Robert D. Eldridge, PhD, for JAPAN Forward

More than 75 years ago, on one of the islands Japanese and U.S. forces battled over during World War II, a Japanese soldier came upon a wounded American.

The latter had been in and out of consciousness, but when he came to, he saw the Japanese soldier over him and a bayonet at the end of a long rifle aimed at his neck. Rather than panic, he calmly acknowledged his fate and passed out again.

As he did so, perhaps without realizing it, he made the three-finger Boy Scout salute. This caught the Japanese soldier off-guard because he had also been a Boy Scout in his youth.

Remembering this, the unidentified soldier decided not to kill him. Instead, he scribbled a note and left it for the American to that effect, telling him he bandaged his wound and wishing him well.

Later, when the American awoke, he noticed no one was around. He discovered the note and put it in his pocket.

Shortly afterwards, he was found by U.S. troops and taken to get medical attention. While recovering, he recalled the note and asked the medical personnel to show him the piece of paper he had had on him. When he read it, he finally understood why his life was spared.

Upon being repatriated to Salt Lake City, Utah, the soldier told his father what had happened. The grateful father in turn let the Boy Scouts of America, founded thirty-some years ago in 1910, know about it.

Years later, in mid-April 1952, the annual meeting of the BSA’s 7th Regional District was held in Salt Lake City, where a representative of the BSA relayed the story to the assembled Scouts and leaders. His remarks were introduced in the BSA magazines, Scouting, the official publication aimed at adult leaders, and Boys’ Life, the official youth publication, as well as taken up by local newspapers.

Later that spring, a Dr. C. M. Finnell, a deputy regional executive within the BSA, was sent to post-peace treaty Japan to assist with reorganizing the Scout movement there. Dr. Finnell arrived on May 29, 1952, and stayed for almost 4 months. During that time, he toured 23 of the country’s 47 prefectures, and had more than 100 meetings learning about the Scout Association of Japan, or Boi Sukauto Nihon Renmei, which had been formed in 1922, a dozen years after its American counterpart. (The current English name has been used since 2001. Prior to that it was the “Boy Scouts of Japan” and after 1971 the “Boy Scouts of Nippon.”)

Upon arriving in Japan, Dr. Finnell told the story of the “brotherly love” shown by the Japanese soldier. This story immediately became national news in Japan, and a search was made for that Japanese soldier. Unfortunately, it is believed that he died later in the war.


By - grape Japan editorial staff.