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World War II dog tag finds its way home to White Lake after decades-long journey
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It would be easy to reduce this to a historical whodunit.

But the tale of how Paul Dugan’s dog tag, lost at Normandy shortly after the D-Day invasion of France 73 years ago, came to be returned to his kin in White Lake isn’t so simple.

Instead it is a story of incredible coincidences, a close-knit military family, and, in Europe, a group of explorers who retain the love for America that all of France felt as the Allies came aboard the continent to bring light to the darkest days of World War II.

It all goes back to Uncle Paul, Lt. Col. Paul Dugan, whose nephews include Patrick Peters of White Lake and retired Air Force Col. Michael S. Peters, who now lives in Los Lunas, N.M.

Uncle Paul served as a role model to Mike Peters as a young boy and influenced his career path greatly, Mary Jo Peters, Patrick’s wife, expalined. The fact that his dog tag found at Normandy was successfully returned to him after all the years and miles is truly remarkable.

-----

In 1944, Dugan, a Wauwatosa native, was a maintenance officer for a C-47 unit, tending to the famed Goonie Birds that dropped the paratroopers who heralded the start of the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 5, 1944.

Another person in this twisted tale, Fred Genhke, was a Chicago native and member of the Army’s Engineering Corps 368th Division, which built and repaired the runways so vital to the invasion’s success.

Whether the two men knew one another will remain a mystery, but what is known that as some point, each man, both of whom survived the war, lost one of their dog tags, those specialized and vital pieces of military equipment that contained a soldier’s name, rank, religion and other vital information,

Whether the men noticed the missing tag is also a great unknown. Likely they did, and after a tongue-lashing from a quartermaster, were issued replacements. In blood-soaked Europe, the IDs were vital.

"Dog tags" is an informal term for the identification worn by military personnel on chains around their necks. They commonly contain two copies of the information, which allows one to be collected from a soldier's body for notification and the second to remain with the corpse when battle conditions prevent it from being immediately recovered.

The tags have an ancient history, dating back to the Roman legionaries, but gained modern favor during the American Civil War, when soldiers had to pin paper notes with their name and home address to the backs of their coats to aid identification after grim encounters that left hundreds from North and South dead and entwined on killing fields. Others stenciled identification on their knapsacks or scratched it in the soft lead backing of their army belt buckle. Manufacturers of identification badges recognized a market and began advertising in periodicals and the Army adopted the practice by World War I.

-----

Fast forward seven decades.

In 2016, Maurice Sabine, a genial Frenchman, was exploring the fields of Normandy with his metal detector, a hobby he nurtured for over 30 years, when the familiar tones sounded.

"I discovered this activity by reading the newspaper" he told a local reporter. "I started and since then, I can't stop. I love finding and identifying old objects."

He loves it so much that he created Sorth-Orne Detectables," a group that that assembles people who are passionate about the hobby.

According to the newspaper account, he stumbled upon a copper plate that belonged to an American soldier dating from 1943 on the side of the street. On it read the name Paul D. Dugan, his serial number, and the name of a town in the United States, Wauwatosa.

"There is also the letter "C" on it which means he was Christian," Sabine added

The collector could have sold the dog tag on the spot, but instead he was determined to repatriate it to Dugan’s family.

"A museum offered me money to get it but I prefer that it goes back to his family, he told the newspaper. They are very impatient to receive it."

And that’s where the first of the coincidences appeared.

Sabine turned to a friend, Jean-Jaques Dutertre, who had found Frank Genhke’s ID on that field a few years earlier. Dutertre had located Gehnke s niece, Bonnie Mularski, in Mequon and had it to her.

With both tags having a Wisconsin tie, Sabine reached out to Mularski.

As luck would have it, Bonnie’s son, Mike and his wife, Melissa, were very interested in geology and good at research.

That family helped us find Paul Dugan's family," Sabine said.

Through lots of digging, the Mularskis were able to find the lineage of the Dugan family and were able to connect them with Col. Mike Peters through military records, Mary Jo explained. They tracked down Mike to Los Lunas, Ariz., where he is retired.

Sabine, delighted, mailed the dog tag, which he called a metallic sheet to the Mularskis, confident they would take care of the last leg of a very long journey.

Now another coincidence. Bonnie Mularski is a snowbird in Arizona, so when she and her husband went south, they arranged to meet Col. Peters in Albuquerque and return the tag in person.

Eventually, it made its way north, to White Lake. During a visit to Wisconsin, Mike Peters brought along the tag and told his brother to bring it to north to share with other family members.

It’s one of those moments that makes our jaw drop, Mary Jo said. That it made its way back here after all those years.

-------------

Paul Dugan was a career military man, enlisting in the Air Force in 1942 and seeing action, not only in World War II, but later in Korea and Vietnam before his eventual retirement. He was buried as the war hero he was, in Arlington National Cemetery, in 1999

He and his wife never had children, and he was devoted to his numerous nieces and nephews, including Col. Peters, now retired after a long career as a fighter pilot in the Air Force.

He never mentioned the missing dog tag,

Think of all the dog tags he had over his career, over those 32 years and all those campaigns, Mary Jo said.

She remembers Uncle Paul as a quiet man with an air of command, who often attended family gatherings and special events.

He was a quiet, humble man, she said. He was professional. It was just incredible what he was all involved in.

--------------

Today, Veterans Day, Mary Jo and Patrick will likely take the worn medallion from his envelope for a special look.

And in France, Maurice Sabine, who has become a friend despite language differences, will be smiling as well.

In the end, this soldier risked his life by coming to France, he said. We are very grateful for his courage.
space

Mary Jo Peters of White Lake with some of the memorabilia collected during the trip back to Wisconsin for a dog tag belonging to her husband Patrick’s uncle, Lt. Col. Paul Dugan. The dog tag was lost shortly after the invasion of Normandy in 1944, discovered by a French man with a metal detector, and made a circuitous journey home.

World War II dog tag finds its way home to White Lake after decades-long journey
space
It would be easy to reduce this to a historical whodunit.

But the tale of how Paul Dugan’s dog tag, lost at Normandy shortly after the D-Day invasion of France 73 years ago, came to be returned to his kin in White Lake isn’t so simple.

Instead it is a story of incredible coincidences, a close-knit military family, and, in Europe, a group of explorers who retain the love for America that all of France felt as the Allies came aboard the continent to bring light to the darkest days of World War II.

It all goes back to Uncle Paul, Lt. Col. Paul Dugan, whose nephews include Patrick Peters of White Lake and retired Air Force Col. Michael S. Peters, who now lives in Los Lunas, N.M.

Uncle Paul served as a role model to Mike Peters as a young boy and influenced his career path greatly, Mary Jo Peters, Patrick’s wife, expalined. The fact that his dog tag found at Normandy was successfully returned to him after all the years and miles is truly remarkable.

-----

In 1944, Dugan, a Wauwatosa native, was a maintenance officer for a C-47 unit, tending to the famed Goonie Birds that dropped the paratroopers who heralded the start of the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 5, 1944.

Another person in this twisted tale, Fred Genhke, was a Chicago native and member of the Army’s Engineering Corps 368th Division, which built and repaired the runways so vital to the invasion’s success.

Whether the two men knew one another will remain a mystery, but what is known that as some point, each man, both of whom survived the war, lost one of their dog tags, those specialized and vital pieces of military equipment that contained a soldier’s name, rank, religion and other vital information,

Whether the men noticed the missing tag is also a great unknown. Likely they did, and after a tongue-lashing from a quartermaster, were issued replacements. In blood-soaked Europe, the IDs were vital.

"Dog tags" is an informal term for the identification worn by military personnel on chains around their necks. They commonly contain two copies of the information, which allows one to be collected from a soldier's body for notification and the second to remain with the corpse when battle conditions prevent it from being immediately recovered.

The tags have an ancient history, dating back to the Roman legionaries, but gained modern favor during the American Civil War, when soldiers had to pin paper notes with their name and home address to the backs of their coats to aid identification after grim encounters that left hundreds from North and South dead and entwined on killing fields. Others stenciled identification on their knapsacks or scratched it in the soft lead backing of their army belt buckle. Manufacturers of identification badges recognized a market and began advertising in periodicals and the Army adopted the practice by World War I.

-----

Fast forward seven decades.

In 2016, Maurice Sabine, a genial Frenchman, was exploring the fields of Normandy with his metal detector, a hobby he nurtured for over 30 years, when the familiar tones sounded.

"I discovered this activity by reading the newspaper" he told a local reporter. "I started and since then, I can't stop. I love finding and identifying old objects."

He loves it so much that he created Sorth-Orne Detectables," a group that that assembles people who are passionate about the hobby.

According to the newspaper account, he stumbled upon a copper plate that belonged to an American soldier dating from 1943 on the side of the street. On it read the name Paul D. Dugan, his serial number, and the name of a town in the United States, Wauwatosa.

"There is also the letter "C" on it which means he was Christian," Sabine added

The collector could have sold the dog tag on the spot, but instead he was determined to repatriate it to Dugan’s family.

"A museum offered me money to get it but I prefer that it goes back to his family, he told the newspaper. They are very impatient to receive it."

And that’s where the first of the coincidences appeared.

Sabine turned to a friend, Jean-Jaques Dutertre, who had found Frank Genhke’s ID on that field a few years earlier. Dutertre had located Gehnke s niece, Bonnie Mularski, in Mequon and had it to her.

With both tags having a Wisconsin tie, Sabine reached out to Mularski.

As luck would have it, Bonnie’s son, Mike and his wife, Melissa, were very interested in geology and good at research.

That family helped us find Paul Dugan's family," Sabine said.

Through lots of digging, the Mularskis were able to find the lineage of the Dugan family and were able to connect them with Col. Mike Peters through military records, Mary Jo explained. They tracked down Mike to Los Lunas, Ariz., where he is retired.

Sabine, delighted, mailed the dog tag, which he called a metallic sheet to the Mularskis, confident they would take care of the last leg of a very long journey.

Now another coincidence. Bonnie Mularski is a snowbird in Arizona, so when she and her husband went south, they arranged to meet Col. Peters in Albuquerque and return the tag in person.

Eventually, it made its way north, to White Lake. During a visit to Wisconsin, Mike Peters brought along the tag and told his brother to bring it to north to share with other family members.

It’s one of those moments that makes our jaw drop, Mary Jo said. That it made its way back here after all those years.

-------------

Paul Dugan was a career military man, enlisting in the Air Force in 1942 and seeing action, not only in World War II, but later in Korea and Vietnam before his eventual retirement. He was buried as the war hero he was, in Arlington National Cemetery, in 1999

He and his wife never had children, and he was devoted to his numerous nieces and nephews, including Col. Peters, now retired after a long career as a fighter pilot in the Air Force.

He never mentioned the missing dog tag,

Think of all the dog tags he had over his career, over those 32 years and all those campaigns, Mary Jo said.

She remembers Uncle Paul as a quiet man with an air of command, who often attended family gatherings and special events.

He was a quiet, humble man, she said. He was professional. It was just incredible what he was all involved in.

--------------

Today, Veterans Day, Mary Jo and Patrick will likely take the worn medallion from his envelope for a special look.

And in France, Maurice Sabine, who has become a friend despite language differences, will be smiling as well.

In the end, this soldier risked his life by coming to France, he said. We are very grateful for his courage.
space

Mary Jo Peters of White Lake with some of the memorabilia collected during the trip back to Wisconsin for a dog tag belonging to her husband Patrick’s uncle, Lt. Col. Paul Dugan. The dog tag was lost shortly after the invasion of Normandy in 1944, discovered by a French man with a metal detector, and made a circuitous journey home.
2017
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Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
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