MERRILLVILLE | To his family, William Kadar, a WWII veteran and former German prisoner of war, is a hero, and now they are getting the chance to show their appreciation for what he suffered almost 70 years ago.
Kadar's granddaughter Arleen Haas, of Crown Point, was able to retrace his journey as a POW while she served as an air defense artillery captain in Germany several years ago with her husband, also a veteran, and her mother, Lynn Sattler.
They saw the old POW camps and got "then and now" pictures of them along with lots of photos of the towns where he was. Haas put together a scrapbook with explanations garnered from stories he told.
Kadar, 92, of Merrillville, never talked about his war experiences with his five children, Sattler said. But he opened up to his grandchildren, of which he has 16 along with 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
"We did this for Grandpa, but, to us, it was just not enough," Haas said of the scrapbook.
After returning to the U.S. in 2007, Haas continued to research Kadar's military history online and through the Texas Military Forces Museum. She found the family of his closest noncommissioned officer, who had died, and made a contact in Bruyere, who provided pictures of the town today and of the hill where Kadar fought.
Finally, in May, the museum helped her contact a Frenchman named Herve, who finds items left behind by soldiers during the war and, if possible, returns them to the families. Herve's 16-year-old cousin found Kadar's army barracks bag, labeled with his name and service number.
The bag was left behind when Kadar and his unit were ordered to the front lines at Mittelwihr, France, just before he was taken prisoner. It was found at the home of the cousin's grandfather in Rehaupal, France. At first the cousin was reluctant to part with the bit of war memorabilia, but now has agreed to loan it to the family.
Kadar said he was surprised by the discovery and would like to get the bag back for the family. He saw a picture of it, and it reminded him of his serial number, which he had remembered until a fall in January. He recited the numbers, although he had some difficulty remembering his Social Security number.
Haas said she never imagined she would find something like the bag with his name on it.
"It could have been anything, but because it was his bag with his service number, it is incredible," she said. "It happened when I thought I had hit a wall where there was nothing left to discover.
"I want to see what it is for him because, when I see my old boots or equipment, I get a feeling you can't get from the experience of the events. I feel seeing the bag will help him remember why he left it and other things about his long and incredible story. It's kind of a little blessing."