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Good InfoMan Discovers Attic Filled with Looted Art from Battle of Okinawa–Works with...

Man Discovers Attic Filled with Looted Art from Battle of Okinawa–Works with FBI to Repatriate it All to Preserve History

A scroll painting of an Okinawan king – credit FBI.gov

Last year, a Massachusetts resident and his family were going through the personal effects of a deceased grandfather and happened to come across a very large collection of very valuable Asian art.

The FBI Art Crimes Unit from the Boston Field Office received a complaint in January 2023 from the family, saying that the grandfather was a World War II veteran, but never served in the Pacific Theater.

“There were some scrolls, there were some pottery pieces, there was an ancient map,” said Special Agent Geoffrey J. Kelly, the art coordinator for the Boston Office, who added that the family did their own research and determined that at least the scrolls had been entered about 20 years ago in the FBI’s National Stolen Art File.

In total, the FBI recovered 22 artifacts: six painted scrolls from the 18th-19th centuries (three of which were one piece and appear to have been divided into three pieces), a hand-drawn map of Okinawa dating back to the 19th century, and various pieces of pottery, ceramics, and metalwork.

An unsigned typewritten letter was also found with the artifacts that helped confirm they were looted in the last days of World War II during the Battle of Okinawa.

“When taken together, they really represent a substantial piece of Okinawan history,” said Kelly.

The FBI transported the artifacts from Massachusetts to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C., where the scrolls were unfurled for the first time in many years, revealing portraits of Okinawan royalty in vivid reds, golds, and blue accents.

credit – FBI.gov
A 19th century, hand-drawn map of Okinawa – credit FBI.gov

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

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“And so, 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 said.

“So I think one of the biggest takeaways from this entire investigation is the fact that in this case, the family did the right thing,” Kelly added. “They had some questioned artifacts that they thought might not belong here in this country. They checked the National Stolen Art File. And when they realized that it may, in fact, have been looted cultural property, they did what they should have done, which is call the FBI.

MORE REPATRIATED ARTIFACTS: 11th c. Monastery Gets Back Statues from Two US Museums–And Discovers Hundreds of Treasures in the Process

“We’re not looking to put people in jail because they happened to inherit some objects that have some questionable or dubious provenance. We’re here to help make sure at the end of the day it goes back to its rightful owner,” concluded the special agent.

The FBI, who just released details of the story this week, added that some relics from Okinawa lost during WWII are still at large and waiting to be returned, and the story of the Massachusetts family is a great reminder to always be conscientious when digging through an attic.

WATCH the story below from the FBI… 

SHARE This Responsible Family And The Beautiful Art From Okinawa…


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