MERRILLVILLE | In December 1944, William Kadar left his Army duffel bag behind as he headed into battle on the frontline in Mittelwihr, France, entering a building to take shelter.
Unbeknownst to him, the building was already occupied by German soldiers.
Kadar and his company were taken prisoner. After five months and 14 days, he was liberated in Germany and reunited with his home country.
On Tuesday, almost 70 years later, Kadar was reunited with that duffel bag that still bears his name. He doesn't quite remember the bag.
“It’s still in good shape,” said Kadar, 92, who opened the box containing the duffel bag while sitting comfortably in his home.
The Army bags, which carried issued equipment and supplies, were carried by a Jeep and left behind at a camp as the soldiers went into battle and were many times abandoned.
The duffel bag was located by Kadar’s granddaughter, Arlene Haas, who had painstakingly researched her grandfather’s role in the war. She said he didn’t like to talk about it much and was simply happy to be home and to have survived.
A 10-year-old French boy found the bag in 1944 and villagers used the contents of the bag, along with other soldiers’ lingering duffel bags, to survive. The boy’s grandparents succumbed to injuries during that battle when a shell hit and burned their home.
That boy’s kin, a grandson named Charles, shipped the bag to Kadar on loan since the bag is also connected to their family history. The package contained a note which Kadar read Tuesday.
“Dear William, we will never forget what you did for us. Thank you! Our very best, from Vosages."
“This is the mountain region where my grandfather and U.S. soldiers liberated so many of the French people,” said Haas, who helped her grandfather to open the well-taped package.
Kadar read his name on the duffel bag which was in immaculate condition.
Amy Parsons, Kadar’s granddaughter who was also present, explained that Kadar is the family patriarch and such a family relic is a reminder of the sacrifice and duty their grandfather made to them.
“You touched this,” Parsons, in awe, told her grandfather as the two of them examined it together.
“No doubt, he’s a survivor,” she said.