Korean War-era soldier contacted after his wallet was found at Camp Roberts

The find includes its owner’s blue-and-white Armed Forces identification card marked with a Sept. 30, 1955, expiration date and a faint silhouette of his picture.

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comMarch 27, 2013 

Another billfold from long ago has been found at Camp Roberts, this time in the debris of the California National Guard’s latest demolition project.

The find gives some clues to its age, including its owner’s blue-and-white Armed Forces identification card marked with a Sept. 30, 1955, expiration date and a faint silhouette of his picture.

The card also lists the owner’s rank and name as Private David Nelson, information camp officials have used to track him down.

Nelson lost the wallet at Camp Roberts during the 1950s, according to an email from Blaize Uva, a California National Guard cultural resource technician who coordinated the search.

“I am currently corresponding with Mr. Nelson (to) illuminate his stay at Camp Roberts and life since then,” Uva wrote.

More information on Nelson wasn’t immediately available.

But his worn, dark-colored wallet with a woven trim contained other interesting mementos to the serviceman’s past, including two old-fashioned movie stubs — one purple, one white — from Missoula, Mont. One cost 65 cents, the other 40 cents.

Such finds are occurring more frequently at the California National Guard installation near San Miguel.

Dozens of lost wallets that belonged to troops stationed at Camp Roberts from World War II to the 1970s have turned up there in recent years — and many have been reunited with their owners.

In the past decade, news of the discoveries has been featured in The Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and on NBC’s “Today” show.

Another recent find was a caramel-colored leather wallet belonging to Wendell Lewis Jr. of Lincoln, Ill. Researchers at the camp were crestfallen to discover that Lewis, who had lost the wallet while stationed there during the Korean War, had died about two months earlier. But news that the wallet had been discovered left his widow and daughters overjoyed.

At the time, Jill Lewis said she thought her late husband’s wallet was meant to be found when it did. News of its discovery brought the family closer to his memory.

“And what a treasure that was,” she told The Tribune.

Previous discoveries were made during regular maintenance and whenever structures were torn down at the camp.

Nelson’s wallet was found in the most recent demolition taking place at the camp, where World War II-era barracks, chapels, mess halls, supply rooms and administration offices that have not been used in more than 30 years are being torn down.

The hidden treasures are literally coming out of the woodwork because, officials say, the wallets were likely stashed away after being stolen by other soldiers who hid the evidence of their crimes in air ducts, under floorboards and behind walls.

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