Lost, found, repatriated

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tenley Long
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
In early May 2016, Andy Fuller, a groundsman from Royal Air Force Honington, England, swept his metal detector over the soil of what used to be known as RAF Knettishall. Once designated as U.S. Army Air Force Station 136, the base was home to the B-17 Flying Fortress, an aircraft utilized for targeting naval installations, refineries and communication centers in key locations during World War II.

The historical grounds of RAF Knettishall -- last active in 1957 -- paint a picture of what occurred there more than 70 years ago. Only patches of the old runway and a few buildings remain as a reminder, with one of the buildings now featured as a museum for the 388th Bomb Group.

As he swept the grounds, Fuller reached down to find a slight glimmering object that was weathered from its years at rest. What he found was a small piece of metal bearing a name: Raymond Odom.

Dog tags are one thing all service members carry into battle with them. The tags from World War II were stamped with a military member’s name, rank and service number. These tags served as a form of identification for those who were killed in action, injured or otherwise unable to identify themselves.

“Fuller had permission from the land owner, Collin Davey, to sweep the area and that’s when he found the (single) dog tag,” explained Julie Brown, a RAF Honington deputy meter officer. “He then got in touch with Cpl. Ed Stanley, an armorer at RAF Honington, who then took it upon himself to research the history of the tag.”

Stanley learned that Odom joined the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II on Feb. 23, 1943, with a delayed enlistment until March 2, 1943. Odom was assigned to the 388th BG at RAF Knettishall after graduating from the tactical training course July 31, 1943, at the Ohio Institute of Aeronautics.

During his research, Stanley discovered that Odom was alive, well and living in the U.S. He then proceeded to contact Odom’s daughter, Debbie Ball, through social media.

“When I first found out (one of) his tags had been found, I was excited because that was a part of my dad I knew very little about. I didn’t even know his tags were lost,” Ball explained. “Dad never really talked about his experience in the war until recently, so I thought this would be a nice time to get the tags back to him.”

After speaking with Ball, Brown contacted Senior Master Sgt. Brian Boisvert, the 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs superintendent, to officially hand over the dog tag to the U.S. Air Force, setting the repatriation plan in motion.
The presentation of the dog tag to the U.S. military was the first step in bringing the tag “home.” From there, it was shipped to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, not only because of the base’s proximity to Odom, but also because it serves as home to the 8th Air Force, under which the 388th BG was subordinate.

“My dad knows that his dog tag might have been found, but he has no idea what has been done to honor him,” Ball exclaimed. “That’s the part I’m so excited about! He will be so humbled that the Air Force has put this much effort in the return of his tag and (put) together a display to be able to show (it) off!”