WWII Vet's Touching Plea to Find Kids He Photographed in 1945

This American former soldier who fought in Italy during World War II before going on to become a New York City cop is on a quest to find these schoolchildren he photographed in 1945.

"I held the rank of Private first class (PFC)," Edward Roethel, who is now over 90 and a veteran of World War II, told Zenger.

"My company, and others, were on the way from Naples to the Battle of the Bulge to serve as replacements, as needed. Our troops set up camp in San Miniato for a period in June 1945.

Edward Roethel photograph
The children former American soldier Edward Roethel photographed in Italy in 1945. City of San Miniato/Zenger)

"I was out for a walk with an Army buddy in San Miniato inspecting the damage to the Town Hall when I noticed what looked like a group of small, cute school children lined up to go to school and I snapped their photo. I've cherished this photo since."

He had been deployed in Italy as part of the Fifth Army and was stationed in Naples in 1944 before he was sent to the town of San Miniato, located in the province of Pisa in the Tuscany region, in 1945.

The Fifth Army landed on the southern Italian beach of Salerno, south-east of the city of Naples, on 9th September 1943. It was the first American military force to invade mainland Europe during the conflict that pitted the Allies against the Nazis and other Axis powers.

Roethel told Zenger: "I arrived in Naples, Italy in December 1944 and sailed back to the United States from Livorno in August 1945 having spent much time in the beautiful Tuscany region during that time.

"Our troop ship was sailing to the Panama Canal and Japan when the War ended and we were re-routed to Boston."

Edward Roethel today
Edward Roethel, an infrantry man in the Fifth Army was stationed in San Miniato in Italy. City of San Miniato/Zenger)

He said that after the war, he "married a few years later and joined the New York City Police Department and retired as a lieutenant."

Roethel now wants to find the children he photographed back in 1945, and the town of San Miniato is trying to help him reach his goal, 76 years later.

However, all Roethel has to go by is a black and white photograph of eight schoolchildren standing on some steps in front of a building entrance. He remembers that it was a "hot day" but he does not remember their names and the closing months of the war were characterized by numerous displaced families being hosted by locals.

Federica Antonelli, a spokesperson for the municipality of San Miniato, told Zenger: "Edward Roethel, a former American soldier now over 90, a veteran of the Second World War, sent to San Miniato in the summer of '45, expressed the desire to trace the children immortalized in this photo or some of their relatives, taken in those days in our city.

Edward Roethel World War II
American Edward Roethel when he was a World War II soldier sent to San Miniato in Italy. City of San Miniato/Zenger

"Edward was employed in the Fifth Army and arrived in Naples in December 1944, only later was he sent to San Miniato. Unfortunately, he does not know the names of the children.

"These children today should be around 80 years old and may not be from San Miniato because at the time in the city there were also many families displaced from other areas of Tuscany.

"We ask the citizens if anyone recognizes themselves in this photo or if they recognize a family member, contact us by writing to ufficioostampa@comune.san-miniato.pi.it or by calling 348/8160268, we help Edward to find them!"

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.