HTH article helps solve dog tag mystery

  • Sakamoto in an undated photo provided by his family.

HILO — The family of a Hilo soldier, whose long-lost World War II dog tag was found on a French battlefield, has been located.

The Tribune-Herald reported Thursday that the Japanese American Veterans Association had received a request in July to help locate family members related to individuals named on two U.S. Army 442nd Infantry Regiment dog tags found in France.

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One of those tags belonged to Hilo-born Hiroshi Sakamoto, rank private first class, who served in the Headquarters Company of the 100th Infantry Battalion.

Thursday’s article drew attention on social media, around the East Hawaii community and beyond, and the newspaper received numerous calls and emails about the story.

“It’s just awesome,” Sakamoto’s daughter, Darlene Fragas, said of the find. “It’s an awesome feeling that something that we didn’t even know was missing for 80 years (was found).”

Fragas said it’s unknown when or how the tag was lost. Sakamoto, who was born in 1922, returned from the war and worked as a chef. He died in 1968.

She and her siblings were surprised and proud to learn the tag had been found.

They’re “very grateful to the man who found the dog tag in France,” she said.

“It’s something we didn’t even dream of happening. We are very grateful to that man to give up such a find, to send that back to the family.”

The tag was found by Jean-Marie Torrelli, a resident of Menton, France, and a French World War II historian who actively searches for artifacts from the war.

It was recovered in a small village, a part of Menton, called Monti, in the southeast of France, according to information provided by JAVA member Jeff Morita, a project coordinator working to connect the family with Torrelli.

Fragas said the family is working through JAVA and the French consulate to see what can be done to get the tag back.

Morita said that once the family and Torrelli make connection, they can determine the best way to return the dog tag.

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“It’s amazing,” Morita said. “It’s just like full circle coming around, returning a personal artifact from a veteran to the family.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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