First American Flag to Fly Over
Japan presented by Clifford M. Omtvedt, 515th CA
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
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