Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of United States President Harry S. Truman, is shown with Orval Amdahl of Lanesboro. They are holding a sword that Amdahl is returning to a family in Nagasaki, Japan, after bringing it home with him from World War II. Daniel is writing a book about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, which were ordered by his grandfather.  Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of United States President Harry S. Truman, is shown with Orval Amdahl of Lanesboro. They are holding a sword that Amdahl is returning to a family in Nagasaki, Japan, after bringing it home with him from World War II. Daniel is writing a book about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, which were ordered by his grandfather.SUBMITTED PHOTO
Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of United States President Harry S. Truman, is shown with Orval Amdahl of Lanesboro. They are holding a sword that Amdahl is returning to a family in Nagasaki, Japan, after bringing it home with him from World War II. Daniel is writing a book about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, which were ordered by his grandfather. Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of United States President Harry S. Truman, is shown with Orval Amdahl of Lanesboro. They are holding a sword that Amdahl is returning to a family in Nagasaki, Japan, after bringing it home with him from World War II. Daniel is writing a book about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, which were ordered by his grandfather.SUBMITTED PHOTO
A "Return of the Sword" ceremony has been slated to take place on Saturday, Sept. 21, World Peace Day, which will feature a special exchange involving a Lanesboro veteran. Orval Amdahl will be returning a sword he brought home from Japan during World War II to the grandson of its previous owner in Nagasaki, Japan.

"We don't come across this sort of thing every day," remarked Jo Ann Blatchley, president of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee (SPNSCC).

According to Blatchley, the ceremony will be "an act of peace and reconciliation. People are getting involved in the friendship and I think it will be wonderful."

Several significant St. Paul-Nagasaki connections will be highlighted as part of the event. The ceremony is taking place in Como Park near the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden, which was designed by Nagasaki-native Masami Matsuda. Also nearby is a cherry tree grove started in 2012 as a 100-year-anniversary of the cherry tree gift to Washington, D.C.

"It's a perfect venue," said Blatchley.

The event will begin on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and will be emceed by Clifton Truman Daniel, a grandson of United States President Harry S. Truman. Daniel had been in contact with Orval about a book he was writing on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, which were ordered by his grandfather.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman will greet the crowd and the Japanese Consulate will also share words.

The sword

Orval has had the sword sitting in his closet for 68 years. Every time he took it out to oil, he would see its leather-covered wooden scabbard. He would wrap both hands around the two-handed leather grip and feel the weight of 26 inches of steel. When sheathed, the three-foot sword would look like a cylinder with only a slight taper near the point. When drawn, the blade's singular edge would warn anyone near it to be careful.

Orval possessed a katana; a samurai sword. However, it wasn't his.

Orval enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sworn in on May 5, 1941, and graduated from St. Olaf College on June 4, 1941. Prior to being called for officer training, Orval taught math in Lanesboro.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Orval told the school district they would need to find a replacement for him. He left for training in Quantico, Va., in April of 1942.

After serving in various locations for the better part of three years, he was called into field artillery training in Quantico and took over a battery in Saipan in June of 1945. During that time, military forces were preparing to invade Japan.

Orval's group was aboard a ship heading toward Japan when they heard about atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Postponing entry, the group finally arrived in Nagasaki in October of 1945. "The devastation was unreal and I hope I never see it again," Orval recalled. While there, they faced no direct opposition by Japanese forces or the Kamikaze suicide-bombers.

As part of his mission in Nagasaki, Orval and his group swept buildings for contraband and other items that could damage the military's security. Group members were also given typewritten index cards that gave signed sanction to take any item they so chose back home.

"I wouldn't say it was looting. We are allowed to go in and take a souvenir," explained Orval.

The group went into a warehouse located at the airfield in Omura, a city within the Nagasaki Prefecture or province. "You never seen so many swords," Orval said, explaining his observation of what his group saw upon entering. "I got in there and I was baffled."

The warehouse was filled with swords from Japanese military officers that the government had collected. As the rest of his group took up swords with ornate scabbards, Orval's eye was caught by a simple looking sword that was lying on top of a nine-foot pile. Climbing up to the top, he grabbed it and saw the leatherwork on the handle and scabbard.

"I liked horses and figured it belonged to a cavalry man," he said. After bringing back the swords to camp, the other men discovered with dismay that many of their blades had severe damage and rust issues. "When I pulled out my sword, it was perfect. A beautiful samurai sword," he recalled.

He brought it home to Lanesboro and showed his family, but otherwise kept it in a closet, oiling the blade occasionally.

As the years passed, Orval wondered what the Japanese on the wood tags meant, but didn't decide to start investigating those meanings until around 10 years ago. Orval didn't have any contacts or people he knew who could help him figure out what the Japanese said and who the sword actually belonged to. Nagasaki was far away from Lanesboro and so the task began to seem nigh on impossible.

A "miracle" contact

With assistance from Caren Stelson, who was writing a book about a Nagasaki woman who had survived the atomic bomb blast as a small girl, and who had interviewed Orval as part of her research, they found the original owner of the sword.

As it so happened, Caren was a member of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee. This city-to-city relationship is the oldest Asian-American relationship, having been formed in 1955 before President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the International Sister City Affiliation program in 1956.

She connected with the vice-president of the Nagasaki-St.Paul Sister City Committee and told her Orval's story. Caren also gave her the family name of Motomura, which had been determined from translation of the tags and further family line research.

"It's not an uncommon name," explained Caren, who was wondering how long it would take to find the family. The vice-president compiled a list of Motomura families and called the first one. Bingo.

Tadahiro Motomura is the grandson of the sword's original owner, Yuisaki Isaku.

"They knew about the sword," Caren said. Motomura's father had died during the 1980s and the story of the sword had been left with his mother. According to Caren, the story followed that Isaku had been forced to give up the sword when Japan was disarming following the war. Motomura had been born the same year Orval took the sword home with him. Through his father and mother, he had learned of the missing sword.

Then, after 68 years, he was suddenly informed that the sword he had never seen before might be located in the United States.

The family had been found in only a few hours time.

Orval was notified of the successful search and soon became wrapped up in plans he had never foreseen when he first showed the sword to Caren.

"For many years I had been wondering and thinking I would like to get rid of it and find out where it should belong," Orval explained.

Returning the sword

During the ceremony on Saturday, Orval and Motomura will have the opportunity to exchange words via interpreters. "I don't know what I'll say, but I'll talk from the heart," stated Orval.

The sword will be returned to Motomura and his family. Afterward, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Richie will share words during a private lunch for the families.

"This has gotten to be outside the realm of returning a sword," shared Orval. "It's gotten to be international."