WWII history - dog tags - found in desert east of Bend

Local vets seek to find owners, return them to families

POSTED: 1:51 AM PDT July 3, 2013    UPDATED: 7:28 AM PDT July 3, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

As cars pass along Highway 20 between Bend and Burns, there is a little-known piece of history near the turnout near Horse Butte.

"This is where the 104th and the 91st attacked the 96th, right here," Bend Vietnam War veteran Dick Tobiason said Tuesday referring to several military units who trained thousands of soldiers in what was known as the "Oregon Maneuver."

In 1943, for three months, 100,000 soldiers used nearly 8 million acres of Central Oregon real estate to train for World War II.

"This terrain was selected because they thought it was a lot like the terrain they were going to fight in Europe," Tobiason said.

Some 70 years after the last soldier left for war, a bit of history surfaced -- the dog tags (Army ID tags) of nine people were found buried in the desert.

Tobiason and John Frye have been on a mission to find the owners of the tags. So far, they've made connection with two, one of which belongs to Sam Levine.

"These tags were probably around his neck," Frye said. "He took them off to shave or for some reason hung them on a bush, and he never recovered them."

Frye said Levine is originally from Brooklyn, New York. In is search to find the man behind the tag, he hasn't been able to find any family members. However, he said he's found several friends of the soldier. 

Frye added that he'll be sending the tags to the East Coast, where Levine's friends plan to create a memorial to their late friend, who died at the age of 99 in September of last year.

"It's going to be good to get him back to his friends," Frye said. "I think they'll be pleased to see what was lost so many years ago."

Tobiason and Frye say the right thing to do with the tags found in the desert is to give them back to their rightful owners -- and if they can't be found, to put them on display so the fallen are remembered.

"If we don't pass this information on to future generations, they will never know 16 million Americans saved the world from tyranny," Tobiason said.