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Celebrities to witness Lanesboro vet return Japanese sword

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Orval Amdahl, 94, of Lanesboro, took this sword from Japan when he was a captain in the Marines in 1945 during World War II. He will return it to the grandson of its original owner on Sept. 21 in St. Paul. "I crawled on a pile about eight feet high of swords to get this one because it reminded me of the cavalry," Amdahl recalled at his home in Lanesboro.
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LANESBORO — Orval Amdahl took a sword from Nagasaki, Japan, as a token of his time during World War II, but as the years passed, its owner became a lingering question for the rural Lanesboro man.

"At first, I kept it as a souvenir," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, I began thinking — someone had to own this." He tried contacting people about the sword but had no luck.

Amdahl, 94, said he got the sword because he was a Marine captain in the war. He took part both in fighting on the islands and the occupation of Japan. In nine days, he will get the chance to return it to the family of the Japanese military officer.

It's been well-cared for during its time with Amdahl. Over the years, he quietly tended to the sword to keep it in good condition.

Then Caren Stelson asked to interview him for a book she's writing about the dropping of the atomic bombs. Amdahl mentioned the sword. "I showed it to her, and it blossomed from there," he said. "She has people in Nagasaki she can work with."

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

The end of the mystery will come at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, when Amdahl hands the sword to Motomura during a ceremony. St. Paul is a sister city to Nagasaki.

During World War II, Amdahl said he was on a ship, ready to take part in the invasion of Japan, when the two atomic bombs ended the war in 1945.

At the time, "we didn't do too much thinking about it, I guess," he said of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "We didn't have any idea of the power of it until we saw what it did."

If the Allies had invaded, it has been estimated that 10 million Japanese and 2 million Americans would have been killed. The bombs were the lesser of two evils, Amdahl said.

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."

Amdahl could have sold it, "but I have a feeling I'm bigger than that," he said.

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Handing over the sword will give him a good feeling and maybe lead to "more peace in this world instead of the mistrust and fighting all the time."

What: Return of the Sword Ceremony.

When: 9:30 a.m. Sept. 21

Where: Visitor Center at Como Park in St. Paul

What will happen: Orval Amdahl, a Marine veteran of World War II from Lanesboro will return a Japanese sword he took at a souvenir from Nagasaki.

Who else will be there: Grandson of the Japanese soldier, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of President Harry Truman, will deliver the final thoughts.

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