Phoenix man succeeds in unusual effort to find sword's owner

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  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Phoenix man succeeds in unusual effort to find sword's owner

    Carolyn Carver
    The Arizona Republic
    Apr. 12, 2007 12:00 AM
    Takashi Uchimi remembers the day his father's sword came home from the war without his father.

    The elder Uchimi left home when his son was just 4 to work as a civilian supplier in support of the Japanese war effort during World War II. Kiyoo Uchimi contracted tuberculosis in the Philippines and died there.

    Now 69, Uchimi also remembers the day his grandfather handed over the sword to American occupation forces, who were under orders to confiscate all weapons from the populace.

    The memories of those two days lay buried for more than half a century until Uchimi received a phone call last month.

    Half a world away, a translator on the other end of the line told him she was working on behalf of a Phoenix man seeking to return the sword to its rightful owner.

    The man was Ted Evertsen, 59, who inherited the sword from his father, Eugene, who had served on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur at his headquarters in Tokyo at the end of the war.

    Evertsen, a special agent with the state Attorney General's Office, said he doesn't believe his father would have taken the sword as a souvenir, noting that he had a great love for the Japanese people.

    "Knowing my father's personality and integrity, he may have acquired the sword with the intent of returning it himself while he was still in Japan," Evertsen said.

    For whatever reason, that didn't happen.

    Evertsen said he can remember as a child seeing the sword, tucked away in the back of his father's closet.

    It was "just sitting there," he said.

    After his father died about two years ago, the sword sat in Evertsen's closet until earlier this year when he decided to try to find the rightful owner.

    Evertsen enlisted the aid of his secretary, Michi Nelson, who speaks Japanese. She took pictures of the sword and its inscriptions before sending the photos off to her father in Japan.

    Nelson's father was able to research the name written on a piece of linen attached to the sword and eventually found Uchimi in Miyagi-ken, Japan.

    "I'm very happy to receive the sword," Uchimi said through a translator this week. "I don't remember my father very well, but it's kind of like my memory."

    Uchimi said that many Japanese families in the days after the war dug shallow graves for their swords instead of turning them over to the Amer! icans. H e added that many of the buried swords were lost because they were rusted or decayed from the soil.

    "The family wanted to keep the sword and hide it somewhere so they wouldn't be able to take it," he said about the efforts of other Japanese families.

    His grandfather, however, decided to hand over the weapon, but first he wrote his name onto the piece of linen and tied it tight to the sword.

    "He followed the rules and did what he was supposed to," Evertsen said. "He ought to have it returned without a doubt."

    Uchimi said, "I was very sad when I lost the sword, but now I feel like it was better to send it because it's still in good condition now."

    Uchimi thanked both Evertsen and his father for keeping the sword and protecting its fragile condition.

    The only complication now is how to return the sword to Japan. Evertsen doesn't want to risk shipping it or checking it on an airplane.

    And Transportation Safety Administration officials said there is no way they would let anyone carry a sword onboard a plane.

    Uchimi said he will contact his local police, get a permit for the sword and figure out how to take possession of it.

    "I will do whatever I can," Uchimi said.

    Uchimi said that once the sword is returned to his family he will hang it on his wall and pass it on to his only son.
     
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