Friday, December 30, 2011

Going home?

My paternal grandmother, Helen Fauster Cullen, died in 1994.  After her death, my parents sent me a number of items from her estate.  One of them was a beaded evening bag which her husband, Seth, had sent to her when he was in France, serving with the US Army during World War 1.

Sometime this past year I was going through my dresser and happened upon the purse, which was tucked under some sweaters.  I pulled it out, took it out of the plastic dry cleaning bag and discovered my grandfather's dog tags from World War 1 along with the identification tag of a German soldier:

One side reads (I've put "_" where I can't read the lettering):

Joh. Brandl
Genes.Kp. No.355
BAY.P.I.R 15. G.V.KP1.
1.K. 1211.NR.39

The other:

1.K.NR.1211 *NR.39

I showed this to my friends, Barbara and Joseph, and Joseph remarked that the scoring in the middle of the tags was so they could break the bottom tag off and send it in, while keeping the upper part on the body.  The Americans took care of that problem by issuing two tags for each soldier.   
I have no family stories that go with Joh. Brandl's tag.  It was a huge surprise to find it after all these years.  My grandfather, Papa Seth, died when I was 7 or 8, so I never talked with him about these sorts of events.  The only story that I have from that time comes from a letter:
When my Great Aunt Bebe (Bernice Cullen Sullivan) died in 1981, I went back to Paulding, Ohio, for the funeral.  Aunt Bebe was Seth's only sister, and she lived in the family house, across the alley from my Grandmother.  They were very close.  I had the opportunity to go through boxes and boxes of photographs, clipped newspaper articles, and letters that had been saved by Bebe's (and Seth's) parents.  In the letters, I found a few written by Seth to his mother and father while he was in France during the Great War.  My most vivid recollection from the letters is that he wrote about how he rode on the running board on the outside of an ambulance, so he could tell the driver where to go at night. The ambulance could not use its lights because the illumination made it vulnerable to a German attack.  I gathered up the letters Seth had written and gave them to my grandmother, thinking she would save them.  She did not, and they were gone by the time she died 13 years later.

Seth Cullen (l)  and unidentifed friend WW1
I wondered if this tag needed to go home and whether it could be reunited with  the family of Joh. Brandl after  all these years.  I asked my online lawyer friends at Delphi Forums what they thought, and several had good ideas.  Scot suggested contacting the German consulate.  I discovered that although there had been one in Seattle, it was now closed.  So, I emailed the German embassy in Washington, D.C. this week asking what I should do with Joh. Brandl's  tag.  This is the response I received this morning:
Dear Mrs Cullen,

on behalf of the German Embassy I thank you for your request regarding the identification tag of Mr. Johann Brandl.

I recommend to contact the following government institution:

Military History Research Institute
Zeppelinstraße 127/128

D-14471 Potsdam

Phone : +49 (0)331/9714-0

Fax : +49 (0)331/9714-507


Or visit their website at:

Best regards

Klaus Schepers

Büroleiter MilAttStab

Botschaft der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Washington

2300 M Street, NW, Suite 300

Washington, D.C. 20037

Tel.: 001-202-298-4299

Fax: 001-202-298-4321

I've emailed the Military History Research Institute and am awaiting their response.


Anonymous said...

good on you for following up on this!

odp said...

Fascinating! Keep us informed as the story goes on.