WWII dog tags returned to Daytona Beach family after 70 years
By NIKKI ROSS | The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. | Published: July 19, 2018
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — In the summer of 1946 August Pollitz had just returned to Daytona Beach from fighting in the Pacific. After months in Guam, 21-year-old Pollitz was ready to soak in the Florida sun at one of his favorite hangouts, the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.
Pollitz, a lover of sports — specifically football — often passed the time before he left for college with his pals by leaping over speed signs, working out at the YMCA and spending his days at the beach.
During one of those days at the Boardwalk he lost one of his military dog tags in the soft sand. No one knows the exact day or circumstances in which it was lost. No one could even be certain it was lost at the Boardwalk.
Not until 70 years later when it was found.
On a hot and sunny day in June Ken Arrington took his metal detector out to the Boardwalk at low tide in search of buried treasure.
"I was hunting in a low spot that had been dug out by the surf," said Arrington, 53, a water treatment plant operator for Daytona Beach. "The beach has been good since January when we had the north storms come in and take 10 feet of sand off the beach. It exposed old relics and coins that were just out of reach of the metal detector."
The first treasure he pulled up from the sand that day was a gold 1940s Navy class ring.
Arrington moved 10 feet over and dug up a silver men's ring with an unidentifiable crest.
Another five feet over his metal detector let out another telltale beep. He stooped down and uncovered a World War II military dog tag.
"It was so exciting to find," said Arrington, a member of the Central Florida Metal Detecting Club who rarely sells the treasures he's found over 20 years of searching the sands. "I do my best to try to return the things I can, like class rings and the dog tags, to their rightful owners."
The rest he keeps locked in a safe at his home in DeLand. "I save it for a rainy day," he said.
This find felt special. "My goal was to find the solider that it belonged to and return it."
Arrington had two clues to work with: the owner's name and the date the tag was issued, August 1943.
"I posted a picture of the dog tag on Facebook and my friend from Pennsylvania, from the VFW, contacted me," said Arrington, who posts most of his findings on Facebook. "He found out that the man had passed away but that he had lived in Daytona Beach."
Arrington searched for the phone number once associated with Pollitz so that he could return the tags to the family. When he found the landline for Pollitz, he called and a "frail sounding lady" answered.
"I told him I didn't believe him," Elsie "Tiny" Pollitz said. "I thought it was another scam, and I didn't want anything to do with him."
She took his information and passed it along to her son Jeff Pollitz.
"I called him and arranged to meet," Jeff said. "It was thoroughly fascinating. My dad must have had it in his pocket when he was hanging out with his pals at the Boardwalk when he came back from the war."
The two met on a murky summer evening in June at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, just a short walk away from the spot where Arrington unearthed the tags.
"He had tears in his eyes when I handed it to him," Arrington said. "He was amazed."
Now that Elsie has her late husband's dog tag in her possession, she is glad Arrington reached out to her.
"I am happy to have it," Elsie said. Pollitz had lost the dog tag before they met in September 1946. "It was rather amazing it was under so much sand. It has been a long time."
Who was August Pollitz?
Elsie sat in a desk chair at her hard wooden dining room table, a photo of her late husband hanging on the faded green walls of the two-bedroom home they had shared since 1956.
"We dated for a real long time before we got married," Elsie recalled. "We were introduced by a friend after I graduated high school."
She pulled out an old album filled with family photos and delicately slid out a large print of her husband's military photo and set it down next to the dog tag.
"He was proud to be a Marine," she said, while pulling out a tarnished second tag her husband had held on to. "But he was also happy to get out and come home."
August Pollitz, commonly known as Ted, was born in December 1923 in his parent's Congress Avenue home in Daytona Beach.
"He was a graduate of Mainland High School and an athlete," said Elsie, who at 89 is five years younger than her husband would have been. "He was given the most outstanding athlete for the class of '43."
Elsie also attended Mainland, and though they had never met there, she said "everybody knew who he was."
Following graduation, Pollitz enlisted in the Marine Corps at 19. He spent most of the war in Guam, a small island in the western Pacific Ocean, as part of the 6th Marine Division.
In February 1946 Pollitz was sent home. He lost the tag sometime before September, when he met Elsie and left for the University of Georgia on a football scholarship. He returned after just one quarter to help care for his sick parents.
"He got a job at the post office and worked there for 37 years," Jeff said.
While living in their two-bedroom home in Daytona Beach, he and Elsie worked and raised two boys, part of what she called "just a regular life."
"He was just a regular person," she said. "We liked to go to the beach a lot."
Pollitz died in his sleep in April 2005 at 81.
"I think he would have liked that we found the dog tag," Elsie said.
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