Gen-ichi Hattori

More than 60 years after it was sent, a letter to a Japanese soldier stationed on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima has been returned.

Rex Butler, a memorabilia collector from North Carolina, bought a box of memorabilia at a collector's swap meet.

"In the box were two sets of letters as well as pictures," said Butler.

One set of letters belonged to John Puett, a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima in World War II. They were letters to his son, and Butler and others were able to track the son down and return the documents and pictures.

"And we thought, well we found the son of the Marine, now we ought to complete the circle," Butler said.

Part of a five-page letter to the Japanese soldier was translated and it revealed it came from Kisarazu, which is a sister city of Oceanside.

Butler contacted Oceanside resident Vickie Prosser, a woman with connections in Kisarazu. They were able to track down the grandnephew of the Japanese soldier.

Motoki and Mihoko Hattori came to Oceanside to claim the letter. It was written to Motoki's granduncle, Gen-ichi Hattori, by his mother. Gen-ichi Hattori died in the battle for Iwo Jima, and the letter is the only physical connection.

"It is like we have part of his ashes," Mitoki Hattori said through an interpreter. "Now can take the letter home and it's like his life is now complete."

Gen-ichi Hatorri's daughter will receive the letter when the couple returns to Japan.

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