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World War II veteran to return 'souvenir' Japanese sword

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Sept. 10, 2013: Orval Amdahl, 94, of Lanesboro, Minn, holds a sword he took from Japan when he was a captain in the Marines in 1945, at his home in Lanesboro, Minn. (AP)

A 94-year-old veteran from southeastern Minnesota plans to return a sword he took from Nagasaki, Japan, as a token of his time during World War II.

“At first, I kept it as a souvenir,” said Orval Amdahl, of rural Lanesboro. “Then, all of a sudden, I began thinking — someone had to own this.”

Amdahl said he got the sword because he was a Marine captain in the war. Over the years he kept the sword in good condition. He tried contacting people about the sword but had no luck.

Then Caren Stelson asked to interview him for a book she's writing about the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war in 1945. Amdahl mentioned the sword.

“I showed it to her, and it blossomed from there,” he told the Post-Bulletin of Rochester. "She has people in Nagasaki she can work with."

Stelson used those contacts to find Tadahiro Motomura, the grandson of the Japanese military officer who once owned the sword.

Amdahl will hand the sword to Motomura during a ceremony Sept. 21 at the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, which is a sister city to Nagasaki.

Amdahl said he was on a ship during World War II, ready to take part in an invasion of Japan, when the two atomic bombs were dropped.

In Japan, he was stationed at Nagasaki after the radiation from the bomb had dissipated. Before he left, he was allowed to take home one souvenir. That's when he saw the sword with a wood-covered scabbard and a block of wood attached by a string. It looked like it might have belonged to a cavalry officer, and Amdahl liked horses. He took that one.

“I want to get it back to the rightful owner. ... I won't miss it,” Amdahl said. “I believe in peace.”

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