MEDINA, Ohio– Nearly seven decades after a WWII U.S. pilot from Texas was shot down over France, a Medina third grader has successfully returned the pilot’s dog tag to his family.
Jack Robbins was flying a dive-bombing mission when he crashed into a field in France.
He was cared for by a family in France until he was eventually held as a prisoner of war by the Germans.
Robbins escaped and made his way back to the United States where he farmed with his cousin in New Mexico until his death in 1969.
Twenty years later, one of his dog tags was found in a field in France.
Eight-year-old Lenny Aydemir says the man who found it was a friend of his uncle in France.
After an unsuccessful search to try and find Robbins or his relatives, the friend gave the dog tag to Aydemir’s uncle, who brought it to the United States during a visit and gave it to his nephew to continue the search.
Aydemir’s efforts paid off when he found Chicago historian Jackie Flannery, who was already researching Robbins’ 396th Fighter Squadron.
Together they were able to locate relatives of Robbins who came to Medina on Monday for a very special presentation at Aydemir’s elementary school.
“Nobody else could pull this off. Nobody else would be able to bring this together except Lenny and the fact that he’s French even makes it that much better,” said Flannery, who was also in Medina for the Veterans Day presentation.
“It would be like a treasure to give it to them,” said Ayedmir, adding, “like it’s not just a dog tag to them; it’s like a treasure.”
The search not only brought the dog tag back to Robbins’ family, it also brought together relatives who had not seen one another in about four decades.
“What is impressive to me is that we have photo albums that are the mother load,” said Marcus Tucker, 73, a nephew of Robbins who came to Medina from his home in Colorado.
“Jack’s mother’s personal photo album has surfaced after four generations of being lost and I have it now and that is treasure, unbelievable treasure,” said Tucker.
“The reason I am here, and this is personal, is for my grandmother, Jack’s mom and for my father, Jack’s brother. I’m here for them in their sted because they can’t be here,” added Tucker.
“That is something else. I mean, it really is, that somebody found them and wanted to try and get them back to him that is marvelous right there in itself, that they tried so hard for so long,” said Cheryl Robbins, the pilot’s daughter-in-law.
Robbins said her father-in-law never really talked about his WWII experience.
“I knew that he had been shot down and was in a prisoner of war camp and every once in a while my husband would tell me things that he would say you know about how bad it was and things like that, but he never really talked about it,” said Robbins, explaining that she has learned more over the past year since Aydemir’s search began than she ever had about what her father-in-law had experienced.
“I’m proud of myself doing something to give the dog tag to the family of Jack,” said Aydemir.
“He was very proud of what he did,” said Cheryl Robbins of her father-in-law, concluding, “he was very proud that he got to do something for the people, so yeah, I think he’d be very happy and excited to get them back.”