Giichi Matsumura disappeared from a World War II internment camp in California. In a remarkable turn of events, his body was found. Twice. It was located first in 1945, weeks after his initial disappearance, and then again 74 years later.
During World War II, the United States was at war with Japan. Internment camps housed more than 110,000 Japanese-American detainees. These American citizens had not committed crimes. But officials feared their possible ties back to Japan. They deemed them security risks. Manzanar, 185 miles north of Los Angeles, California, was one of the camps.
The war ended in 1945. But more than half the detainees refused to leave the prison camps. Many had lost their homes. They feared racism and violence, and they lacked hope.
Matsumura was a 46-year-old gardener. He lived with his family behind barbed wire in Manzanar. On July 29, 1945, Matsumura trekked with several other men up to a chain of mountain lakes. At some point, Matsumura wandered off to paint a watercolor picture. A freak summer snowstorm blew in. The others took shelter in a cave. When the weather cleared, they couldn’t find Matsumura. Search parties spent days looking for him, but all they found was his sweater.
A month later, a hiker spotted Matsumura’s remains. With no means to bring him home, authorities buried the body where the hiker found him. They marked the site with stones and a blanket, and then the location was forgotten—for decades. People tried and failed to find the gravesite. Matsumura was lost again.
In October, another hiker who had ventured off the trail found a skeleton lying in what appeared to be a burial pose. The location of the bones is consistent with Matsumura’s resting place. Authorities are conducting DNA tests on the bones. If confirmed that they are Matsumura, he will finally be buried next to his wife Ito. She died in 2005 at the age of 102. Her grave is marked with a granite headstone bearing her name and that of her long-lost husband.
Matsumura was lost, found, lost again, and now perhaps found once more. Yet never once was he out of God’s sight. Sadly, Matsumura was treated as a stranger in his homeland. He lived in exile. Like Matsumura, Christians too are strangers in this land. But we have hope. This Earth as it is today is not our forever home. Thanks be to God! “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)