D-Day 75th Anniversary sponsored by University of Maryland University College Europe

Photo courtesy of Norman A. Ross
Photo courtesy of Norman A. Ross

Bernard Sandler’s dog tag

by Norman A. Ross
Stripes Europe

In May, 2018 Henry Tamblin and his daughter found Bernard Sandler’s Army dogtag on a beach near where they live in Cornwall, England. Bernard Sandler, born January 19, 1912, was a soldier in the U.S. Army during World War II, stationed in Cornwall.


Bernard Sandler. Photo courtesy of Norman A. Ross

Henry and “Tilly”  found the dogtag in the sand while beachcombing. It was severely damaged and only showed Bernie=s first name, Goldie's first name, etc. However, the serial number turned out to be complete. After finding it, Henry posted his find on Facebook on May 8, 2018, 73 years to the day after VE Day—the end of World War II in Europe, May 8, 1945:

Henry Tamblin: Found what appears to be an old military dog tag on the beach at Kennack. I know plenty of American soldiers left for D‑Day from Helford quite nearby, but if anyone knows how I might go about finding out who it belonged to give me a shout! Henry posted a picture of the dogtag. More than 50 people responded on Facebook. The quest spread quickly, apparently from Facebook friend to friend.

Henry Tamblin: Looks like it says Bronx NY on it.

Sevan Anderyassian: 32244132 was that person=s military number. .

Henry Tamblin: Looks like Bernard was his surname, then military number as you say, then Goldie was next-of-kin's 1st name. 1745 East could be a regiment but incomplete, and Bronx NY was where he was from.   

Simon Lewis: Bernard Sandler was a PFC in E/175th of the 29th infantry Division. He was wounded in Normandy on June 20th 1944, near a town called Villiers Fossard. I presume he survived the war as there are no records of him being listed as killed in action.

Simon Smith: 1745 East Street is a house in the Southview neighborhood in the Bronx NY. Soldier is Bernard and his mother's Christian name is Goldie. The name of the soldier? Bernard Sandler. Enlisted 2 March 1942, born in 1912, For more info I'd start with looking amongst the Jewish community of the area.

One of the people who picked up the trail was Phil Ellery, also from Cornwall. Phil visited the website Ancestry.com, where he managed to find two Bernard Sandlers!

Phil Ellery: Henry Tamblin, yes I think you're right. After more digging I've come up with another Bernard Sandler. His mother was ‘Goldie.’

Henry Tamblin: Phil Ellery, Wow nice work, the tag mentions 'Goldie' as next of kin so this must be our guy.

Phil Ellery: I used Ancestry to build up this tree. Haven't found his death records yet. “Death: Cause: Heart attack. New York, USAY.”

Phil Ellery: Says here that he had 3 children.

Henry Tamblin: There you have it! You have to love Facebook for things like this. Thanks to all those who showed an interest and particularly to Simon Lewis for such detailed info!

Phil Ellery: Found a good match here. Warrant Officers, USA

Henry Tamblin: Hi Phil, yeah that’s definitely the guy we think, and I stumbled across that address as well so a good chance I think. Possibility of living relatives!?

On Ancestry.com Phil found Joan Sandler Ganz, Bernard’s niece. Henry wrote to her and she confirmed that Bernard was her uncle, that he lived in the Bronx, etc.

Phil Ellery: Henry Tamblin yes! I've had a contact from a niece. I just hope they're willing to share a bit of information on him.

Phil Ellery: Just received this from a relative which confirms we have the person!

Joan Sandler email: Hi Leslie & Norman, Hope that you are well. I received this amazing E‑mail from Phil Ellery of Cornwall, England via Ancestry. His friend Henry found the dog tag on the beach and asked Phil to research its history. It was also posted on Facebook. They would like to send it to the descendants of your dear dad if you want it. Hope to hear from you soon. Cousin Joan.

Joan put us in touch with Henry Tamblin and Phil Ellery. Leslie and I already had tickets for a trip to London in late October, so we arranged to fly from London to Cornwall to pick up the dogtag. Henry and Tilly met us at the airport in Newquay and drove us to Falmouth.

According to the book Operation Cornwall, and online sources, Bernie’s regiment, “the 175th, which was stationed in West Cornwall, was to land on D-Day plus 1.” Although some records of his regiment are apparently available online, when we tried to obtain his records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), we were informed that most of the military records from WW II were destroyed years ago in a fire at an Archives building in Maryland.


Bernard's Dog Tag. Photo Courtesy of Norman A. Ross

A major puzzle in all of this is, How did Bernie’s dogtag end up on a beach in Cornwall, and how did it happen to survive for roughly 74 years? We have some possible explanations. First, all U.S. dogtags contained a single letter to indicate the person=s religion: P=Protestant; C=Catholic; H=Hebrew. And we learned that Jewish soldiers who knew they were going to battle on the Continent were advised to consider removing their dogtag so as to avoid especially unpleasant treatment if captured by the Germans. We assume Bernie did not lose his, but rather removed it for that reason, perhaps the day before D-Day. Second, we’re guessing that he tried to leave it in a relatively secure place, not just randomly on the beach, perhaps with the idea that he would someday return and search for it. No way of knowing, but it might explain how it happened to survive.

On this subject Henry wrote to us a month after our visit:

“An interesting theory definitely. I didn't explain but one of the most remarkable things about the find is that the tag was probably no more than an hour away from being covered by the incoming tide. The tide range at Kennack is pretty huge and it was certainly a long way from the low water mark. If he did bury it, this might account for the good preservation of the tag. It took 70+ years for the sea to uncover it again. It was partially covered by sand but I can tell you that the incoming waves can only have been 2 or 3 meters away. When you think about the possibility that we were there in just the right, very narrow window after all that time, before it was possibly washed away forever, makes the whole tale seem even more remarkable. Hope this helps, and best wishes.

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