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100-Year-Old Marine Returns War Souvenirs to Okinawans

By Sgt. Chanin Nuntavong | | November 15, 2001

NORTHPORT, N.Y. -- In April of 1945, Captain Richard B. Fredey, a 542nd Night Fighter Squadron ground officer, found a 45-pound bronze Okinawan temple bell on a hillside near Naha, Japan and mailed it back to the United States as a souvenir of his wartime experience.

Now, more than 56 years later he is giving the bell back to the Okinawans.

"It's better to give than to receive," said Fredey. "I felt that an item of this kind was a symbol of good fortune, happiness and religion. The best place for the bell is back where it came from."

According to Alex Kishaba, Ryukyu America Historical Research Society Chairman, this is about the sixth bell to be returned since the end of World War II.

"The last bell was returned in July of 1986," he said.

Kishaba said the bell will be dedicated at the Okinawa Mabuni Peace Park, Itoam, Japan as "The Peace Bell of the 21st Century" and will have an added inscription in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11th attacks.

For Fredey, returning the bell, two Japanese officer's swords and a Japanese flag, back to the Okinawans is a gesture of peace.

"If I can make even the smallest contribution to peace and happiness in this world, that is what I want to accomplish" he said.

According to Kishaba, 141 items of personal nature have been returned to their families.

"The society is asking all veterans of the war against Japan to return their war souvenirs to be given back to their families or placed in Japanese museums," he said.

The 100-year-old Fredey served the Marine Corps during World War I and World War II. He retired from the Marine Corps a Colonel on April 30, 1964.

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