Fire department badge returned after more than 60 years years ago
In August 1998, Jean-Louis Seel, one of the Diggers and a member of the 99th Infantry Division MIA Project team, made an interesting discovery in a foxhole of the 39th Infantry Regiment.
Seel found a small fire department badge, probably for a cap. The badge had only the name "Dormont" and the letters "V.F.D. 11." He checked his zip code book and was lucky to find only one town in the entire United States named "Dormont," a suburb of Pittsburgh PA.
He wrote to the town authorities and the mayor had his letter sent to the fire department. There, in their files they found that only three of their men had served in the Army during World War II. One served in the Pacific, one remained in the U.S., and the third man, Edward Nalitz, fought in the European theater.
The fire department launched a search for the Nalitz family and found Ed's widow, age 90. Unfortunately, she hung up when the fireman tried to explain the purpose of his telephone call. They found Ed's son, Edward Jr., also living in the Pittsburgh area, and contacted him. From Ed Jr., they learned that his father was a veteran of the 39th Infantry, 9th Division.
Seel got a letter saying the badge had been identified. Upon receiving the information, he checked his database and found Nalitz's name listed: Company M, 39th Infantry, machine gun squad leader and recipient of the bronze and silver star medals.
Seel contacted Ed Nalitz Jr., and learned the fire department had a reception for him and his family, in which they presented him with a duplicate badge. Apparently, all badges were made in duplicate, with one being kept at the fire station.
Seel said, "Sgt. Edward Nalitz must have been a kind man. He was in this mid-30s when he volunteered for the Army. At that time, he had a fiancée, a widow with three kids. He promised he would marry her, but only after the war, as he was afraid she could be a two-time widow. He survived, got married, and took care of the family. He died in 1969."
On May 20 of this year, Seel had the pleasure of escorting Mary Lou Carlson, Ed Nalitz's daughter, to the Elsenborn museum and the foxhole where the original badge had been found.
In Seel's words, "I waited to step in the foxhole with Mary Lou when I gave her the badge. Her mom will turn 100 years old in October — a nice gift for a 100th birthday."