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U.S. WWII dog tag found in Wales

Jun. 6, 2014 - 10:17AM   |  
(Courtesy of Barrie Jones)
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Maurine Carethers-Tate of River Rouge, Mich., talks about her father, Thurmond Carethers, while holding a photo of him. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press)

Her father said if he ever found his lost dog tag, it would go to his daughter.

But Maurine Carethers-Tate, 57, of River Rouge, Michigan, never received it because her dad, Thurmond Carethers, who served in the Army during World War II, didn’t locate it before he died in 1983.

“I asked him a long time ago,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Daddy, where your dog tags at?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Now, more than three decades after his death, the mystery has been solved.

Last week, Carethers-Tate learned that a man who lives in Wales in the United Kingdom — more than 3,000 miles from Detroit — found an identification tag with the words “Detroit Mich” and “Carethers” on it.

It may have gotten there because Americans serving in World War II used Wales as a training ground leading up D-Day, which happened 70 years ago today.

A chunk of metal is missing from the tag, so the last two numbers on it are hard to make out, but the first six match military records of her father.

Barrie Jones, 52, and his daughter discovered it about seven or eight years ago when work was being done on a dry stone wall near his home in Swansea.

“It was just sticking out of the top of the earth,” he said. “I could see straight away what it was.”

He spent years trying to find the owner, with no success.

Then a newspaper there published a story about his discovery, and the Free Press, which was contacted about the article, located Carethers-Tate and showed her a photo of the dog tag at her home in River Rouge.

She took one look, put her hand to her face and started to cry.

“I’d love it to go to the family,” Jones told the Free Press in a phone interview this week.

Carethers-Tate, the youngest of three children, already knows what she’ll do with it: hold it, then give it to her son, 25-year-old Terreance Tate.

“My son has never seen his grandfather,” she said. “All he knows is the picture. He looks just like him.”

'He did what he had to do'

After the war, Carethers returned to Michigan and married Blanche Maurine. The two were married from 1946 to 1969 but remained close until he died of cancer.

During his life, he put others first, often helping those in need, and he worked different jobs, including one at a furniture store and service station, his family recalled.

“If you needed something, if he had it, he’d give it to you,” Carethers-Tate said.

Her father was the first of four Thurmond Carethers, and Thurmond Carethers IV, his great-grandson, is 19.

Carethers revealed very little about the war and even declined to explain to her why he had a blue star tattoo on the top of his right hand.

As he got older, his daughter said, he opened up some and described his time oversees as a “point in his life he really wanted to forget.”

“He did what he had to do,” his daughter said. “He was trying to get back home to marry my mother.”

Carethers-Tate heard her father landed in Normandy, France, when allied troops invaded. The landscape there is similar to that of Wales, and tens of thousands of Americans trained on the beaches and inland in Wales in the months leading up to D-Day, said Seimon Pugh-Jones.

Pugh-Jones is the co-director of the Tin Shed Experience, a museum in Wales that includes information on Americans who spent time in Wales during World War II.

“From an invasion-training point of view, it was perfect for training for D-Day,” he said of Wales.

Some mysteries remain

The tag was found on property that was farm land until the 1960s. Jones has been on the property for more than a decade and knew there were encampments of World War II soldiers in the area at one time, but it’s not clear how the dog tag ended up there.

“How it got removed from the person, I’m not sure,” he said. “He could have got into a fight, he could have given it to somebody as a keepsake, you just don’t know.”

Jones and Carethers-Tate have not communicated, and he said he hasn’t yet thought about how to return the tag.

He’d like to see a photo of Carethers taken around the time he was serving in World War II and learn more about his military history, he said.

Carethers-Tate said she’d welcome him if he decides to bring the dog tag to her.

“If you come to my house, no problem,” she said. “Just tell me what you want to eat.”

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