The tag was found in the crystalline waters of the Tyrrhenian sea near the coastal town of Nettuno this summer by eleven-year-old Edoardo Sor, who was snorkeling while on holiday with his family, Albuquerque Journal reported.
When he picked up the shiny two-inch piece of metal from the seabed he discovered it bore the name “Esquipula Roybal”, along with an address in Peñasco, New Mexico and a serial number.
The waters where the tag was found, the scene of vicious conflict during WWII. Photo: Alessio Antionetti/Wikimedia Commons
Curious as to who the owner of the dog tag might be, Eduardo and his mother, Veronica, set off on a quest to track down the item's rightful owner.
“It was a really small effort compared to what the American soldiers did for us during the Second World War,” Veronica told the paper.
But their quest soon came to an abrupt end.
According to US military records, Roybal had lost his life in the early stages of the Battle if Anzio, a key battle in the Allied invasion of Italy which lasted from January to June 1944 and cost 12,000 lives.
Records showed that Roybal had died on January 26th, 1944, aged just 22. His body had never been recovered from the water.
Unsure of what to do with the dog tag, Veronica posted a picture of it on her Facebook page and Sonia Chiandetti, a friend living in the US, offered to help her find Roybal's relatives.
Chiandetti managed to get hold of a list of phone numbers for all the Roybals in the area around Peñasco and started making calls.
By the time she had dialled the third number, she had found 78-year-old Joe Roy Roybal, the nephew of the American soldier.
“My husband was so surprised to hear about Esquipula after all these years,” Joe Roy Roybal's wife told the paper. “He remembers his uncle putting him on his shoulders and walking him to the pool hall.”
The tag was recently sent to Roybal's family in a purple velvet case. Inside the case was a note from young Eduardo. “I'd like to thank you for what Esquipula did for Italy. He was a hero, he protected us and gave his life for his country. Thank you.”