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Mukaishima POW Camp

Historic Flag Going to Museum

Omtvedt Presents First Flag

Museum Inscription

Rhodun Martin Bussell

Flag He Helped Make Found

“A lot of men lived and died dreaming of the day they'd see these colors flying again. I guess I scrapped with death several times while I was there... but I'd be damned if I'd die there!”

— Clifford Omtvedt

First American Flag to Fly Over Japan presented by Clifford M. Omtvedt, 515th CA (Anti-aircraft)

 

After Swedish Red Cross officials notified Japanese officials at Mukaishima Prisoner of War Camp that a verbal offer of surrender had been tendered by the Japanese high command, Japanese guards at Mukaishima Prisoner of War Camp relinquished their role as captors.  The starving, now former prisoners of war, marked their camp with large letters, P.O.W.  American bombers began dropping supplies soon after.

 

A group of eight to ten men set to work feverishly on an American flag, tearing the red, white and blue parachute silk into stars and stripes.  On August 18, 1945, four days after the Japanese accepted verbally, American surrender terms, and four days before the first American troops set foot on Japan's mainland, the flag was completed.  Sgt. Clifford Omtvedt of Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Cpl. Charles Branum of Sikeston, Missouri; and Sgt. Rhodun Martin Bussell of Silver City, New Mexico were the delegated Color Guard to raise the first American Flag to fly over Japan.  The flag-raising was accompanied by “To the Colors” on a confiscated Japanese bugle.

 

On September 13, 1945, the liberated prisoners were marched to the port of Onomichi with Omtvedt carrying the Flag and bugle at the head of the column.

 

In 1952, Omtvedt made a gift of the Flag and bugle to the United States Government.  Receiving the historic items as the Government's official representative was the former senior American officer of the prison camp, Colonel [then a major] Ralph T. Artman.  The Flag was displayed for many years at the Pentagon before it was gifted to the Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia upon its opening in 1963.

SEP. 30, 1976 — Clifford Omtvedt salutes the flag he helped make and raise over a Japanese concentration camp. The Traveller

FEB. 9, 1952 - Mid-Winter Conference of the Disabled American Veterans. LtoR: Col. Ralph T. Artman, Army Medical Corps, Senior American Officer at Mukaishima Prisoner of War Camp (then a Major); Clifford M. Omtvedt, 200th & 515th Coast Artillery (AA), Bataan Death March Survivor and Mukaishima POW, Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Unidentified (seated); John Hryn, Army Air Corps Mess Sergeant, Bataan Death March Survivor and Mukaishima POW, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (Chicago Native).

STATEMENT OF ORIGIN

FIRST FLAG OVER JAPAN AT CONCLUSION

OF HOSTILITIES IN WORLD WAR TWO

STATE OF WISCONSIN )
) SS.
EAU CLAIRE COUNTY )

CLIFFORD M. OMTVEDT, being first duly sworn on oath, deposes and says that, at the outbreak of hostilities in World War Two, he was a member of the 200th Coast Artillery, stationed in the Philippine Islands. That on April 9, 1942, at the time of the surrender of Bataan to the Japanese Forces, he was taken as a Prisoner of War by the Japanese. Affiant states that he was held as a prisoner in the vicinity of Manila, in the Philippine Islands, until August 25, 1944, at which time he was transported to the Island of Mukaishima, Hiroshima Province, Honshu, Japan, and was there held in a Prisoner of War camp. Affiant further states that on August 14, 1945, he received word that the Japanese Forces had verbally accepted unconditional surrender terms. Affiant further states that, at this time, representatives of the Swiss and Swedish Green Cross notified the group of prisoners that hostilities had ceased, and that the group of prisoners with whom Affiant was interned identified their area as a Prisoner of War camp with large letters, P.O.W. Affiant further states that American airplanes started dropping food and medical supplies to the prisoners by parachute. These parachutes were made of red, white and blue nylon material. Affiant further states that he, along with several fellow prisoners, immediately started making an American Flag from the red, white and blue parachute material, and that Major Ralph T. Artman, Medical Corps, United States Army, the ranking American officer amongst the prisoners, had suggested the idea of fashioning the American Flag from the parachute material. The Flag was completed on August 18, 1945, and at 11:00 a.m. on that day, the Japanese colors were lowered and this hand-made Flag raised. Sgt. Clifford W. Omtvedt, assisted by Cpl. Branum and Sgt. Bussell, had been delegated this honor by Major Ralph T. Artman. The Flag was first raised at 11:00 a.m. on August 18, 1945, on the Island of Mukaishima, Japan, before any American Forces had landed on Japanese soil. The Flag raising ceremony was conducted before the assembled group of prisoners to the strains of “To the Colors” blown on a Japanese bugle which had been confiscated from the Japanese Forces guarding the prisoners.

Affiant further states that thereafter the Flag was raised daily over the prison camp area until September 13, 1945, at which time the prisoners marched from the camp to the port of Onomichi, carrying their Flag ahead of their column. Affiant further states that he, at this time, had the Flag in his possession and carried this Flag on his person at all times until his arrival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Affiant further states that this Flag has constantly been in his possession and that said Flag is in its original state.

Affiant further states that the above-mentioned Bugle, which had been used in the original Flag raising ceremony, was also carried from Japan to Eau Claire, Wisconsin by himself, and that ever since, it has remained in his possession.

Affiant further states that, at this time, and the time of making this Affidavit, it is his intention to make a gift of this historical Flag and Bugle to the Government of the United States, to be transported from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Washington, D.C., by Colonel Ralph T. Artman, Medical Corps, United States Army, as a representative of the United States Government.

CLIFFORD M. OMTVEDT

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 8th day of February, 1952.

In the presence of