Cultural researchers have united the families of two U.S. soldiers who served in World War II with the dog tags of their lost loved ones, reported The Associated Press and The Buffalo News. Researchers found the tags in Saipan, Japan and Nettuno, Italy, respectively.
Memories on the Japanese coast
Historian Genevieve Cabrera in 2014 found dog tags bearing the name Thomas E. Davis protruding from a field in Saipan, the site of a fierce 1944 battle between American and Japanese forces. Cabrera gave the tags to the nonprofit organization Kuentai-USA which searches for the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Pacific Ocean theater in World War II. With the help of the AP, Kuentai-USA found Davis' sister, 82-year-old Dorothy Hollingsworth in Dayton, Ohio.
Hollingsworth and her brother grew up on a farm in Roachdale, Indiana with five other siblings. Davis in September 1941 joined the 165th Infantry Regiment of the 27th Infantry Division of the New York Army National Guard and earned a Silver Star in June 1944 for pulling a wounded soldier to safety amid heavy Japanese artillery fire. He died April 30, 1945 during the invasion of Okinawa. Davis was 27.
"He was a great guy," Hollingsworth, who was only seven years old when her brother left home, told the AP. "He was always laughing and singing and whistling."
Kuentai-USA will soon meet with the Davis family to hand over the tags. Hollingsworth told the wire service she planned give the tag to her 57-year-old nephew.
Laid to rest in the homeland
Pasquale Gentile of Buffalo, New York enlisted in the Army at the start of World War II and served in war zones in Africa and Italy. Over a year after landing in Nettuno on Italy's western coast, Gentile died April 24, 1945 in Parma, almost 400 miles inland. He was 30.
It was near Nettuno that hiker Andrea Tamburrini discovered one of Gentile's dog tags.
"When I realized it was an American dog tag, I thought it was a sign. I found it five days before the 72nd anniversary of the landings in that area, which occurred Jan. 22, 1944," Tamburrini said in an interview with The Buffalo News. "It was almost as if destiny had determined that this soldier's story would continue during this specific time frame to mark the significance of the events."
The hiker handed off the tag to the American Battle Monuments Commission in Nettuno which, with the help of The News, contacted Gentile's niece Patricia Blatner, 58.
"I feel it has been destined by fate that uncle Pasquale's story be told, and I am proud to take part in telling it," Blatner said in an interview with The News.
Gentile, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up in Buffalo with two brother and two sisters. Gentile's father laid tracks for the Steam Rail Road while his mother Mary raised him and his siblings. Mary died in the 1930s, leaving Gentile's father to work and raise the children alone. Unfortunately, his father was unable to adequately care for the children and they were placed in an orphanage and moved into separate foster homes. As a result, Gentile and his siblings lived separate lives and rarely met up.
Blatner said she was proud to receive her uncle's lost tag but was saddened by the memories of his life.
"I have a sad heart for my uncle. My dad was able to come back from the war and make a life for himself. But Pasquale was never able to do that. My dad named me Patricia in honor of his older brother," she told the newspaper.