Woman hopes to return WWII diary to late veteran's family

BUTLER COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A Butler County woman has been researching a discovered diary that belonged to a late marine and is now making it her mission to get the piece of history back into the hands of the World War II veteran's family.

Doug Hale's daughter randomly discovered the journal several years ago.

"There's a Fifth Third bank deposit, night deposit, and it was laying up on top of there," Hale said.

Hale, wanting to learn more about the diary, reached out to Sally Barker for help a few months ago. Barker is involved with Honor Flight Tri-State, has a soft spot for veterans and has an interest in research.

"A lot of hours. A lot of hours went into this," Barker said.

Barker took a closer look at the journal and learned it was full of family addresses and personal notes.

The marine had written things like "wrote mother, received letter from dad."

He had also marked down information about particular battles. Towards the end of the diary, the veteran had listed the names of comrades who had been killed and wounded in action.

"Reading these names is incredible," Barker said. "These were obviously people that he knew that meant a lot to him."

Barker and Hale were amazed at the details within the diary.

"Really interesting to see the things that they were going through," Hale said.

Unfolding right in front of them was part of Private First Class Elbert W. Hinkle's life.

Barker learned that Hinkle, from Virginia, was not only one of our nation's heroes, but the recipient of a Purple Heart and several Bronze Stars.

"He was at Iwo Jima. He wasn't in the famous photograph, but apparently, and it's all in this article, he actually posed for the sculptor who did the famous monument," Barker said.

While Barker can't imagine what Hinkle witnessed in battle, she said she is glad she can now put a face to the name that is etched into history.

Barker started searching for someone who might have a connection to Hinkle by digging through archives and articles.

"It belongs in their hands," Hale said.

The efforts and the patience paid off when Barker came across a WWII thread from 2012.  

"There were three people who started writing about, looking for information, family members for Elbert W. Hinkle, and one of them was his stepson," Barker said.

Barker found out that Hinkle had died in 1972 at 48-years-old, 27 years to the day he was at Iwo Jima.

She connected with Barker's stepson who told her that Hinkle's wife is still alive and has long held onto memorabilia and memories.

Now, in this crazy twist of fate, Hinkle's wife will be able to add another long lost memento to her collection: the private thoughts of her late husband, Private First Class Elbert W. Hinkle.

Barker and Hale said they have validated that the step-son is indeed Hinkle's relative.

They are planning to meet with him sometime soon to return the diary to its rightful owners.

They did discover that Hinkle's late sister lived in West Chester at some point, but they are still curious about how the journal made its way to Butler County.

If you have information, please contact FOX19 NOW Reporter Jessica Schmidt at jschmidt@fox19now.com.

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