Viewers help find owner of bag from World War II

Posted at 7:15 AM, Dec 23, 2015

7 Eyewitness News viewers helped a Grand Island family find the owner of a bag that once belonged to a member of the U.S. Navy who served in World War II.

Debbie Anne Dutton-Wilkinson shared these pictures with 7 Eyewitness News. She says she and her boyfriend, veteran Brian Starr, were cleaning out the attic above the garage in their Grand Island home when they found the bag.

"Being in the service, I know it has a lot of sentimental value and it travels with you all over the world," Brian said.

7 Eyewitness News shared those pictures on Facebook and viewers helped us track down the owner!


Can you help? This family found the bag in their attic and are now looking for the owner!

Posted by WKBW-TV on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The bag was sent from Jack Yaeger abroad the USS Bergen to a Mrs. J Yaeger on Dorris Avenue in Buffalo.

We did a little research and learned the USS Bergen was an attack transport during World War II. It was commissioned on December 23, 1944 and was in service for less than two years, shipping troops and supplies before being decommissioned on April 24, 1946. The ship has since been scrapped.

That's where our Facebook fans took over.

A notation next to Jack Yaeger's name is "EM," which may stand for electrician mate, according to a website that lists Navy rankings. That clue was found by Robert Beutner, who says the "2" next to "EM" would represent his rank, assuming the rankings are the same as they were in World War II.

Jennifer Coty found an obituary for a Jack Yaeger in Bishop, CA, which says he was born in Buffalo in 1925. His age at the time the ship was commissioned would have been 19, making it a good possibility that he served in World War II. But no information was listed in the obituary about serving in the Navy.

But we didn't rule out that this was the right Jack Yaeger. Robert Garbacz found information on Ancestry.com showing a Jack Yaeger who lived in Buffalo during the 1940 Census who had four siblings and later moved to CA, which would match the information in the obituary.

And here's when we knew we had the right Jack Yaeger. Tammy Lewis Priebe found a listing in the 1942 Buffalo City Directory for Joseph J. Yaeger and his wife, Theresa C. Yaeger, who lived at 11 Dorris Avenue. The obituary lists Jack's parents as Joe and Theresa!

We found a listing for Mary Yaeger, Jack's wife, on the West Coast and gave her a call. Her late husband did serve in the Navy and this is his sea bag! Thanks to our Facebook fans, it only took a few hours to track Mary down.

Mary said her husband recently passed away, but she remembers him fondly and their long-time love affair.

"We were married for 55 years and we have five children who will all be [in California] for Christmas," Mary said.

Debbie and Brian wondered how the bag got into their attic and Debbie asked Mary about that. She explained that her husband Jack had relatives who built and lived in the couple's home before they bought it in 1998.

Debbie said, "It's been in the attic for 40-50 years!"

Mary couldn't believe it was true at first.

"I thought it was a hoax. [But] it's not a hoax. [They] actually found this bag," she exclaimed.

She's excited to have the bag back in her hands, mainly as a keepsake for her children. It'll only add to this special time of year.

Mary said, "It's wonderful. Really, a Christmas miracle."




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