New Clue in 70-Year-Old Mystery: Dog Tags

Japanese group uncovers those belonging to US soldier missing since 1944

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 21, 2014 8:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's a clue uncovered in a cave on a Pacific Island, and an 81-year-old Florida man believes it may put an end to a World War II mystery that's troubled him for some 70 years: the fate of his uncle, Army Private Bernard Gavrin, who was declared MIA in 1944. David Rogers tells the Sun Sentinel that he can still recall hearing his grandmother scream as she read the telegram informing the family that Gavrin had gone missing during the battle of Saipan, sometime between June 15 and July 9. There were no further details, only speculation on the family's part: that he drowned while being pushed into the ocean, or was a victim of a Japanese suicide attack.

And there hadn't been any details since, until a former enemy offered some unlikely help. Japan's Kuentai Group is attempting to find some 1 million missing Japanese soldiers, and they found mass graves in Saipan's caves. One contained US remains—and Gavrin's dog tags. The information imprinted on them led the group to a Virginia library, and public records then led to his surviving relatives; Rogers says he's the "only living relative to have known my Uncle Bernie." The unearthing of the dog tags resulted in Gavrin being awarded seven new awards in addition to his Purple Heart. Genetic testing is under way on the remains; it may take a year to determine whether Gavrin's are among them. (More WWII remains in the news: 21 families are fighting for four caskets interred at a Hawaiian cemetery to be dug up.)

A stock image of dog tags.   (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)
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