Sometime in the late summer or early fall of 1943 Ralph Rigaud lost one of his dog tags.
Each U.S. soldier receives two dog tags containing personal information. One is worn around the neck on a chain and the other goes inside a boot. They help identify soldiers who are wounded or killed in battle.
It’s unknown which dog tag Rigaud lost while training at the Kearney Army Air Base in central Nebraska where he had been sent after enlisting Sept. 24, 1942. Central Nebraska provided wide open space for soldiers in flight training in B-17’s to head overseas for bombing missions during World War II.
That tag remained missing for 77 years and a few months until last December. Land surveyor Will Gwin, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, knew right away what the little piece of shiny metal was he saw in the dirt while surveying property that once was part of the former base.
The dog tag, about the size of a large paper clip, contained the following information: Ralph E. Rigaud, 324 938 22, T-43, Mrs. Agnes Rigaud, 154 Madison Ave., Oriskany Falls, N.Y. On the side was stamped an A, for Rigaud’s blood type, and a P, for his religion.
Perhaps Rigaud landed in trouble for losing the tag. “It’s funny that Uncle Ralph lost it before he even shipped out,’’ said his niece, Jenette (Rigaud) Weaver of Oriskany Falls. “But it wouldn’t have bothered him.’’
Gwin showed the dog tag to his mom, Val Gwin, who lives in Kearney. She and her sister, Lisa Atchison, who also lives in Kearney, became curious about Rigaud, in part because…