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Sak's helmet found

Sak's helmet was found

     Yesterday, while at work I talked with my colleague Philippe Haulotte. He was a digger years ago.

     Just a little bit older than us, he began the searches of the battlefields in 1981, about a year after us.

     His buddy, also a colleague of mine, was Raymond Rahier. They had a lot of diggings together, sometimes with JP and myself.

     Then came that day in August 1985, the day Raymond recovered a splendid AT 105mm shell in the wooded area north of Camp Elsenborn.

     A few hours later, Raymond back at home killed himself and destroyed half of his home while defusing the shell.

     After that, Philippe kept going for a few months and finally decided to stop the searches.

     But between 1981 and 1986, Philippe found a lot of equipment all over the 99th battlefield. He gave or sold all of his collection to friends.

     I got many things from him and JP got one U.S. camouflaged helmet, showing traces of yellow color over the olive drab.

     Until yesterday, I was sure I was next to him when he found that helmet over the D/394 mortars area in Losheimergraben. I was wrong. It was another helmet recovered in there.

     He explained the camouflaged helmet was recovered in a pine plantation overlooking the village of Lanzerath.

     I took a map and he showed me the I&R Platoon area. The helmet was found deep in a foxhole, in one of the first holes near the pasture fences. That helmet was found there, right over Lyle Bouck's positions. The area and that pine plantation was recaptured Jan. 29, 1945, by elements of the 508th Parachute Inf. attached to the 82nd Airborne Division.

     The 82nd AB was in Sicily, and it was common for units having served over there to have yellow camouflage on the helmet.

     We don't have a lot of names and ASN for the 82nd AB but I decided to check my databases for the laundry marking "T-9694."

     I had only a match and almost fell out my chair reading the name: Pfc. William J. Tsakanikas, 12219694.

     William Tsakanikas was the only badly wounded soldier up that hill Dec. 16, when the Germans captured the area. He took a burp gun burst in the face, disfiguring him for life.

     Philippe told me the helmet was damaged in some parts. He was right. I called JP, who couldn't believe that news. He then confirmed the helmet was damaged.

     No doubt about it, it belonged to William Tsakanikas.

     The yellow camouflage? Some pictures of the Louisiana maneuvers show soldiers wearing such camouflage.

     Another wonderful historic piece of the 99th ID recovered on the battlefield — even it it took more than 15 years to learn it.

     William Tsakanikas survived the war but I'm not sure of his whereabouts now.

J.L. Seel