On a beach in Massachusetts on a beautiful spring day, we were delighted to honor CPL William C. Benn and his military service. On Sunday 19 April 2015, at Salisbury Beach State Reserve, a long-lost dog tag was returned to CPL Benn’s son. William G. Benn received the dog tag and other artifacts, presented in a beautiful shadowbox frame. CPL William Charles Benn served in the U.S. Army Air Corps (later known as the Air Force) in both WWII and Korea. The dog tags washed up on Salisbury Beach and were found on 12 March 2015 by Bill Ladd, best known as a treasure hunter and host of the TV show DigFellas. Purple Hearts Reunited assisted Ladd in locating CPL Benn’s son and coordinating a public ceremony.
William Charles Benn was born 06 September 1920 in Pawtucket, RI. He enlisted on 28 December 1939 and served in the 23rd Bombardment Squadron, 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 7th Air Force. CPL Benn operated a ground machine gun during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 07 December 1941 and was wounded by a bomb dropped by a Japanese kamikaze. He was also at the Battle of Midway as a B-17 turret gunner, responsible for shooting down eight Japanese aircrafts. For his service, CPL Benn earned a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Aircraft Crew Wings, and Presidential Unit Citation. Benn died on 22 May 2002 and is buried in Middletown, RI.
Salisbury Beach Military Reservation was once home to four gun batteries, used to survey for enemy crafts, as well as other support buildings. Salisbury Beach batteries protected the mouth of the Merrimack River. Occasionally, military remnants wash up in the area. The dog tags were found by Ladd and a friend. On 12 March 2015, Ladd was testing a metal detector prototype (the Makro Racer) on Salisbury Beach with his friend Dominique Ivy DaSilva, hoping to find military relics. The pair found a complete .50-caliber machine gun shell, several bullets and coins, and a pull ring from a hand grenade. Then Ladd found a badly-worn dog tag in the wet sand, with the name “William C. Benn” and service number legible. A Facebook post connected DigFellas and Purple Hearts Reunited, and PHR founder Zachariah Fike was able to locate direct family members of CPL William C. Benn within a few hours. The return ceremony brought Fike and Ladd together to present the artifacts to CPL Benn’s son, William G. Benn, who lives in Pawtucket, RI and followed in his father’s footsteps, serving in the Air Force for 21 years. A dozen people were there to witness the powerful moment on the beach and to pay their respects to CPL Benn and his son.
This return was supported by a grant from the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation.
Read more about the return here:
>> WWII Vet’s Dog Tag Returned to Son in Salisbury Ceremony
>> WWII Airman’s Dog Tag Find Its Way Home