Kane County History: St. Charles Returns Cherished Family Heirlooms from WWII

Kane County History: St. Charles Returns Cherished Family Heirlooms from WWII

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Tim Kirsininkas, marketing manager for the St. Charles History Museum.

The Japanese Good Luck Flag in the St. Charles History Museum collection. These flags were presented to Japanese soldiers departing to fight in World War II as a gift from their families and were inscribed with messages of good luck.

Historic artifacts tell the story of our collective past, and have the power to unite us as individuals and to heal old wounds. War relics come to mind as exceptional examples of this, such as the hinomaru yosegaki, or Japanese Good Luck Flags from World War II.

A traditional gift to Japanese servicemen departing for battle in World War II, the flags were signed by the families and friends of soldiers and inscribed with messages of good luck in the battles to come. Throughout the war, these flags were often seized by American servicemen as trophies or souvenirs from the war off of Japanese soldiers who were captured or killed in action.

(CREDIT: OBON Society)

After the war ended, many of these flags came back to America and were put in the personal collections of U.S. servicemen. One such flag found its way back to St. Charles, and was donated by a veteran to the St. Charles History Museum many years ago.

There is no doubting the sentimental importance of these flags, as the flags serve as reminders of a departed family member, just like tri-folded U.S. flags presented to the families of fallen servicemen here in America. Because of their distinct symbolic importance, it is not appropriate for museums to display the hinomaru yosegaki as part of an exhibit.

That’s why organizations like the OBON Society are dedicated to finding and returning these long lost flags to the families of fallen Japanese servicemen as a show of good faith between two nations that were once bitter enemies that have grown into the closest of allies.

By translating the names of cities and family members inscribed on the flag, the researchers at the OBON society are able to cross-check these pieces of information with Japanese military and family records in order to track down the descendants of the servicemen they belonged to.

We are proud to say that we will be donating the Japanese silk flag in the St. Charles History Museum collection to the OBON Society, and it is our sincere hope that their dedicated staff will soon be able to reunite the long lost family heirloom to its rightful owners.

  • FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION: Family members with a returned Japanese Good Luck flag and photos of the relatives it belonged to. CREDIT: obonsociety.org.

New Exhibit: ‘Ordinary People — Extraordinary Actions

The new spring 2019 exhibit at the St. Charles History Museum titled “Ordinary People — Extraordinary Actions” will explore newly discovered local connections to the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement of the mid-1800s.

The exhibit centers around local folk artist and radical abolitionist Sheldon Peck, exploring his previously unknown connections to regional abolitionist figures, whose work played a crucial role in providing freedom-seekers coming from southern slave states with a safe avenue to find new homes in Chicago and the Great Lakes area.

Peck’s artwork can be seen at museums around the United States such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The St. Charles History Museum is proud to have a prized original Sheldon Peck painting in its collection which will also be part of the exhibit.

More information about the exhibit will be available on the museum’s website, www.stcmuseum.org, in the coming weeks, with the exhibit scheduled to open on at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Volunteers Needed During Annual Shutdown

The St. Charles History Museum is temporarily shut down from January 5th through the first week in February. The museum is performing major maintenance and cleaning during this time.

This year, the museum is rearranging office and archive space to allow more efficient workspaces for staff and volunteers, repacking textiles, finalizing areas in the permanent exhibit, and installing the new temporary exhibit.

Volunteer help is needed in shifts of two hours or more between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from now through Friday, Feb. 7. All persons sixth grade and older are welcome.

For more information or to volunteer, museum staff may be reached at 630-584-6967 or via e-mail at info@STCmuseum.org.

SOURCE: St. Charles History Museum news release

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