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Dog Tags Belonging to North Carolina WWII Veteran Found in Italy

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Internet sleuths and North Carolina residents alike want to return a found set of World War II dog tags back to their rightful owner, or his family. An Italian metal detector hobbyist found the tags belonging to Thomas L. Vaughn, Jr., a U.S. soldier with an address in Raleigh.

Luca Gattel, the Italian who found the tags in Tuscany, took to social media to try to return the tags to their original owner. “I’d like very much to give this medal back to the family of this soldier,” posted Gattel. “Can you please help me?”

History and genealogy buffs across the internet answered the call. They dug for information that could link the tags to any surviving family, or perhaps even Vaughn himself. They also tried to discover how, and in what phase of the war, the tags may have been lost.

The tags link to an Evelyn S. Vaughn as a next of kin, which may have been a sister or mother. The tags also link to an apartment building in Raleigh, the Cameron Court apartments, which incredibly still stand today.

Keyboard researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint any Raleigh residents named Evelyn. But they do believe that they found Vaughn’s wife, a Colleen Cotten Vaughn, via her 2004 obituary in the local News & Observer. Colleen married a WWII veteran named Thomas L. Vaughn, Jr., in 1949. However, Thomas died just four years after their marriage in 1953. If the tags belong to this particular late Thomas Vaughn of North Carolina, then he was a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient.

Evelyn Vaughn was 84 years old when she died.

Do You Know Anyone in the Raleigh Area who Fits the Bill?

According to her obituary, the couple had no children. But, the obit does list many beloved nieces and nephews. One of them, if still living, could receive Vaughn’s WWII dog tags if they can be found. The obituary also lists her surviving brothers, nieces, and nephews by name. The information leaves researchers hopeful that they will find someone directly related to Thomas Vaughn, Jr.

Local surviving family from the obit includes Frankie McGee of Knightdale, Danny Cotten of Fuquay-Varina and Johnny and Marty Cotten, both of Raleigh. Colleen Cotten Vaughn was also an active member of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh.

An article from 1942 mentions Vaughn at Camp White in Oregon, with his parents living in Cameron Court Apartments. His own 1953 obit also mentions the apartment complex, meaning researchers have likely found the right man. His obituary does not list a cause of death, but it does list Montlawn Memorial Park as his final resting place. He was 34 years old when he died.

If you think you know a descendant of Vaughn, you can reach out to local North Carolina media HERE.