Flag He Helped Make As Japanese POW
Found Here at QM Museum
JUL. 6, 1967 — About one month after the news of the
Japanese verbal surrender, barefooted soldiers dressed in
shirts and shorts marched to freedom under what might be a
called a "homemade" American flag, made by a handful of
American soldiers in a prisoner-of-war camp on the island of
Mukaishima, Japan, only 30 miles from the A-bomb blast at
Hiroshima. Charles C. Branum (then a corporal) and two
others raised their American flag in place of the Japanese
“Rising Sun” at 11 a.m. on Aug. 18, 1945.
Recently, Mr. Branum of Cape Girardeau, Mo., one of the men
to make this march, visited the Ft. Lee Quartermaster Museum
where the flag is displayed. Mr. Branum’s visit climaxed a
desire to once again view the first American flag flown over
Japan at the cessation of hostilities in World War II.
According to Mr. Branum, in April 9, 1942, soon after the
Japanese capture of Bataan, he was among those taken
prisoner by the enemy forces. After spending months in
various prison camps in the Philippines, Mr. Branum was
herded into the hold of a ship along with 99 other American
prisoners and taken to the prison camp on the island of
Mukaishima because U.S. forces threatened the Philippines at
that time. His sea travel ended at the Mukaishima Island
Prison Camp on Sept. 4, 1944.
“I remember that day,” Mr. Branum said, “because it was my
When nearly a year later, news from the International Red
Cross officials came that the fighting had ended, the
Japanese guards relinquished their role as captors and the
freed Americans took over the prison. They clearly marked
out their area with large letters — P.O.W. — so that it
could be seen from the sky; and American pilots seeing the
letters began dropping food and medical supplies. They used
colored parachutes to drop the supplies.
Realizing they had no American flag, the ranking American
officer, Major Ralph T. Artman, suggested making one from
the red, white and blue parachute silks used in dropping the
supplies. The flag was cut from the silk, using parts of
sewing kits and tin cans.
Since the prisoners had no means of sewing the stars and
stripes, Major Artman “commandeered” three local Japanese
tailor shops to do the sewing. They worked constantly,
although reluctantly, through one entire night to have the
On the morning of August 18, at 11 a.m., the surviving
prisoners fell out for a formal flag-raising ceremony. “To
the Colors” was played on a bugle confiscated from the
Japanese forces guarding the prisoners, and Corporal Branum
along with Sergeant Clifford M. Omtvedt, and Sergeant
Bussell raised the flag.
In the month that followed, before the march to the port of
Onomichi, the flag was raised in the prison camp with a
formal ceremony each morning. And, on the day of the march
to freedom, it was taken down and carried before the column
of liberated prisoners.
From the time of the freedom march to Onomichi, until Feb.
8, 1952, the flag and bugle were in the possession of
Clifford M. Omtvedt and were eventually taken to his home in
Eau Claire, Wis. In 1952, they were given to Colonel Ralph
T. Artman, the former Major in charge of the prisoners, to
present to the chief of Military History in Washington. Mr.
Omtvedt donated the flag and bugle to be displayed “where
others can see them.”
The flag was donated to the Ft. Lee Quartermaster Museum in
June, 1963, for the museum’s opening, and it was here, after
intensive research and with the aid of Congressman Paul C.
Jones, of the Missouri 10th District, that Mr. Branum and
his family found the flag again.
AXPOW TAPS: BRANUM, CHARLES
‘Sonny’ died in Cape
Girardeau, MO on Jan. 14, 2001. He was 80 years old.
Attached to the 71st Inf., 5th Interceptor Combat
Unit in the Philippines, he was captured on Bataan
and held until liberation at Camp O’Donnell, Bilibid
and Mukaishima, where he witnessed the atomic
explosion at Hiroshima. A life member of AXPOW, he
is survived by his wife Mary Etta, 1 son, and 4