Courtesy photoAn 86-year-old Peabody resident and Marine Corps veteran had one of his military identification tags returned to him after it was lost about 66 years ago during World War II.
Richard Urie was presented with the tag by Boston-based Assistant US attorney Timothy E. Moran on Sunday at Urie’s retirement community, Brooksby Village. The single tag was lost when Urie was stationed in Saipan in 1945.
“This is the most amazing thing to happen to me,” Urie said in a statement. “When you reach my age, you don't expect any surprises. It brings back many memories and I am glad my daughters and grandchildren were able to see my dog tags.
“I can’t thank everyone who helped bring me back my dog tags enough. This is a very special time for my family and me.”
The tag was found in 1981 in a yam field by a Saipan resident, Mike Villagomez, when he was 13 years old. The largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan has a US marshall’s office.
Villagomez’s wife, Erlinda, works at the US Attorney’s Office in Saipan and found herself in the office of special investigator deputy marshal Randy Kruid one day. She noticed Kruid’s own dog tags framed in his office and mentioned that her husband had found a single dog tag all those years ago.
Kruid tracked down Urie on the Internet a few months ago and Erlinda and Kruid enlisted their former colleague, Moran, to deliver the tag because they knew he lived in Massachusetts and they knew he would be in Saipan for the holidays.
“Urie is an unusual name,” Urie said during a telephone interview yesterday afternoon. “There are not many of us in the country. My name came up, he sent me an e-mail and asked me if I served in Saipan and asked what the serial number on my dog tag was.
“Randy is on Facebook, so I started corresponding with him, then I started corresponding with the man who found it … and we all become quite friendly.”
Kruid couldn’t believe Urie was still alive when Urie responded to his e-mail in November.
“I thought I was talking to a family member,” he told the Saipan Tribune. “It was an amazing experience.”
The Newton native, who moved to Marblehead in middle school, joined the Marine Corps in 1943 a year after graduating from Marblehead High. The 19-year-old became a PFC radio operator attached to the Headquarters Company of the 2nd Marine Division stationed on Saipan.
Urie said he doesn’t remember losing his tag but estimated that he probably lost it about seven or eight months before he was discharged in 1946.
“It wasn’t something you publicized,” he said. “I don’t remember losing it.”
He said he arrived in the Pacific Theater after the Battle of Saipan and served in a unit that acted as a diversion in the Battle of Okinawa. But he never landed on the island during that battle.
“When the war ended on Aug. 5, 1945, I was packing for the Invasion of Japan,” he said.
He said he was chosen to be one of the occupation troups on Nagasaki in the wake of the nuclear bomb being dropped.
“Which was one of most incredible experiences of my life,” he said.
After returning home, Urie attended Colby College for two years and graduated from Boston College Law School in 1952, he said. But he only practiced law for a year before he got into the shoe industry. He said he eventually became the president of the Rotary Machine Co. in Lynn in the early 1950s.
Soon he started his own consulting firm, RMS Associates, which specialized in helping smaller companies market women’s garments overseas as well as in the US.
“I got into it by accident ,” Urie said of the fashion business. “I had a client who marketed sweaters; he was an Italian, One thing led to another. I liked the fashion business.”
Urie and his wife ran the company for 30 years and even had an office in New York City for 15 years, Urie said
“[I] retired the day after my wife died 12 1/2 years ago,” said Urie, who has lived in Brooksby Village for four years.
Moran, who used to be a federal prosecutor on the island, said he enjoyed his visit with Urie and his family on Sunday.
“We did our best to answer their many questions about Saipan, which we obviously enjoyed much more than he did,” Moran told the Saipan Tribune.
Urie also said finding the dog tag has been a good opportunity for his four daughters and seven grandchildren to learn about a chapter in his life he doesn’t always talk about
“It’s an amazing story,” Urie said. “Certainly, being 86 years old, I can’t even comprehend that this is happening.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.