William Kadar, 92, opened a carefully wrapped package Tuesday at his Merrillville, Ind., home and found his drab green duffel bag inside, still stenciled in black with his name and serial number. Kadar last saw the bag used by soldiers to tote their gear in November 1944, a month before he was captured by the Germans.
A letter included in the package said the bag was being returned by a 16-year-old French boy who found it in his grandfather's house.
"It's still in good shape. Oooh, boy. Well, I finally got it," Kadar told the Post-Tribune for a Wednesday story.
Kadar's granddaughter, Arleen Haas, said the bag was found and kept by a family in Rehaupal, France. The teen's great-grandparents were killed when their house was bombed by the Germans when his grandfather was 10 years old.
The teen was initially reluctant to return the bag since it was a symbol of his family's history, but the family eventually decided to send it to Kadar. Haas said her family hopes to speak to the boy through Skype soon.
"It's given us a deeper understanding of what he and others went through," said another of Kadar's granddaughters, Amy Parsons, of Valparaiso. "We don't have that perspective in the U.S. as much. (Kadar) always said, 'It's a miracle I came home.'"
Kadar was captured by the Germans in December 1944 in Mittelwihr, France. He lost nearly 80 pounds in a prison camp before it was liberated in April 1945.
Haas, who served 10 years in the Army, retraced her grandfather's footsteps while stationed in Germany. Back in the U.S., she sought more information on his war experience and eventually entered his name and service information in an online military forum.
Someone from there contacted the family about the duffel bag after the French boy's uncle asked the Texas Military Museum for help in finding the owner.
Kadar's daughter, Lynn Sattler, said the experience left her with a mixture of emotions.
"I'm amazed it's been found, grateful that it was sent back to him, and bittersweet because he doesn't remember (the war), but parts of it do come back," Sattler said.