OLYMPIA, Wash. — "After all these years, as far as I'm concerned, war is really a form of insanity," said 99-year-old veteran Harvey Drahos, in an office surrounded by medals, certificates, and other memorabilia.
On Easter Sunday, 1945, Drahos was one of 170-thousand combat troops landing in Okinawa to fight in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
"You're in a different world," he said. "Your mindset is just where you are that day and to follow orders and to be able to survive. Nothing else enters your mind because there is nothing else. It's hard time now, buddy! "
Under heavy machine gun fire, Drahos dropped to the ground for cover, nearly landing on a photo album.
"And I thought, 'Golly there's got to be photos in there and they got to be valuable' so I tucked it under my chest."
All around him men were getting hit.
"And I got blown up by an artillery shell," Drahos said. "And I was knocked unconscious."
Drahos survived the war and raised four children as a single father on a chiropractor's salary. As he was going through boxes recently, he discovered the album with 80 photographs he saved from the battlefield.
"Those are really valuable pictures," his nurse aide Yuriko Mozer said when she saw the photographs.
"I said, 'Can you read any of this Japanese?'" Drahos recalled. "She said, 'No that's old Japanese.'"
But Mozer, who was born in Japan, knew whom to ask. Eventually, Japan's NHK Network got involved and tracked down the Nakamoto family in Okinawa.
"He looks like my husband when he was young," said Haruko Nakamoto, looking at a dapper young man in a suit.
"This is my mother Chiyo Nakamoto," said a tearful Hatsue Yoshida. "I wish she were still alive to see this."
"Harvey really gives me a lot of credit for this but I say I'm more like a messenger," Mozer said.
"I am grateful the photos were saved," Haruko Nakamoto said.
Harvey Drahos watched the family reactions on a DVD NHK sent him. A War World II veteran's cap hangs just below the TV set.
"When you're in training here's what they do," Drahos said. "They teach you to hate and how to kill."
But Drahos's last act of this war is one of love.
"We're all human beings and we all have human feelings, and by God, if these pictures belong to families they should go back," Drahos said. "And that's how it happened and it worked out really nice."