GUADALCANAL, Solomon Islands — Using a trowel to dig into the shadowy floor of the rain forest, pausing only to wipe away sweat and malaria-carrying mosquitoes, Atsushi Maeda holds up what he has traveled so far, to this South Pacific island, to find: a human bone, turned orange-brown with age.
Mr. Maeda, 21, was looking for the remains of missing Japanese soldiers at the site of one ofWorld War II’s most ferocious battles. Others have done this work before him, mostly aging veterans or bereaved relatives. But he was with a group of mostly university students and young professionals, nearly all of them under 40 and without a direct connection to the soldiers killed here.
They had come to honor their countrymen, many of whom were no older than they are when they fell on the battlefield. The group was also searching for answers. “These young men who died here believed they were defending their family and loved ones,” said Mr. Maeda, a university junior in religious studies. “We need to rediscover their sacrifices and learn from them.”