World War Two dog tags found in Australia to be returned to US veterans and families

World War Two dog tags are being returned to the veterans and families of US troops who served in Australia during the war.

Hundreds of US troops in the Sunset Division were stationed in remote Australian towns in the country’s north coast in order to protect the coast from potential Japanese invasion.

Now two friends from Rockhampton in Australia’s north east, have been excavating the sites of the old military camps.

Tim Hill and Ian MacGregor are both history enthusiasts and were drawn to search the old military camps to see if they could find memorabilia and artefacts that would tell them more about the soldiers’ lives at the camps.

US troops were sent to the Pacific region after the Japanese attacked the US military base at Pearl Harbour in 1941. US troops spent around 2 and a half years camped near Rockhampton in Australia. As well as protecting the Australian coast line, many troops were also sent to nearby Pacific islands to fight Japanese invasion.

Now Hill and MacGregor are going to take some of their findings from the camps back to the US to return artefacts to the families of US troops who were stationed there. The artefacts include dog tags that have been buried in Australian soil for more than 70 years.

The friends will travel to Rose City, Portland, Oregon in mid-April to return the dog tags to the families of Clarence Gilfeather and Frank Liedle, as well as directly to Hilding Olson, who is a 96 year old veteran who will be attending the ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.

Clarence Gilfeather’s daughter is excited for the ceremony and cannot wait to see her father’s dog tags from an era so long ago. She says it will be like be reunited with her father.

The Sunset division was one of the first units to be commissioned overseas after the Pearl Harbour attack. Soldiers were from all over the US and many were trained in jungle combat, given the territory that they would be operating in such as the Pacific islands. They eventually earned themselves the name of the Jungleers, after they fought alongside Australian troops to free Papua New Guinea from invading Japanese troops, the Portland Tribune reports.

Back in the United States, Highway 26 west of Portland has been named the Sunset Highway in order to commemorate the Sunset Division.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE