WWII Soldier from LI Gets Bracelet Lost for 66 Years

Shortly after Jim Turck joined the Army in 1943, his mother sent him a gold-plated bracelet.

It bore his name, James J. Turck, and serial number on the outside along with “Love, Mother” inscribed on the underside.

While fighting the Nazis as a ski trooper with the 10th Mountain Division in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy in 1945, somehow the bracelet slipped off the then-20-year-old’s wrist.

“I don’t remember losing it,” said Turck, now 87 and living on Seabrook Island, S.C.

After the war, the unwounded Turck returned home, went to college, worked in advertising for NBC, ventured into commercial real estate on Long Island, where he had grown up, and later acquired a seat on the American Stock Exchange.

He retired in the late 1980s and moved to Kiawah Island with his wife, Becky, in the 1990s. They later moved to Seabrook because they needed a home with an elevator for the aging veteran.

That’s where Becky Turck received a phone call in June from a man who said he was calling from Italy.

“He couldn’t speak English very well, and I couldn’t speak Italian,” she said. “I thought it was a scam.”

The Italian was Bruno Bernardoni of the village of Montespecchio in north central Italy. He was using a metal detector for the first time that his wife gave him for Christmas when he discovered the bracelet in April.

It was about a foot underground near the village of Iola, according to an email he sent to Turck in July.

When Bernardoni first picked up the bracelet, he remembered saying, “So much hard work for a dog collar.” Then he read the writing on the bracelet. “I realized the importance of that object.”

Bernardoni told his friends, who called it beginner’s luck, and word soon spread to war-artifact seekers, some of whom went to his house to try to buy the bracelet.

“My only will was to forward the bracelet to its owner or to his family members,” Bernardoni said.

Bernardoni enlisted the help of his niece, who knew English and was more familiar with computers, to try to track down Turck or his descendants.

Through some Internet sleuthing with Turck’s name, they found a photo of the 85th Regiment Company K, of which Turck was a member, on the Denver Public Library website, which also led them to the 10th Mountain Division Foundation in Colorado.

There they found Tom Hames, the foundation chairman and a descendant of one of the members of the 10th Mountain Division, and sent him an email in June to try to find Turck or his family members.

Hames searched the foundation’s records and found not only Turck’s name and address on the list of their members, but also that he was alive and living near Charleston.

He contacted Turck, who confirmed that the bracelet was his through his serial number — 32814535.

“It’s pretty neat,” Hames said of the story.

The Turcks, leery of giving out their home address, asked Hames to have Bernardoni forward the bracelet to the foundation.

Bernardoni mailed it on Aug. 4, the foundation received it Aug. 16, and it was back on Turck’s wrist on Aug. 24.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Turck, whose health is good except for some hearing loss and a problem balancing while walking. “After 66 years underground, it is in relatively good condition.”

What probably made Turck lose the bracelet was that the chain broke off from the inscribed plate on one side. The main clasp still worked.

Turck’s wife took it to a jeweler to brush it up and repair it. Turck rarely takes the bracelet off now.

“It’s really an amazing story that something like this could be found 66 years later,” his wife said. “Mr. Bernardoni went through a lot of trouble to get it back, and he wasn’t asking for anything in return.”

Turck thanked Bernardoni by email, and told him about fighting in the area close to where Bernardoni lives and of soldiers sharing their food with starving children in the area.

He sent Bernardoni a copy of “Soldiers on Skis: A Pictorial Memoir of the 10th Mountain Division,” gave him his address on Seabrook Island and welcomed a visit from him if he ever came to the U.S.

“He must be a great guy,” Turck said.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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