Stolen WWII Treasures Found in Massachusetts Attic Finally Return to Japan

A cache of artifacts found in Massachusetts and looted from Okinawa, Japan, have been repatriated by the FBI.

Treasure Chest in Boston

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22 historic Japanese artifacts have been returned to Okinawa from the USA, after they were found in an attic in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Return to Okinawa

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The Boston Division of the FBI arranged the return of the artifacts, according to an announcement on Friday. The pieces were looted from the Japanese island in the wake of the Battle of Okinawa, a historic World War II conflict. 

In the Attic

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They were found in the attic of a deceased WWII veteran by his children. They came across the items while sorting through their father’s personal effects, and believed that the pieces were very valuable East Asian art.

A Significant Collection

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The collection included “six portraits, a hand-drawn map of Okinawa dating back to the 19th century, and various pieces of pottery and ceramics,” said Art crime coordinator Geoffrey Kelly of the FBI’s Boston Division.

Registered As Stolen

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After consulting the National Stolen Art File, the family found that at least four items in their father’s attic had been registered as stolen in the database.

Confirmation Letter

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Among the items was a letter confirming that they had been collected in Okinawa toward the end of the war.

Sources Unclear

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The family confirmed that while their father was a World War II veteran, he had never served in the Pacific Theater, and it is still unclear how he obtained the items.

An “Incredibly Gratifying” Discovery

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Special Agent Jodi Cohen, who represented the case, called it “incredibly gratifying when the FBI is able to recover precious cultural property that has been missing for almost 80 years.” 

Thank You to the Family

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“We’d like to thank the family from Massachusetts who did the right thing in reaching out to us and relinquishing these treasures so we could return them to the people of Okinawa,” she continued.

Safe Transport Home

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Thanks to a joint effort from the FBI’s Boston Division and the National Museum of Asian Art at the Smithsonian Institute, all items were safely packaged and transported back to Japan.

Okinawa Governor Gives Thanks

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The item’s safe return was confirmed by Okinawa authorities and the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Denny Tamaki. 

Meaningful Cooperation

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“It is very meaningful that the FBI, along with others in the U.S. Government, have cooperated to realize this return,” Tamaki shared on Friday after announcing the collection’s safe return.

Reported Over 20 Years Ago

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Some of the items had been reported stolen over 20 years ago, as reported by the FBI. 

Registered With the FBI

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They said, “In 2001, the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education, as a result of its participation in the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, registered some of these artifacts with the FBI’s National Stolen Art File.”

Plays An Important Role

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According to Cohen, the case has highlighted “the important role the public plays in recognizing and reporting possible stolen art,” particularly art that holds significant cultural and historical significance.

More Pieces Still Lost

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Kelly also described the items as representing a “substantial piece of history” in Okinawa and part of a number of significant stolen pieces that remain undiscovered since the end of the war.

Substantial Impact on Society

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He also described the damaging impact that stolen artwork and artifacts can have on a culture, particularly in the wake of international conflict and war.

“Taking Away Their History”

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“A nation’s cultural identity is really summed up in the artifacts and the history,” said Kelly. “And without it, you’re taking away their history. And the surest way to eliminate a culture is to eliminate their past.”

Making Every Effort

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“It’s really important for us as stewards of artifacts and cultural patrimony to make every effort that we can to see that these go back to the civilizations and the cultures in the countries where they belong,” he concluded.

The Family Remains Anonymous

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The Boston-based family also asked that they and their late father remain anonymous throughout the verification and repatriation process.

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The post Stolen WWII Treasures Found in Massachusetts Attic Finally Return to Japan first appeared on Thrift My Life.

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