World War II Soldier’s dog tags reunited at Tinker AFB

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Eighty-seven year old Bruce Journey receives a U.S. flag during a ceremony at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., Nov. 22, 2019, during which dog tags belonging to his brother, Orville “Bruce” Journey, were returned to the family. The dog tags were found in the Netherlands. Bruce Journey’s aircraft was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire in the Netherlands during World War II. (Air Force photograph by Kelly White)

Seventy-five years after his aircraft was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire in the Netherlands during World War II, Tech Sgt. Orville Bruce Journey’s dog tags were finally brought back to his family.

The dog tags were presented to Bruce Journey’s brother, 87-year-old Oklahoma City resident Dwight Journey, at a special presentation ceremony hosted at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., on Nov. 22, 2019.

“In gathering to honor Bruce Journey, we are reminded of the military saying that no one ever truly dies until the last person forgets them,” said Col. Paul Filcek, 72nd Air Base Wing commander. “And so, we remember.  The men and women of the Netherlands remember, so our heroes over there live on in their thoughts.”

The tags were found by 1st Lt. Willem van der Steen, Royal Netherlands Air Force, a member of a group of volunteers who began researching the events that led up to the liberation of the southern Netherlands from German occupation by American forces in September and October 1944.

Friends, family and members of Team Tinker gathered at Hollywood and Vine in Bldg. 3001 at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to reunite the dog tags of Tech. Sgt. Orville ‘Bruce’ Journey, who was killed in action during World War II, with his Oklahoma family. First Lt. Willem van der Steen, a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, found the dog tags on Sept. 21 of this year and brought it to the ceremony to present to Journey’s brother, Dwight. (Air Force photograph by Kelly White)

Bruce Journey’s plane, a C-47 troop carrier, was shot down Sept. 23, 1944, during Operation Market Garden, a failed military operation to seize key bridges occupied by the Germans in the Netherlands. Bruce Journey, a flight mechanic, and another Airman were killed in the crash, while three other Airmen survived and were taken prisoner by the Germans.

“These five soldiers and their plane are just a small part of the United States and its allies efforts during World War II to liberate Europe,” van der Steen said. “But, they are symbolic of the service and sacrifice of the military men and women of that generation.”

While the tags were reunited with Bruce Journey’s family, his remains are interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, located in the southern part of the Netherlands. The cemetery is the resting place of approximately 8,291 Americans killed during World War II and is maintained by numerous Dutch volunteers who, according to Van der Steen, participate in the cemetery’s upkeep as part of their appreciation to the U.S. forces for their sacrifice.

A photograph of Tech. Sgt. Orville “Bruce” Journey, and his dog tags. Journey was killed in action during World War II. (Air Force photograph by Kelly White)

The discovery of the tags comes during the 75th anniversary of the American liberation of the southern Netherlands from German occupation. The anniversary is being observed with a year-long celebration, with commemorations hosted around the country associated with the Allied invasion in September 1944.

Dwight Journey said that he was absolutely stunned when he had heard the news, as he had not ever expected find anything more of his brother after 75 years. He said he was even more surprised when, after the Air Force heard of it, had made the decision to host a special ceremony in Bruce Journey’s honor.

“For me, this little piece of metal is insignificant in and of itself, but it is symbolic of larger things,” Dwight Journey said. “It is symbolic of the sacrifice of my brother’s life on Sept. 23, 1944. Secondly, it is symbolic of the sacrifice of the near 400,000 U.S. troops who died during World War II. Third, it is symbolic of the perseverance and dedication of the Dutch people to keep alive the memory of the devastation of the war.”
 

First Lt. Willem van der Steen, a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, hands the dog tags that belonged to Tech. Sgt. Orville “Bruce” Journey to his brother, Bruce during a ceremony at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., Nov. 22, 2019. Bruce Journey was killed in action during World War II. (Air Force photograph by Kelly White)

 
First Lt. Willem van der Steen, a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and Dwight Journey exchange a hug during a Nov. 22, 2019, ceremony at Tinker AFB, Okla. (Air Force photograph by Kelly White)