Collector who bought WWII army jacket returns it to owner's family

Collector who bought $500 WWII US Army jacket – adorned with two Purple Hearts – gives it to daughter of its war hero owner after 20 years of searching

  • Paul Osaki bought the jacket for his Japanese American art and history store
  • When it arrived it bore two Purple Hearts and he started a search for its relatives
  • After 20 years he found a daughter in Washington, US, & returned the heirloom 

A man who bought a jacket belonging to a Second World War hero tracked down the daughter of its original owner, after a 20 year search.

Paul Osaki, 60, bought the Army jacket for $500 in 2000 while searching eBay for items for his Japanese American art and history store.

When it arrived he was shocked as it bore two Purple Hearts – a medal presented to service members who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action- as well as staff sergeant Tadashi Furuike’s name.

Paul Osaki, 60, with the jacked he bought online 20 years ago he managed to reunited with its family

Paul decided to track down his family but had no success at first and when the store closed in 2009 the jacket was put away for a decade before he rediscovered it and continued the search.

This time he found a recent online obituary for the staff sergeant, who he found went by Ronald, and was able to find his daughter Donna Furuike and after a brief exchange managed to send it to her.

Paul said: ‘We were selling the Japanese American G.I. Joe doll, which you couldn’t buy in stores anymore, so we had to find them on eBay.

‘I happened to put in Nisei, which is second generation Japanese American, and this jacket popped up and I could tell it was real, mainly because the name that was written in it, Tadashi Furuike, was such an unusual Japanese name.

‘When I opened it, my store partners and I were wowed, not just because of how good of shape it was in, but because of all of the insignias and ribbons on it,

‘To think that one of the Nisei in the 442nd actually wore it. It was an awe moment.’

Daughter Donna Furuike with the jacket which had once belonged to her Second World War hero father, Tadashi Furuike

His name written inside was the only clue Paul had to find Tadeshi’s living relatives 

During his military career the staff sergeant was awarded two Purple hearts, along with a Silver Star for he and his two comrades’ bravery in killing and wounding 60 of the enemy.

Donna Furuike, an accountant from Washington, US, said: ‘When I was opening the box I kept thinking, ‘Wow, dad, this is your history. I wish you were here to open it instead of me’.

‘My second thought was, ‘Wow, this is my dad’s jacket! He wore this!’ His handwritten name is right there! He was a small man with a lot of fire in him. Then I started crying.

Tadashi Furuike, pictured in later life, was tracked down by an online obituary found by Paul

Tadashi Furuike pictured during the Second World War where he earned several medals  

Tadashi Furuike, circled in red, with some of his US Army comrades during the Second World War

Tadashi Furuike’s Purple Hearts and Silver Star, as well as his other medals he earned in action

‘I had a lot of emotions going through me, mostly excitement, anticipation and sadness that he wasn’t there to share in it.

‘Paul opened my eyes to a part of dad’s history he rarely shared with me.

‘Words cannot express my awe for those soldiers. What a great educational gift to pass down to future generations.

‘I can see him looking down at his jacket in his lap with a grin on his face, shaking his head, probably remembering the history he had with it or wrapping his mind around the fact that his jacket survived so many years and is now a collector’s item,’ she said.

‘I imagine seeing him laugh and smile saying he’s a collector’s item too.’

Tadashi had been from Hawaii and served as a staff sergeant from 1943 until being honourably discharged in 1946. 

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