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    This is an enlargement of two medals from a full body view in an old black and white photo:

    While the quality of the photo is terrible, nonetheless the medal on the right is so very distinctively shaped I’m wondering if someone can identify it? The caption for this photo titles it, "日本の勲章", which Google translates as "Medal of Japan", but Googling the Japanese characters leads to a long list of Japanese medals, many of which are not illustrated. So 日本の勲章 would seem to be a generic title; thus it might better be translated as "a medal of Japan". I would guess that the medal on the left is hopelessly indistinct and might be identified only if it is somehow related to the one on the right.

    The wearer served in the IJA, or provided services to the IJA, from about 1896 to 1945, in countries throughout Southeast Asia, including Burma (Shan States); Thailand (the northwest); China (Yunnan); and Laos, Cambodia, & Vietnam (ie, French Indochina), plus in Japan’s Formosa (Taiwan). His specialty, as far as I know, was terrain surveying and route/road layout; but the medal might indicate something else. I am assuming the medals are Japanese, but they could be Thai (in the other countries/colonies in which he worked he was either involved in espionage or in planning work for invasions, so they would not likely have awarded him a medal, unless he had pulled off an exceptional deception).

    The wearer was in his 70s when this photo was taken. The year would have been in a range of 1946-1956. The wearer was not wearing a military uniform, but rather a Vietnamese robe for this photo; hence the odd shaped fabric design behind the medals.

    There is also a vague possibility that this photo was intended to be a gag, and the medals would be meaningless in the context I describe above (perhaps they are Masonic, for example). If so, I apologize.

    I thank you.


    Hi Islandee,

    The medal on the right is the Laos Order of the Million Elephants and White Parasol (see: http://www.indochinamedals.com/laos/ls01_order_of_the_million_elephants_and_the_white_parasol.html)

    The one on the left could be the French medal for courage and devotion, which sometimes could be awarded to those in the same region. (see: http://www.indochinamedals.com/indochine/fi03_honor_medal_of_the_government_general.html). Was he a local ? If so, I can likely confirm if he was awarded this from the citations.


    I thank you. You have a good eye: for the medal on the right, it took me a bit of staring to see the relationship; and now it’s obvious. And I must correct myself: the photo caption in Japanese identifies his clothing as Laotian.

    With regard to the wearer’s qualification for the medal on the right, now that it is identified, as far as I know, his work career gave him residence in Taiwan (Japanese-occupied), Hawaii, and Xiamen for 1896-1902; Bangkok and Lampang, Thailand for 1902-1911; and in Chiang Mai, Thailand from 1911 onwards. I’m not aware of his having spent ten years in military or political service in Laos; it is possible that he visited Laos numerous times over the forty odd years that he was working in Southeast Asia. He was a very political animal and might have obtained the medal as a "favor". Bur, as your reference page notes, the medal was widely counterfeited. And with the subject of counterfeiting: there was a second story which may apply — he wore the outfit (with medals) to a costume party in Chiang Mai sometime after the war. So, on this basis, it is possible that the medals have nothing to do with him.

    With regard to the medal on the left, in looking back at the acrimony that existed between Thailand and France, and between Japan and France, during that period, it seems improbable that he would have been given such an award.

    The wearer’s name was Morinosuke Tanaka. And, of course, I would like to know if, despite my observations, his name does appear in any records related to Laos.

    I thank you again.

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