University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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TIP SHEET   Week of May 27, 2003
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Story Idea
UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education has helped a World War II veteran who lives in Eau Claire track down the family of the original owner of a Japanese samurai sword that he's had in his possession since the end of WWII.

The veteran, who has asked to remain anonymous, sought the university's help in the fall, telling them that he had won the sword in a poker game (a $20 bet) with an American soldier who had just returned from Japan at the very end of World War II. Attached to the sword - which is quite elaborate in size and design - was a cloth with several lines written in Japanese.

UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education staff had the writing translated and learned that the cloth contained the name and address of the sword's original owner, according to CIE director Karl Markgraf. Markgraf said their research showed the Japanese soldier had been captured during the war, later imprisoned for war crimes and had died shortly after the war. But his widow was alive and continuing to reside at the same address as was listed on the cloth.

The CIE staff contacted the widow - who is now 81 - in an effort to help the veteran return the sword to her. The widow contacted a lawyer, who determined that current Japanese law would forbid her from keeping the sword should it be returned to her. But she was very appreciative of the university and the veteran's efforts to find her and return the sword, Markgraf said.

The veteran is continuing to work with Markgraf to decide the most appropriate place to donate the sword since the widow cannot accept it. Markgraf plans to have the cloth framed and sent to the widow as a gift.

Markgraf is willing to talk with the media about his staff's efforts to return the World War II artifact to its original owners.

You can reach Markgraf at (715) 836-4411 or

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: May 27, 2003