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In peace, with honor

Fri, Sep 27th, 2013
Posted in Lanesboro Features

Orval Amdahl embraces Tadahiro Motomura with a hug at the “Return of the Sword” ceremony. Photo by Jason Sethre

By Jason Sethre

The story of the sword continued on Saturday, September 21, 2013, coincidentally also recognized as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations.

Orval Amdahl, along with his wife Marie, traveled from their home in rural Lanesboro, Minn. to participate in a special ceremony titled “Return of the Sword” at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn., in which Orval was the center of attention. In a room full of more than 300 guests, surrounded by friends, family and many people he has never met before, Amdahl came to meet a man from the other side of the globe.

Prior to the start of the ceremony at 9:30 a.m., with state-wide media attention, Orval and Marie Amdahl stood before a crowd of photographers and videographers. A line of people waited to greet the Amdahls and the Motomura family visiting all the way from Nagasaki, Japan.

The large presentation room where the ceremony took place was balanced with a touch of both American and Japanese cultures and influences. In the background behind the podium stood two flags, representing both the United States and Japan.

JoAnn Blatchley, President of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee, opened with remarks about the significance of the ceremony, “We are turning a weapon of war into a symbol of peace.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman then welcomed the crowd and shared his support for the ceremony, “Healing isn’t an event. It’s a process.”

As guest speakers stepped up to the podium, a translator recited all speeches from English into Japanese.

Caren Stelson, who can be credited for connecting Orval Amdahl, the WWII Veteran Marine Captain and retired Fillmore County Recorder, with Nagasaki newspaper executive and world peace advocate Tadahiro Motomura, talked about how her father served in WWII and never spoke of his wartime experiences.

“Mr. Amdahl has broken the silence of our fathers,” said Stelson, as she talked about how WWII veterans came home from the war and put their memories in the closet just like the sword that Amdahl had kept in his closet for more than 68 years.

When it was Orval’s turn to say something at the podium, unlike all other speakers, he had no notes to reference. Instead, he looked out to the large crowd of guests and gave a speech from his heart that brought smiles, laughter and tears. When Orval Amdahl gave Tadahiro Motomura a hug, the long embrace encapsulated a moment far beyond the significance of the return of the sword.

Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, under the direction of America’s 33rd President Harry S. Truman, Captain Orval Amdahl found a samurai sword among a pile of swords that were accumulated when all Japanese households were disarmed as part of the signing of a treaty between America and Japan. While Amdahl brought the sword with him back to his home in America as a souvenir by all legal means, he always wondered about the history of the sword. “Who did this sword belong to?” he kept asking himself. “It had to belong to someone.”

“I had it for 68 years. I hope he has it for 68 years,” said Amdahl, cueing chuckles from the audience. “As you will notice, the sword is a piece of art. And this is the reason I would like it returned to its rightful owner.”

Following WWII Veteran Marine Caption Orval Amdahl’s moving speech came the presentation of the sword to Tadahiro Motomura. Amdahl asked for his two sons Ron and Jim to come up to the front of the podium where the sword was on display, and place the sword back in the leather-bound scabbard. His sons assisted their father, and then Orval Amdahl placed the WWII samurai sword in the hands of Tadahiro Motomura.

Musician Leo Hansen played a Japanese melody on the Shakuhachi flute, and then JoAnn Blatchley asked for a moment of silence.

In the presence of his wife and his two sons, who spent 12 hours flying from Nagasaki, Japan, to arrive in St. Paul, Minn., for this special ceremony, Tadahiro Motomura spoke about how the war ended one year prior to his birth. He had never known anything about the sword, and was very surprised when he received the phone call. Motomura thanked everyone involved in making this ceremony possible, and especially Orval Amdahl for his efforts to connect with his family in Japan.

Concluding the one-and-half-hour ceremony, keynote speaker Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of 33rd U.S. President Harry S. Truman, talked about how this remarkable story came to be and what it represented. Daniel, a Chicago resident, had previously met with Amdahl for an interview for a book his is writing about perceptions today of the relationships between America, Hiroshima and Nagasaki with respect to the bombings that took place in August 1945.

“Mr. Amdahl and Mr. Motomura are examples of finding peace with honor,” stated Daniel.

And, this was Orval Amdahl’s hope. He wanted to return the samurai sword to its rightful owner in peace, with honor.

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